Showing posts with label Amazing Race. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amazing Race. Show all posts

November 15, 2012

Amazing Race 21, "Off to See the Wizard"

One of the most exciting parts about The Amazing Race is how unpredictable events can completely change the game. Although teams are competing in designed challenges, there is no definite way to avoid chaos. There have been extreme cases in the past, especially in the All-Star season where the next leg began while others were still competing in the previous one. That may be the case again here because of several factors. First of all, a delayed flight strands Abbie and Ryan and Josh and Brent overnight in the Frankfurt airport. They finally arrive at Moscow while several others are finishing. The other victims this week are James and Abba, who leave their bags in their taxi. When the cab driver drives away, they’re left without their belongings. This mistake is even worse because Abba’s passport is with their gear. Although they finish the leg, the rockers must retrieve their passports to continue. A stern Phil gives James and Abba the bad news and sends them scurrying for survival. The dreaded “To Be Continued” text appears on the screen with three teams left on the field. For more details, check out my full review at Sound on Sight.

Here are some other interesting points that I didn't address in my review:
  • The Zurab Tsereteli Sculpture Park is a stunning place, and I wish they'd spent more time there. Named after a famous Russian sculptor, this collection of giant statues is amazing and would have been the perfect place for a challenge.
  • Tasks requiring complex moves on this show are often easy because the judges don't require players to really follow the routine. The synchronized swimming did not follow that trend. Like the dancing task that wore out Mark last season, it's a serious challenge where even good swimmers may struggle. 
  • It's unclear why Natalie and Nadiya are so irritable this week. They struggle a bit with the swimming, but they spend the entire leg near the front of the pack. Maybe it was the bad meal they had at the food court. While they're still good TV, the twins' optimistic attitude has been waning in recent episodes.
  • I wonder how much help production can offer to James and Abba with finding their passports. If they remember the cab company, it may not be too difficult. Still, locating a single cab in a city like Moscow could be difficult. My guess is that they'll survive and beat Josh and Brent, but it could go either way.

November 8, 2012

Amazing Race 21, "Get Your Sexy On"

In a fast-paced competition like The Amazing Race, conventional wisdom might suggest that it’s wise to avoid getting stuck with the pack. However, the chaos and confusion actually make this false thinking in most cases. Teams that believe they can outperform the others in challenges should want to stay with the group. There are rare exceptions where a team is so powerful that they can grab a big lead and force others to follow. Season Five’s Colin and Christie are a good example of this strategy. On the other hand, there are less skillful players that are determined to “play their own game”. While this approach may work among the cannon fodder of the early legs, its chances of success are limited. The victims this week are Rob and Kelley, who make the wrong choice in Istanbul and take the metro instead of a taxi. What makes this gaffe feel worse is Rob’s insistence that they play their own game. He’s worn it like a badge of pride since the start, and they’ve spent much of the show near the back of the pack. The monster truckers make a strong effort, but the gap is too large to avoid elimination. For more details, check out my review for Sound on Sight.

Here are some other interesting points that I didn't address in my review:
  • Looking closer at the taking of James and Abba's money, it's not technically against the rules because the twins didn't go into their belongings. Natalie and Nadiya could technically claim that they just found the hundred dollars, even though it's clear that's not the case. Even so, it's a pretty shady move that forces the rockers to beg in a developing country. I'm still a fan of the twins and their energy, but this move is not one of their most endearing acts. 
  • To understand the depths of Rob's delusion, he utters the phrase "this might be the leg that might get us a win" while falling behind on the train. While it's good to stay confident on the race, bold moves are rarely rewarded. Also, not asking the locals for confirmation after Jaymes and James change their mind is just lazy play.
  • When teams arrive at the detour in the Spice Bazaar, the owner of "Shop No. 14" gives them an extra gift of Turkish delight. Also known as Lokum, this mix of starch and sugar looks pretty tasty. I'd be thrilled about any free chances to eat if I competed on the race. We don't see any shots of them eating it, but I assume this sugar boost did not hurt their energy. 
  • While the Turkish bath is technically an easy challenge, it works because the racers are clearly having fun. There are too many examples on the show of difficult tasks that don't engage the players. Watching them struggle to paint a bus doesn't have the same excitement as something that gives them a break. The key for the producers is balancing more challenging obstacles with fun moments. 

October 31, 2012

Amazing Race 21, "Chill Out, Freak"

It’s time for killer fatigue! There’s only so long that teams can deal with limited sleep, intense stress, and small quantities of food before they start dropping. When these factors are added to excessive heat and grueling challenges, the likelihood of a breakdown only grows. With only seven teams remaining, this also felt like the right time for a non-elimination leg. Despite the lack of a departing pair, this week remains exciting because of the higher difficulty level. Bangladesh is not an easy place to navigate, and even the stronger competitors struggle to finish this leg. Josh and Brent have a rough leg and can't locate the marked taxi stand. Their situation gets even worse when Brent reaches the Roadblock. He misses a pivotal detail about the ropes, which allows the monster truckers to stay ahead. By the time Brent finishes, they’re in desperate shape and must hope another team stumbles to avoid last place. It’s clear in this task that the heat is affecting players, and it will only get worse. For more details, check out my review for Sound on Sight.

Here are some other interesting points that I didn't address in my review:

  • Abbie and Ryan were my pick to win the race at the start, and they still have a great chance. Even so, I can't overstate just how irritating his arrogance becomes. He spends the Roadblock talking about how he should have done it and then is crushed when they finish second. I'm not a huge Rob and Kelley fan, but their excitement at finishing fourth was endearing after Ryan's sad display. 
  • One of my favorite moments is when Lexi is excited to see the monster truckers and then immediately smacks Rob in the face with bamboo. Ouch! She isn't the only one, and I don't blame the racers for struggling to rein in the unwieldy pieces.
  • The saving grace for this leg's design is the fact that it's a non-elimination leg. There's little chance for the bottom teams to catch the leaders within such a short timeframe. I expect this to change next week with an early bunching.
  • I jinxed Brent and Josh last week by calling them out for being steady. They struggle from the start this time and never get on track. They seem like nice guys, but I wouldn't be too upset if they left. On the other hand, Jaymes and James are more entertaining than I expected and one of my favorite teams. 

October 23, 2012

Amazing Race 21, "Funky Monkey"

A common question among long-time fans of The Amazing Race asks why the later seasons feel so different. Along with a faster-paced editing and more gimmicks, the main changes have involved the casting. The producers look more for characters of a specific type than the “regular people” approach of the early years. These contestants are frequently recruited and don’t always understand the show. Ardent fans usually wish for more applicants who love the show in place of over-the-top characters. An interesting example that shows the negatives of casting fans is Gary and Will. They’re substitute teachers who seem to fit the type who would draw major support. More than a foot separates them in height, and they provide a very goofy image. The problem is that they’re dull and aren’t good at any challenges. Will has a quiet and positive approach, but Gary seems irritated by the entire experience. These guys are a serious blow to fans’ hopes for more normal applicants getting a chance. While they try to stay positive and hang in there, navigational issues doom them in the end. For more details, check out my full review for Sound on Sight.

Here are some other interesting points that I didn't address in my review:

  • The design of this leg is just terrible and one of the worst in recent memory. I describe the chaos near the end in my review, but it's worth mentioning again. What is the purpose of setting up such a confusing finish? If the producers wanted a footrace to the mat, they just had to force racers to take the ferry. There's a significant time lag between each departure, so that would bunch the teams.
  • I expect the craziness of visiting Bangladesh can't be explained in a single episode. It's clear from the teams' reactions that there's a lot more happening in their minds that trying to find the next clue. This impact from experiencing such a different culture remains one of the best parts about this show.
  • The reason Natalie and Nadiya are so likable is because they're competitive but can still laugh at themselves. Like Mark and Bopper (especially) last season, they bring great energy to every task that's a requirement for exciting television.
  • Two teams that are succeeding through a deliberate but steady approach are James and Abba and Josh and Brent. Neither pair is flashy, but they've maintained an even demeanor and aren't falling apart when tasks are difficult. This approach is underrated on the race and could keep them in contention for a long while. 

October 17, 2012

TV: The Amazing Race 21, "There's No Crying in Baseball"

In the current era of The Amazing Race, the producers have used two primary tactics to generate tension. The first move is casting volatile teams like Brendon and Rachel from last season that create drama with their mere presence. In cases where the cast is generally likable, precise game design is a necessity to avoid watching congenial teams meekly depart each week. If there was more drama among the teams this year, it’s guaranteed the editors would make a big deal about the infractions. Since that isn’t possible so far, an old-school approach is needed to set up an exciting conclusion. There are plenty of different ways the producers can try to influence the race, and two come into play during this leg. The result is a surprisingly tense finish where an apparently weaker team steals the final spot.“There’s No Crying in Baseball” splits the nine remaining teams into two groups by setting up train rides more than three hours apart. The decisive task is a Detour where teams may choose between having eggs fried on their heads or donning a giant lion's head. An added layer to the Detour is the existence of the Double U-Turn, which allows them to make others do both options. For more details, check out my full review for Sound on Sight.

Here are some other interesting points that I didn't address in my review:

  • It's easy to criticize Gary and Will  for choosing a team ahead of them at the U-Turn. I don't believe that's really fair, however. Given the chaos that ensued with the last three teams scrambling to avoid elimination, it's an understandable mistake. They're still looking shaky and likely won't last much longer.
  • Caitlin and Brittany seem nice, but going into a foreign country and criticizing the people because they can't speak English is never good. It's a common trend on the race and usually comes under serious stress, but it makes little sense.
  • The "Egg Head" Detour option was surprisingly easy, but most teams avoided it. Josh and Brent were the only team who picked this task, but Gary and Will joined the fun after the U-Turn. One of the main reasons they survived was the fact that this option took very little time.
  • The Chippendales don't seem very bright, but there's something endearing about their goofiness. Watching them try to cram into the tiny becak was definitely a ridiculous image and just adds to their comic moments from the season. 

October 9, 2012

TV: The Amazing Race 21, "Long Hair, Don't Care"

When it comes to analyzing episodes of The Amazing Race, it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between poor game design and an undesirable result. The producers are blamed when they make it too easy for a likable team, but they face criticism when bad luck dooms that pair. It’s true that a bad taxi driver is the reason for Amy and Daniel’s surprise exit. However, plenty of other teams did locate the destination, so the task isn’t unfairly challenging. Amy and Daniel are good competitors and seem nice, but they’re too passive to realize they’re being driven right out of the race. Several other teams have similar issues and keep it interesting, but it isn’t enough to change the sad result. Watching a popular team leave early is common on The Amazing Race, yet it still feels unfortunate. The teams that barely survived don’t seem likely to pull themselves back from the brink next time. However, this week provides a reminder that nothing is certain in such an unpredictable competition. For more details, check out my full review for Sound on Sight.

Here are some other interesting points that I didn't address in my review:

  • After hearing Phil's description, it seemed like "Ice by the Pound" was the obvious choice for the Detour. Carrying and sorting the large amount of fish did not seem wise. However, Natalie and Nadiya actually gained significant ground by picking it. It's doubtful that comically inept teams like Gary and Will could have handled it, but it shows that maybe the options weren't so lopsided.
  • Speaking of Gary and Will, they refused to run to the Pitstop at the end because it seemed like they were in last. That is not a wise move and isn't going to win them many fans. After finding out they survived, Will belted out "We're going all the way now!" While silly proclamations are always fun, this goes beyond simple confidence and moves closer to delusion.
  • Caitlin and Brittany celebrated their seventh place finish and were thrilled. On the other hand, James and Abba finished sixth and looked resigned to their horrible fate. I have a feeling that attitude may not help the rockers in the long run. 
  • My inclination is to root against the attractive young couples, but that isn't the case with Trey and Lexi. They only missed the Express Pass by a slim margin but didn't make excuses about it. Both of the top teams got along really well and seem like they could work together in the future. 

October 2, 2012

Amazing Race 21, "Double Your Money"

The Amazing Race premiere offers so many possibilities for the upcoming season. There are 22 new players to meet and lots of unknown challenges ahead. The potential is exciting, but it can lead to information overload because so much is happening. This isn’t the type of show that takes its time and clearly introduces its cast. Once the action gets rolling, it’s easy to forget which Chippendale spells his name “Jaymes” instead of “James”. This material demands an extended premiere so it can breathe and start on the right foot. Showcasing Phil’s introduction, 11 teams, and a complete leg in the regular hour is difficult. Even a fast-paced show like The Amazing Race needs time to gets its footing. While the time frame is difficult, the opener still includes plenty of entertaining moments. Phil gives his speech from the top of Pasadena’s Colorado Bridge, and teams must immediately rappel down 10 stories. Their first destination is Shanghai to play ping pong, eat the Fallopian tubes of a frog, and scramble to stay around. For more details, check out my review for Sound on Sight.

Here are some other interesting points that I didn't address in my review:

  • Phil gives one of the strangest introductions in the show's long history. He appears at a different location, and his speech is edited strangely and feels truncated in a weird way. This is likely a result of the one-hour running time, which makes everything move too quickly.
  • Josh and Brent are goat farmers who commute to the city for their regular jobs. They seem like interesting guys, but they are arguably the most irritating team this week. They spend much of the leg in last but recover nicely at the abacus to finish seventh. I'm hoping they'll find their bearings as the race moves forward.
  • I have mixed feelings about the eating challenges that have become even more common lately. They can deliver great drama as teams struggle, but it can be nasty. The hasma wasn't one of the harder tasks, but it wasn't pretty. 
  • Although they survive in the end, Jaymes and James commit the worst type of mistake when you're struggling on the race. They stand motionless and don't try to make anything happen. The teams that thrive are those who work incessantly by talking with locals to find the clue. Their strength may keep them around for a little while, but these guys don't seem like true contenders.

May 12, 2012

TV: The Amazing Race 20, "It's a Great Place to Become a Millionaire" Review

The Amazing Race closed its 20th season with an exciting two-hour episode that tested even the top competitors. The end result was predictable and went to the front runners, but that doesn't mean the final leg wasn't designed well. This has been a problem in recent seasons, particularly during the ho-hum closer to last season in Atlanta. Dave and Rachel bicker quite a lot, but they're deserving winners who repeatedly showed their challenge abilities. Her balance skills made the difference in the end and helped them to overcome a navigational gaffe close to the finish line. Art and JJ earned a great opportunity through this mistake but fell just short, and Brendon and Rachel ended up in third. This wasn't one of the show's best seasons due to mediocre casting, but it did offer improved game design. For more details, check out my latest post for Sound on Sight.

Here are a few other points of interest that I didn't address in my review:
  • Ralph and Vanessa weren't my favorite team, but they have a strong relationship that was key during her struggles at the game show Roadblock. She showed impressive grit to stick out a challenge with a very swollen ankle, and his support was great to see. They couldn't recover the lost time, but their ability to work together gave them a chance. 
  • Brendon and Rachel finished third, but they had a good chance to win the race. If they'd walked correctly to the helicopters, they would have likely arrived at the second Roadblock ahead of Dave and Rachel. They might have still fallen short, but it shows how close the maligned team was to grabbing the victory.
  • I expect that we'll see both Mark and Bopper and Dave and Rachel back for an all-star season in the future. The show seems due for another one, so it's possible this could happen pretty soon. 

May 1, 2012

TV: The Amazing Race 20, "I Need Hair to Be Pretty" Review

Few teams on The Amazing Race have generated such hatred from fans and other teams as Brendon and Rachel. I don't watch Big Brother, so my only experience seeing them is from this season. She's definitely a drama queen, and they're far from the most likable players to compete on the show. However, it seems like the nastiness doesn't always give them a fair shake. This week, Rachel decides that shaving her head is too big a price to win the Fast Forward and reach the final four. The decision isn't that bad, especially since Mark and Bopper are hours behind, but her whining comments make it less attractive. Heading into next week's two-hour finale, it's difficult to decide who's least objectionable. I'm just hoping for an exciting finale, and the previews seem to indicate their will be a big surprise at the end. For more details on this week's episode, check out my review for Sound on Sight.

Here are a few other points of interest that I didn't address in my review:
  • I can't talk enough about how much I like Mark and Bopper. Their comments about making sure they stay friends at the end of the Race really hit home. I don't get the same feeling of camaraderie from any of the other teams.
  • It's also great to see how Mark and Bopper can relate almost any task to something they've worked on at home. These are not your typical office guys or gym rats, and I wish we'd see more of this on the show.
  • Art and JJ's competitive drive is admirable, but they need to relax sometimes. I understand the crazy stress involved with competing on the show, and JJ especially seems ready to collapse with tension lately. This approach can't be good for their blood pressure and might hurt their chances. 
  • Dave and Rachel are a competent team that rarely makes mistakes, and that might be enough to win them the million dollars. However, I still get the feeling they might be doomed for a last-minute fall. 

April 25, 2012

TV: The Amazing Race 20, "Bollywood Travolta" Review

Mark and Bopper have definitely been the breakout stars of this season of The Amazing Race. Not since Jet and Cord's first appearance in season sixteen has a team received so much love from the editors. They seem like great guys and more engaging than the remaining teams, but it's still interesting to note the screen-time discrepancy. They've also finished last during two of the three non-elimination legs. This week, Mark's frequent motion sickness comes back to haunt him during a tricky Roadblock. After bearing the heat and a crazy bus ride, he stumbles up to the task and isn't prepared for the challenge. Throughout the episode, it seems like we're just watching an extended farewell to a likable team. When Phil ultimately reveals the non-elimination leg, it's actually a bit disappointing considering how much they struggled. For more details, check out my latest post for Sound on Sight.

Here are a few other points of interest that I didn't address in my review:
  • I really hope The Amazing Race finds a way to minimize the non-elimination legs in the future. Adding a few more teams does create additional production costs, but there has to be a way around this issue. The Speed Bump can't be too difficult to maintain the drama of the next leg, so it isn't an interesting task. Creating a sudden-death scenario would build extra tension for teams since every leg could be their last. I suggest adding this layer to the next All-Star season. They can build an extended leg in the middle if an extra episode is needed.
  • If Mark and Bopper go out, I might actually start rooting for Brendon and Rachel. She's ridiculous and threatens to break down every week, but they still aren't bugging me as much as the other three teams. They don't seem intent on fighting the other teams and lack the arrogance of Dave. 
  • The one benefit of this week's non-elimination will be a two-hour finale on May 6. Since the ratings have improved, I haven't understood why this show doesn't extend the premiere and finale every time to make them feel more epic. 

April 18, 2012

TV: The Amazing Race 20, "Let Them Drink Their Haterade" Review

Before The Amazing Race began this season, I picked Nary and Jamie to win the entire game. Their job as drug-enforcement agents indicated they were strong and could maintain a cool head under pressure. Also, the CBS videos revealed a quiet confidence that's common for teams that do well. Sadly, it's hard to predict how teams will actually do when the competition gets rolling. Nary and Jamie did okay for a while and survived a few close calls, but they never performed better than average. They didn't have the "eye of the tiger" and seemed to lose focus on the key challenges. Although the elimination happens this week, they basically lost by falling several hours behind last time. The producers give them a shot with a Double U-Turn, which reduces the gap considerably. However, a fairly tricky Speed Bump ultimately seals their fate. It's a predictable result, but there's enough drama to provide an entertaining episode. For more details, check my review for Sound on Sight.

Here are a few other points of interest that I didn't address in my review:
  • One of my favorite activities for Phil is when he gets involved in the tasks during the demonstrations. This week, he puts on the protective bee suit and pulls it off while describing the Roadblock. Awesome.
  • I can't stress enough how great it was to see the teams having fun at the Ngorongoro Crater. A note to the producers: more amazement, less petty drama.
  • Although the Double U-Turn brings some excitement, the actual Detour tasks are pretty mundane. People didn't sign up for The Amazing Race to stand in line for water. It does provide an interesting look at daily life in that town, but there had to be a better way to accomplish the same feat.
  • I loved seeing Mark and Bopper finish first; they're one of the most likable teams we've seen on the show in a long while. Even if they don't win the million dollars, it's been great to have them on the show. Could you imagine this season without Mark and Bopper? It would not be a happy place. 

April 11, 2012

TV: The Amazing Race 20: "I Didn't Make Her Cry" Review

I'm not a fan of Brendon and Rachel's time on The Amazing Race, but I'm not sure even they deserve the nastiness that happens this week. The leg begins at night, and everyone seems grumpy and ready to battle. The worst of it comes from Vanessa, who seems determined to shed any goodwill she generated earlier in the season. This is a really uncomfortable situation for the other teams, particularly guys like Mark and Bopper who are enjoying their time on the show. Thankfully, there are some entertaining tasks once the teams arrive in Tanzania. Nary and Jamie again prove their ineptitude and finish last, but they're saved for at least one more week by the non-elimination leg. For more details on the ugly behavior this week and my expectations for upcoming episodes, check out my review for Sound on Sight.

Here are a few other points of interest that I didn't address in my review:

  • The episode's best moment is Bopper's glee at seeing a candy bowl at the travel agent's office. Free candy! Compared to the idiocy from many of the teams, his excitement is refreshing.
  • Did lying about their jobs ever really help Nary and Jamie? Contestants on Survivor frequently hide what they do, but that makes sense because players can vote you out. On The Amazing Race, the negatives of other players discovering the lie far outweigh any benefits.  
  • Dave and Rachel are solid racers, but they are really unpleasant to watch. They snipe at each other and rarely take the time to listen to what the other is saying. The fact that they're doing well shows their athletic abilities, but not much else.  

March 28, 2012

TV: The Amazing Race 20: "This is Wicked Strange" Review

Welcome back to relevance, Fast Forward! This is the second one in three weeks on The Amazing Race, and it plays a big role this time. Once both Dave and Rachel and Joey and Danny go for it, the end result is predictable. One of them is heading for the exits. The Jersey boys give it their best shot to catch up, but the gap is too much to overcome. This week's episode in Azerbaijan provides several entertaining challenges, particularly a strange custom of cleaning guys with crude oil. That Detour is a lot more fun than searching thousands of apples in a Russian car for a single flag. There are only six teams left after this episode, which can only mean one thing. The next episode is going to be a non-elimination leg. You'll have to wait two weeks, however. Next week is the annual break for the Country Music Awards! For more details, check out my latest review for Sound on Sight.

Here are a few other points of interest that I didn't address in my review:

*I actually do mention this in my review, but it's worth saying again: Bring back the weekly Fast Forward! The ratings are better, and Ford is basically funding the entire season, so the money has to be there.
*Mark and Bopper initially think Azerbaijan is in Africa, and I can't really blame them. It's interesting that they can say dumb things and I enjoy it, yet others like Rachel drive me crazy. Being endearing can make up for a lot, even when Mark is throwing up in the back seat of a car.
*Are simulated helicopter crashes open to the public? If so, I'd be there in a second.
*This episode's tasks aren't difficult, but they feel original and fun to do. That sense of enjoyment is all over this leg, and I really hope it continues as we head towards the finale.

March 21, 2012

Amazing Race 20: "Uglier Than a Mud Rail Fence" Review

It's time for beards, yodeling, and fairy tales as we head to Bavaria this week for the goofiest episode of the season. The Amazing Race has been widely inconsistent this week, and this one falls right in the middle. There are plenty of entertaining moments, particularly with Mark and Bopper's unconventional yodeling style at the Speed Bump. Teams also style unconventional beards for older German guys who aren't content to just have massive facial hair. The familiar enemy of poor navigation dooms cousins Kerri and Stacy, who get passed by Nary and Jamie on the way to the Pit Stop. The editors try a bit too hard to sell the comedy, but there's enough silliness to make it a decent episode. If nothing else, it's a significant improvement over last week's mess. For more details, check out my review of "Uglier Than a Mud Rail Fence" for Sound on Sight.

Here are a few other points of interest that I didn't address in my review:

*Brendon and Rachel didn't occupy the screen so much this week, which is a relief after the past two hours. Their only memorable moment is Brendon's wonderful fall at the mat, a gaffe that can't be seen enough.
*Ralph is 36 years old and has been divorced three times. Wow. Even though they have some serious bickering this week, Vanessa and Ralph are actually pretty likable.
*Teams arrive at the Gasthof Zum Rassen restaurant and see a table full of beer, but it's just a prop. The only reason to arrive is the Travelocity Roaming Gnome. What a waste!
 *I was feeling pretty shaky about my original pick of Nary and Jamie to win the game. They're solid players, but right now the smart money's on Art and JJ or one of the other top teams. I'm keeping the faith and not changing my pick, though. They rebounded really well at the end to avoid elimination.

March 13, 2012

Amazing Race 20: "Taste My Salami" Review

Last week, The Amazing Race delivered one of its best episodes of the past few years. This week is a disaster. So what happened? The main offenders are the weak challenges, which don't provide interesting television or much excitement for the racers. Sending the teams to Turin, Italy is exciting; having them wash fake statues is not. The bickering reaches a season high this week, and Brendon and Rachel find a new low point. I was thrilled to see a return to form last week, so watching the show revert to the duller tasks is disheartening. With the exception of a friendly move from Art and JJ at the end, there's not much to recommend. Thankfully, Mark and Bopper's last-place finish doesn't eliminate them due to a non-elimination leg. Their excitement about Italy gets the best of them and causes an error buying airline tickets. The Kentucky guys are way over the top, but their genuine enjoyment is infectious. I'm hoping this weak episode is just an aberration from a fun season. However, it raises concerns about the upcoming weeks. For more details, check out my review for Sound on Sight. I'd love to hear your thoughts about the episode and the season.

March 6, 2012

Amazing Race 20: "Bust Me Right in the Head with It" Review


When it comes to The Amazing Race, I tend to be overly positive, even when the show isn't at its best. This season is not one of those cases. The excitement has risen with each subsequent episode, and the game design has been the strongest in a long time. This leg includes lots of movement in the standings, extremely challenging tasks that create major frustration, and a two-team battle right near the finish line to avoid elimination. It also again reveals the limited abilities of the Express Pass, which likely saves Rachel and Dave from elimination but doesn't give them a huge edge. When they reach the mat, Phil says that they are the first team not to complete a task and avoid elimination. This statement appears false if you remember the notorious "Meatblock" from Season 7. That Roadblock required players to eat four pounds of meat, which induced plenty of puking. Three contestants, including Survivor's Rob Mariano, were unable to complete the task and took a four-hour penalty. Amazingly, all three survived because several other teams drove hours in the wrong direction. Despite this minor gaffe, this week's episode was excellent and one of the best in a long while. For more details, check out my review of this episode for Sound on Sight. If the trends continue, this could rank as the strongest season in several years.

February 29, 2012

Amazing Race 20: "You Know I'm Not as Smart as You" Review

I've been watching The Amazing Race since its second season, and it's easy to fall into the trap of comparing the current show to those grand early years. The editing style was more laid-back, and we spent more time getting to know each team. While I prefer that approach because it connects us more to the competitors, it's not worth the effort to hope for a return to that format. The more frenetic approach is here to stay, so I have to consider this season on its own terms. Looking at it from that perspective, the first two episodes have provided great entertainment. "You Know I'm Not as Smart as You" contains interesting challenges and some unpredictable moments that effectively shuffle the standings. The well-designed leg forces the teams to think on their feet to avoid being eliminated. This is especially true for the four teams who end up in the back due to a freak bus accident. Three of them succeed and stay in the game, while the final team struggles and falls well short. It's an entertaining start that reveals strong potential for the upcoming episodes. For more details, check out my review of this episode for Sound on Sight. If you're watching this season, let me know what you think so far in the comments section. I've been impressed by most of the teams and expect a lot of fun moments as they continue through the race.

February 20, 2012

Amazing Race 20: "Tears of a Clown"

The Amazing Race is back! Last night, we saw 11 new teams of two heading into the world to deal with both the stress and excitement of competing for $1 million dollars. Although it was crammed into a single hour, "Tears of a Clown" was a solid premiere that reveals plenty of potential for the upcoming season. There are some over-the-top teams who will likely become obnoxious, so the success could depend on how well they do. That said, I'm still really excited to check out the 20th (!) season of this consistently entertaining show. Last night saw a remarkable gaffe from the departing team, who walked right by Phil and found themselves in last place. Looking at this cast, I expect this won't be the last big mistake. They might not be the brightest group every assembled for this contest, but they could provide good television. For more details on the premiere, check out my review for Sound on Sight and let me know what you thought of the fast-paced opener.

February 15, 2012

Amazing Race 20 Preview

It's hard to believe that The Amazing Race has aired for 19 seasons. The more recent versions have started blurring in my memory, which is normal for such a long-running show. Despite attempts to spice up the show (split-screen! HD!), it's basically followed a similar format since the beginning. Some long-time fans have jumped ship because of the similarity, but the ratings are still pretty strong by today's standards. Host Phil Keoghan remains to give the dramatic eyebrow raise at the starting line. He also dishes out penalties for stupidity, fakes out teams during non-elimination legs, and explains the tasks. He's the quiet hero of the show who can sell even the dullest tasks as being particularly challenging. Like Jeff Probst from Survivor, Phil never lets on when the show's falling off the rails.

This season's big news is the casting of Brendon and Rachel from Big Brother, who I may call Brenchel if they deserve the silly title. I don't watch that show, so I don't know what to expect from this couple. I've heard they enjoy starting fights with other players, so that could be interesting (or awful). The other contestants in Amazing Race 20 include drug enforcement agents, an MLS soccer player and his twin brother, two buddies from the Jersey Shore, married clowns, and dating divorcees. I'm hoping for a fun season that avoids the predictability that's plagued some recent contests. For more details on this season and  my thoughts on each team, check out my full preview for Sound on Sight.