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9th December
2008
written by Steph
I wish I had put money down on this season, since it turns out my prediction of the winners (Nick & Starr) was right. Then again, the returns on such a proclamation were probably not great given how obvious this outcome was. I realize that one of the things about the Race is that elements as intangible as luck can come into play and twist things around (I love when irony comes to play!), which is part of the fun, but at the end of the day, it’s always nice when you feel like the team that raced the best independently of chance and all that stuff actually wins. So, maybe it’s a bit weird then that I find Nick & Starr’s win completely appropriate on the one hand but also really unsatisfying on the other. I can’t think of another team in the final three I would have preferred to see win, and save for Toni & Dallas, there was no other team that I was anything more than lukewarm about and would have liked to have crossed that finish line first. Overall, I just feel like this whole season has been very lackluster and not very memorable. Somehow there just didn’t seem to be very much excitement or tension, almost as though the outcome was a foregone conclusion, but also not a very interesting one. Maybe the appeal of reality tv is the belief that you’re watching everyday people compete, and so there is the sense of “hey! That could be me!” or “pshaw! I could have totally done that!” when we watch. Of course, I think because of this, most people overlook the crucial element of casting that goes into these things, because I think what most of us would find is that we probably don’t make for very interesting television. I suspect there is more than just coincidence at work that many people who sign up for these shows ultimately wind up pursuing careers in the acting/entertainment industry afterwards. Ultimately, I think the reason why this season kind of tanked came down to poor casting choices. Too many teams came across as hollow placeholders for far superior teams of the past. Furthermore, as important as it is to have some nice likeable teams in the running for the prize so the audience has someone to root for, it’s also clearly critical to have teams you can root against and who are seen as credible threats when it comes to your preferred team winning that million. Too few or too many of either category and you’ve got yourself with no drama/tension because the audience doesn’t care who wins because anyone’s fine (and also perhaps fewer histrionics in general, since the nice teams tend to be less hateful and ridiculous, which can wind up boring people), or too much drama/tension which also leads to a lack of caring in the outcome mostly because the audience checks out due to all possible winners being repugnant. This season was slightly biased towards the negative/terrible teams, but overall, most of the teams failed to make any impression and were just kind of blah, which is perhaps worst of all. Also, it seems like this season has been really short. I’m sure part of this is because the final three teams normally have to do a double leg before reaching the finish line, but that didn’t happen this year. However, even apart from this, it just seemed like there were fewer teams competing, or maybe fewer non-elimination legs meaning we reached the final three much faster. The Amazing Race is by no means a perfect reality show, but given how many Emmys it has won (read: it has been nominated for and won best Reality Show since its inception), I expect better from it. Hopefully next season will exhibit improved casting, and I wouldn’t be upset if they reverted more to the season 1 format of actually requiring the participants to solve clues rather than spoon-feeding them directions all the time. Certainly this last season had some glimmers of that (especially in this last leg where the teams had to work out where the green dinosaur was, or even something as simple as recognize the cart that served food from the country they had last visited), but I’d like to see more mental challenges early on in the race rather than this recent trend of only needing brains/a functioning memory of the last 25 days or so in order to win the year’s supply of turtle wax. In the last leg Even survivor throws a few brainteasers into the mix every few challenges or so, since not everything can be about playing with fire, eating gross things, or brute strength. With these thoughts in mind, I bid adieu to The Amazing Race once more, and hope that when we reconvene, it will be on better terms.

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