Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Less Faces, More Places

That's what Phil Keoghan promised in a recent interview about the ninth season of The Amazing Race. This is after the Fall season of the show which was also known as The Amazing Race: Family Edition. You don't want to know what fans called it, and because children might find this blog, I can't tell you either. Even the broadcasters hated it - in its ads for the show CTV, which broadcasts the show in Canada (where it's the most popular reality show of all and almost a popular as Hockey Night In Canada) says that this season is a "return to its Emmy winning form."

I think you pretty much know that I love The Amazing Race with a love that burns pure. The Amazing Race: Family Edition was crap, mainly because there were too many people and it was reluctant to venture beyond the borders of the USA, and it was hard to identify with teams of four (and yeah some people hated that there were "cute kids" on the show). Yes there were ventures to Panama and Costa Rica, and even the wilds of Toronto and Montreal but people really didn't want to see the World's Biggest Office Chair (in Anniston Alabama), they wanted to see teams hang gliding off of Sugar Loaf in Rio and Ethiopian churches cut out of the living rock - and so did the competitors, including the ones with the "cute kids" some of whom were better travelled than the people who criticized their presence on the show. From the looks of things in the commercials that have been airing for the show, this season delivers what people want - bungee jumping over the Corinth Canal any one?

I usually give my evaluation of the teams in the Amazing Race newsgroup but wasn't able to this time so I present a brief version here. The Race has a tendency to cast teams as types - the Girl Team, The African-American Team, the Old Couple, the Gay Team, so I've mentioned which group teams fit into. Odds come from Online Casino News and reflect wagering from PlayersOnly.com - take some of them with a large grain of salt:

Eric & Jeremy 11-5: The prototypical Alpha Male Team. They both ran track in College and one of them spent a couple of years in Africa (and speaks some Swahili). They've adopted the Survivor attitude, which is that you don't make friends and you do screw people over if you get the chance. If any team is going to be the "heels" of this season's race it will be these two, and it's worth noting that only one team has really done well using the Survivor strategy - Rob & Amber, who were on Survivor. They'll make final four - they may even win - and be hated for it.

Ray & Yolanda 7-2: The African-American team who also fit another favourite requirement of the producers - they're a couple who have just started living together. They're educated and athletic - she ran track in college - but undoubtedly there are going to things they'll discover about themselves that will surprise them and test their relationship. Could win.

BJ & Tyler 4-1: Every season seems to have a really quirky team of "best buds" and this is them. For some reason they remind me of Kevin & Drew, one of the most memorable teams ever. They've travelled a lot and have a number of languages including Japanese, Spanish and Latin (although where they'll use that is unknown). I expect them to really deep in the race, maybe final four, and be fun and goofy all the way.

Fran & Barry 5-1: The requisite Old Couple. Old Couple have had a variable history in The Amazing Race. They tend to be underestimated and these two are bound to be. He's a retired Urologist who was also army surgeon with an Airborne Battalion. She's a retired accountant who has hiked or climbed every one of the 54 mountains in Colorado that are higher than 14,000 feet. They've travelled to 45 different countries - which I think is more than Phil has gone to(!) - so I doubt that they're going to be surprised by much. I expect them to make it to at least the last half of the race and they could be in the final four.

Wanda & Desiree 6-1: The final type that the show likes is the parent and adult child combo needing to recapture their closeness one last time. They've travelled together (Wanda used to be a flight attendant) a lot and Wanda in particular is well educated. I think these two could be a lot of fun and while parent-child teams rarely go a long distance, I think these two could.

John & Scott 6-1: While they're not a couple this is the Gay Team. These guys look as thought hey could be fun but they both have a lot of fears and not much travel experience. John has to cope with a fear of flying, amongst other fears and he's doing the Race to conquer some of his fears. Gay Teams have had a tendency to last for a long time in the Race, but with these two guys I just can't see it, simply because of the combination of fears and physical qualities.

Lake & Michelle 7-1: Married couple from Hattiesburg Mississippi. He's a dentist and she's a stay at home mom who works part time in his office. They have limited travel experience and while he's an impatient Type A personality she's somewhat laid back. I'd expect a bit of bickering, and could be an early elimination.

Dani & Danielle 7-1: High school friends from Staten Island, this is the "Girl Team" . They're both college graduates with limited language and travel experience, but they're cute and look good in a tube top so.... I expect them to go out early.

David & Lori 8-1: The self-described nerds in the commercials, they're a dating couple which is always risky for the relationship. I can't see them lasting beyond the first episode though so maybe the stresses on the relationship won't get to be too bad.

Joseph & Monica 8-1: They're another "Dating Couple" trying to take their relationship to the "next level". This is usually a recipe for disaster as they discover that the person they're with is entirely different under the stress of racing around the world. Couples have been destroyed by this Race - in front of hundreds of millions of people around the world - but better to have the relationship collapse before the wedding than after the kids are born. Depending on how badly they blow up could make it beyond the mid-way point.

Lisa & Joni 10-1: Another staple in the race is the "Soccer Mom" Team, women of around forty who are getting away from the husband and kids together either as friends or - as in this case sisters - and looking for adventure. These two will definitely stand out; they're both over 6 feet tall. They haven't actually spent a lot of time together so I think we can expect personality clashes as they "rediscover" each other. "Soccer Moms" can be a difficult group to handicap but they usually go out fairly early unless they have a lot of grit an determination. I think these ladies do so they should make the mid-point in the race for sure.

CBS maintains an excellent website for The Amazing Race which usually includes video not seen on the show and last season started an online talks show for the series. As well Ed Hasbrouck will use The Race to illustrate things that you can and probably should do in your own travelling through his blog The Practical Nomad. Now doesn't that sound like more fun than Simon Cowell insulting some wannabe singers?

No comments: