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. 

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