Dec 172014

The Amazing Race

I’ve mentioned this before, but I am just not a TV guy. I’m just not. Oh, I was, back in the day, and I am just as likely to break out a Friends reference as anyone. Maybe more so. But you already know where this is going. I’m going to talk about a TV show. Again. Because apparently, I watch a lot of TV for a non-TV guy.

But anyway. This hardly counts as TV at all; a show where a dozen two-person teams of seemingly random shmucks race around the world performing some generally very silly challenges and games as they go. Winner takes all: $1,000,000. Which I can hardly say, even in my own head, without hearing Doctor Evil draw out the numbers in evilish-yet-naive glee.

But I digress. The winners get one million dollars (there, I said it again, and yes, I heard Dr. Evil say it again as I did so), while everyone else gets a pretty amazing adventure.

And by “pretty amazing” I mean, the trip of a lifetime. Of anyone’s lifetime. Here are just a few of the things I’ve seen Amazing Race contestants get to do:

  • Zip-line across a section of the Great Rift in Africa
  • Dance with Aborigines in the Outback
  • Helicopter over glaciers in the Alps, and then land and hike the glaciers
  • Water ski around crocodiles on the Upper Nile
  • Rappel down the Mirage tower in Vegas. All 60+ stories of it

The contestants get access to places and people that you just couldn’t do without cameras and an advance team. Presidential palaces. Beautiful temples. Places so obscure and in the middle of nowhere that they just have to be seen to be believed.

But there are plenty of weird things too: herding ducks in China. Finding one particular apple in a Russian car filled to the brim with apples (in Russia, of course). Being on a Japanese game show.

You have to be pretty creative to be an Amazing Race producer. “Here, new producer guy, go to some place in central Latvia. Find out what kinds of things they do there. Design some kind of challenge that 12 pairs of people can do competitively. With a local flair. Oh, and it can’t be anything we’ve already done in the 20+ seasons we’ve been on”. Interesting job, but wow, tough! I bet they go through producers like Wendy’s goes through hamburgers.

Enter DDOGamer's 3100-Turbine Point contest!The host is a jovial sort named Phil Keoghan. There’s no way to tell from watching on TV, but he seems like a genuinely nice guy; pleasant to watch. Not too serious, and mainly just staying out of the way and letting the exotic destinations, and especially, the contestants, be the show.

Which they are. It is amazing, both to me and to my Gamer Girl, how many people come on this show that have deathly fear of heights. Or water. Or strange foods. I mean, haven’t they ever seen the show? There is guaranteed to be some crazy height stunt, there always is, every single season. And usually there will be swimming. Occasionally they will have to eat a great big bowl of frog testicles. And frequently they will need to drive a stick shift.

Basic skills that one can easily inventory just by watching a couple of seasons. If you know you’re going to be on the show, go get some swimming lessons, I mean, come on! Surely you know someone, anyone, with a stick shift that can teach you?

There are certain stereotypes that the show seems to select every season. A parent/child team that they can show emotionally connecting. A couple of married couples that they can show getting closer, or losing it altogether (it can go either way). There’s usually an athlete team, a hillbilly team of some kind (accompanied at all times by banjo music), and always a gay team.

Sometimes they bring in teams that have already won Big Brother or Survivor. I find that highly annoying. These people already had their fifteen minutes! Go get some more normal people! Also, sometimes they bring back teams that were extra popular or extra unpopular (because it is after all reality TV) or sometimes they may invite a team back that got short-changed unfairly in some way.

I don’t care much for the repeats either. Same reason as the “celebrity” teams; there’s only 24 slots on this show every season and I think they should spread them around as much as they can. But the very most annoying of all is when they bring back a team of people from Survivor! I am looking at you Boston Rob and Amanda! They got to come back, not just once, but twice! Come on! Go get some more regular people!

I am so annoyed that I now have brain space occupied with the knowledge of who Boston Rob and Amanda are. What a waste of neurons.

But I am wandering off on a ranty trail; time to pull back. Yes there are annoyances, but there always are, and the show is genuinely fun! Some of the contestants are more hammy than others, but they are out there for about a month, under stress, with a variety of sleep deprivations. At some point even the hammy ones will deliver something authentic.*

* Or at least something that was edited to look authentic, and really, who are we to know the difference?

Good times. And more, there are a lot of them! With 12 episodes per season and 24 seasons completed (I think 24? Is that right) there are enough episodes of the Amazing Race to keep you accompanied through dinners for a year!

No, it’s not Lost. It’s reality TV. But it is the best reality TV I’ve encountered. And the only reality TV I’ve enjoyed enough to watch on purpose, let alone recommend to friends.

So there you go. You are my friends, and I am recommending this show for your viewing pleasure.

The Amazing Race. Sometimes, quite often actually, it really is amazing.

🙂 😀 🙂

What do you think?

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