Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Amazing Race 13 - Casting

I had an Amazing Race style experience on Friday. Not a big Amazing Race experience, but it kind of gave me a feeling about the sort of frustration that Amazing Race participant sometimes run into. I got on a city bus for a cross town trip at 4:20 Friday afternoon. I didn't get to where I was going until 6:20 p.m. And this is normally a forty minute trip at most. It literally took over an hour to travel less than eight-tenths of a mile. There was an accident on the University Bridge that effectively blocked the west-bound side of the bridge, and the bus driver was blocked into the innermost lane by other traffic so that he couldn't take the detour that the other busses were able to use. Thank goodness for my iPod and podcasts because I would have been bored to tears otherwise. Now admittedly it wasn't 12 hours in the sardine section of a fully loaded flight to some place where they eat deep fried crickets but it was something, and it makes me wonder if I could in fact do "The Race" if such a short time on a bus gave me pain, and a headache and increased my irritability.

Most of you know of course just how huge a fan of The Amazing Race that I am. I used to recap the episodes on one of the Amazing Race newsgroups, and I confess that I'm very close to deciding to do weekly recaps here in the blog, for my amusement if nothing else. But first let's have a look at the new cast. I'm going strictly by the stuff from CBS and the interviews.

There are certain "types" that the casting directors who select people for the show. There's the older couple, the long-distance daters, the couple who are in a troubled relationship and hope that being on a reality show is going to save it (!), the parent-child team, the all-female team (or usually two), the "oddball" team who has some quirk either about their appearance or their manner, and the best buds team of two guys (usually there are two such teams). One thing they seem to be trying to get away from is the dreaded "Alpha Male" team; a team of twenty or early thirty-something males who are physically fit and reasonably intelligent. The problem with the Alpha Male teams is that they had a tendency to win to the exclusion of others. Arguably the last Alpha Male Team was season 10 winners James & Tyler, best friends and models who met in rehab. (Warning: These videos contain ads. They're also in a format that I'm not particularly in love with. Unfortunately not all of the interviews are available from YouTube.)

Aja & Ty: Long-distance daters who want to see if they can live together on a regular basis. The Race is a 24/7 experience of living together which is more than what married couples spend together so it's a bit of a crash course. She (Aja) an actress and make-up artist (probably more make-up artist than actress if such things run to form) from Los Angeles, while he (Ty) is a banker from Detroit. She claims that she's, "energetic, insightful and compassionate," while he's very competitive and hates the thought of losing. He claims that her weakness is that she's easily upset, while she worries about his poor sense of time. She might also want to worry about the fact that he's never travelled much outside of the United States.

Andrew & Dan: A "best buds" team, these two are fraternity brothers from Arizona, one of whom recently entered the "real world" while the other is still in college. They claim that for them six pack refers to beer not abs. Andrew is studying urban planning while Dan graduated in Tourism Management. Andrew hasn't travelled much while Dan has travelled extensively including to the Middle East. They hope to use their travel knowledge to suck some of the other teams into trusting them (particularly the pretty girls who try to use their feminine wiles on them) and maybe eventually being responsible for eliminating them. I think they got the part about feminine wiles right but I think they may be a bit dismissive of the skills of the other teams. Right off the bat I don't like them too much.

Anita & Arthur: These two fit two categories. They're quite obviously the oldest team this time around, and well they also fill the "oddball" category. They're honest to goodness back to the land tie dye hippy types! Not pseudo hippies who get that label because they wear their hair long like BJ & Tyler from season 10, or TK and Rachel from season 12, Anita and Arthur look like they hung out in Haight Ashbury and lived on a commune. Right now they make and sell honey and run an organic blueberry farm. They're definitely hard workers with a deep sense of family. He describes himself as a problem solver and hopes to gain a better understanding of himself and Anita. Anita regards herself as "optimistic, enthusiastic and compassionate" while saying that her husband has a tendency to overanalyze things. Older teams have frequently gone deep into The Race, and I have a suspicion that these guys have it in them to go far. Right now at least I like them.

Anthony & Stephanie: An established couple that hopes that their time on The Race will bring them closer to marriage. He's a mortgage broker while she's a financial saleswoman (great timing for those careers!). I'm not sure they're meant to be together – they broke up for a year and they admit that they constantly bicker, although they claim it's all in "good fun." He claims to be adventurous and entertaining, while she's outgoing, and funny. They both claim to be athletic which they believe gives them an edge over their competition. There's a certain arrogance in some of his statements.

Kelly & Christy: A pair of young divorcees without much travel experience outside the USA. A female "best buds team" they've been friends since college and at times have worked at the same company. They've supported themselves through their marriages and their divorces. Kelly claims that their team will be quick, resourceful and resilient, while Christy claims that "their sweet, Texas charm will prove to be a very resourceful asset throughout the Race." This sort of attitude is quite common among female teams. Sometimes it works, as with Dustin & Kandice from the All-Star edition of the Race, while at other times teams overestimate their charms, or the reactions to those charms. In this particular case I suspect their self-admitted weaknesses – Kelly's admission that she can be impatient while Christie can be temperamental – will more than balance out what they see as strengths. They'll go probably further than the other all female team but I wouldn't care to wager how much further.

Ken & Tina: A former NFL player and his estranged wife, a corporate CEO who is also on the board of the Children's Cancer Center in Tampa Florida. This is a case where he cheated and they separated to the point of living on different coasts, but they want to try to make it work again. He's obviously athletic and competitive and claims to have good problem solving skills, although judgement is probably not his best quality. On the other hand he thinks her worst quality is her need to control things. She is driven, athletic and claims to be the brains of the operation, while her husband is definitely the brawn. They have travelled extensively and it's mostly been adventure travel. Frankly, to me this looks like an explosion waiting to happen.

Marissa & Brooke: This year's blondes. A pair of self described Southern Belles who claim to be willing to flirt to get what they want. Oh good grief, another one of those teams. One of them (they look so similar that it's impossible to tell them apart) can't wait to try out the Spanish she learned in Spain. Marissa (a broadcast journalism student at USC – the University of South Carolina, not the one in California) claims that "Her extensive dance training has taught her to be focused and determined, skills that could help her to do well on the race" while she claims that Brooke being a graphic designer means that she'll be sure to pay attention to detail. She also claims to be able to read Hebrew and speak a little Swahili. That alone is enough to make me expect an early exit, maybe in the first episode.

Mark & Bill: About as close as this season comes to an Alpha Male team – if a pair of self-confessed comic book geeks in their early 40s can in fact be called Alpha Males. Mark Yturralde is the Chief Financial officer of Comicon, while his pal Bill Kahler is a financial services officer. They're both gamers – they describe The Amazing Race as the "ultimate game on the biggest board you can possibly imagine." Mark is an experienced world traveller with a "love affair with the remote," and among many other things has run with the bulls in Pamplona. Bill on the other hand has done a lot of "safe" travelling, and Mark is looking forward to him stretching his boundaries by doing stuff like bungee jumping. I liked these guys even before I heard their interview tape because like me they're comics and gaming geeks, but listening to Mark talk about things he's done makes me think this could be one of the teams to beat.

Nick & Starr: A brother and sister team of people who would have to be described as extroverts. Nick is a working actor in New York, appearing Off-Broadway in the revival of The Fantasticks, while his sister spent three seasons as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. They worry about getting on each other's nerves since they haven't spent much time together in recent years and they were bitter enemies in high school. Starr is the more spontaneous of the two, although Nick regards her spontaneity as being more akin to recklessness. They claim to have travelled a good deal – for their age group – although by Race standards it's fairly limited. They expect people to help them, but they seem to have a negative attitude to other teams that comes out in their interview, but believe that they give out an aura that will lead people to want to meet them, work with them, and be stabbed in the back by them. This attitude could backfire on them quickly.

Terence & Sarah: Another dating couple trying to determine if they belong together. Yawn. Supposedly this is a case of opposites attracting. She's a graduate of the Wharton School Of Business (Donald Trump's old school) who works on Wall Street. He sells real estate to pay the bills so that he can work at his passion for coaching runners. They're both competitive – he finished the last two New York Marathons in under three hours – as well as being smart, energetic adventurous and fearless. Sarah claims to be lower maintenance than Terence while he describes himself as "witty, sensitive and driven." According to them their biggest weaknesses are a tendency to get too intense and fight amongst themselves, and their dietary restrictions. I get the sense from someone who has seen the episode that this comes up pretty quickly. Not a favourite in my book.

Toni & Dallas: A single mom and her son who has now gone off to college. They're going on the Race as much to see the world and get some quality time together as to win the million dollars. Dallas claims that his mom's big fault is telling long winded stories, but he's persuasive and enjoys getting people to do what he wants them too. She on the other hand claims to be a leader but knows she'll have to dial it down a bit and rely on her son's strengths rather than trying to boss him around. Seem good humoured enough and likely to be a fan favourite for as long as they last. I just don't think they're going to last too long.

The Amazing Race returns for its thirteenth series on Sunday September 28th after 60 Minutes. This week at least CBS doesn't have a late football game so the show should start at 8 p.m. Eastern.

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