“Ah the caviar, the caviar!”
I’m not as impressed with the new season (Season 5) of Amazing Race. I’ve been a big fan, and watched it regularly before. This may stem in part from the fact that my cousin Tim and I applied and didn’t get selected (sour grapes). And I so wanted to go to Argentina!
Maybe it’s because the novelty of the travel-based-on-your wits competition has worn off. There is an increasing amount of rigging by the producers. “The first three teams can take the 10:00 flight, but the next two teams can only take the 10:25 flight.” On the other hand, I like the fact that they’ve mixed the international destinations up such that there are more combinations of flights to chose from, thus spreading the platoons out more. (Buenos Aires to Russia? St. Petersburg to Cairo? Good luck finding an airport agent who can get the fastest connections between them with a maximum of one stop!) The international flights used to be equalizers for the teams; after all, when you’re flying between Kuala Lumpur and Sydney, there are only going to be one or two options for the quickest/soonest travel time, which everyone will be able to find.
But the “Amazing Race” has morphed into just-another-tired-reality-show-premise based on catfights and dogfights, seeing people losing their composure under stress, and their manipulative alliances and petty backstabbing …”it’s so bad but you can’t look away” TV.
Worst of all is the sameness of the types of teams they select. Established typecasting, as formulaic as the plot of any major studio movie, in spite of whatever cute moniker the show’s editors have given them (Virgins, Internet dating couple, NFL wives) includes:
(Number in parentheses refers to season number)
– Older women ‘girlfriends’: Pat/Brenda (1), the Grannies(2), the Bowling Moms(5)
– Best buddy/brothers younger men, non-descript, slightly obnoxious: Kevin/Drew (1), Gary/Dave (2), The clowns (4), Lance/Marshall (5)
– Ditzy/model types: Tian/Jaree (4), Kami/Karli(5)
– Older parent, young adult child: Nancy/Emily (1), Deirdre/Hillary (2), Dennis/Andrew (3), Steve/Josh (4), Jim/Marsha (5),
– Gay couple: Joe/Bill (1), Danny/Oswald (2), Reichen/Chip(4),
– Older white heterosexual couple who think they can win on wits, not physical fitness: David/Margaretta (1), Cyndi/Russell (2), Teri/Ian (3), Debra/Steve (4), Bob/ Joyce (5).
And then the rest is of the numbers is filled in by assorted healthy, fit, attractive young hetero couples: boy-girl, boy-boy, girl-girl. Twins are popular too.
A really good gimmick this season: One regular sized person and one dwarf Charla/Mirna.
If they wanted to tweak the field of teams, say to reflect the demographic landscdape of the Bay Area, as opposed to Peoria, the producers should include:
– Lesbian winemakers, one vegan, one vegetarian
– Gay white parent and adopted child (was a orphaned girl from China)
– Latino chefs from a Zagat-rated restaurant (one head, one sous)
– Filipino sisters: one dentist, one semi-pro karaoke singer
– Two rappers from Oakland
– White male software engineer and Japanese babe-girlfriend
– Used car-salesman and his third trophy wife (Russian mail-order bride 20 years his junior)
-Indian couple honeymooning on Amazing Race after arranged marriage (they met for the first time a month before the wedding)
-Cambodian donumaker and Vietnamese nail stylist sister-in-law.
– Bone marrow donor and marrow recipient (previously strangers, met through AADP)
– College-dropout dot-com start-up ex-millionaires who are now a Starbucks barrista and Pilat es instructor
Seriously I’m disappointed I haven’t seen any Asians on the show. There’s usually one or two Black teams each season. One of the gay couples was Latino, woo-hoo! double points for diversity. And I know, this is TV, not the working world, where there is no obligation to ‘diversify’. Still I have this gut feeling Asians aren’t selected because they have more language skills, travel experience and psychological stomach, which would give them an ‘unfair edge’ over the others (which would be true in my case. I have a strong command of menu French, menu Spanish, menu Italian and menu German; can take on all comers at the ticket line in any Chinese train station, and would relish trying roast Peruvian guinea pig, so long as I can wash it down with pisco sours.)
Or is that Asians are perceived to have such advantages (along the lines of “How did you learn to speak English so well?” “My ancestors finished building the Transcontinental railroad waaay before yours were FOBs on Ellis Island”) Puh-lease. Most first-gen ABCs I know can’t speak Chinese, won’t eat chicken feet, and avoid travelling in countries with squatty toilets like the plague.
Or maybe Asians don’t make it on the show because they are perceived to be more polite and in more stoic in finest martial-arts tradition. Which would be less telegenic, less dramatically riveting TV than seeing a fertilizer salesman from Texas screaming louder and louder at a Beijing taxi-driver “Take me to the Marco Polo Bridge! Jeez, how can these people not understand English?” (Maybe Margaret Cho should be on the show?)
Well, no matter what, Phil Keoghan, the show’s host is both soothing and a dish.