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An "Amazing" Return

John Deiner

Okay, I'll admit it up front: I gave up on CBS's "The Amazing Race," which is probably the most realistic portrait of travel hell on television, a few seasons ago when somebody came up with the bright idea to include families in the competition. The result was a tedious slog through (mainly) North America.

But, people, I'm here to tell you that if you've never watched the show, now would be a good time to begin. Sunday at 8 p.m., the "Race" begins anew, with a rogues' gallery of previous seasons' standouts. I'm usually anti-all-star editions of shows, but this should be an interesting spectacle.

If you're not familiar with the show, teams of players race from one point on the globe to another, following clues and accomplishing tasks (hang-gliding over a waterfall, navigating an obstacle course on a camel, eating disgusting stuff in large quantities, etc.) as they go along. The last team to arrive at that day's pit stop is eliminated. (Well, mostly. Annoyingly, sometimes the last team is spared, apparently to increase the number of episodes.)

I always tape the show (sorry, I'm in a non-TiVo zone) and watch it later, skipping over some of the tasks in favor of the actual travel portions. Delayed flights, cabbies who can't communicate, rush-hour traffic -- they've all done in even the smartest teams. Pity the poor person who can't read a map, or doesn't realize that they're putting diesel fuel into a gas engine. (It's happened before, and the camera always makes sure to pan down to the "GAS ONLY" sign on the car as the idiot is pumping in diesel.) The fighting among the couples alone is worth it. Who can't relate to squabbling with your better half or best friend after being crammed onto a bus for 10 hours or finding an attraction you have to visit closed?

At the very least, "Race" offers some good ideas on how to travel in out-of-the-way places. (I think it was Oswald and Danny, included in the new season, who finally figured out that going into a Western hotel like a Hilton is a good way to find some English-speaking advice-givers). And you get a nice, often chilling overview of the world's airports and transportation systems.

I'm rooting for Charla and Myrna, a team from Towson, Md., who appeared in Season 5. Who can forget when Charla, all four feet of her, slung a giant slab of meat over her shoulder when her whiny cousin Myrna was about to give up the chase? Actually, I'll be happy with anyone who wins, as long as it's not Rob and Amber, the off-putting "Survivor" transplants who skeezed up Season 7.

Travel is bad enough without having to contend with those two.

By John Deiner |  February 16, 2007; 2:50 PM ET  | Category:  John Deiner
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Aside from the unfairness of giving previous winners, even of another reality TV show, a chance of winning another million dollars, this all-star show with Rob and Amber in it could ruin the future of the Amazing Race.

The majority of the contestants have always raced with a sense of decency and fair play. There's been lying and (perceived) betrayal of alliances, but even the "bad guys" of the first race didn't do the dirty things Rob and Amber did.

I can see all of the stops being pulled out now. Rob and Amber will see no reason not to increase their level of deviousness as the sole point of the game is winning by any means short of going to jail, the rest will be forced to match their tactics, and the faking of injuries to get off the plane first or the bribing of people will only get worse (that's a thought - increase their starting money so they can make more bribes). The experience these teams have would reduce their need for sharing info and thus co-operating, making the everyone-for-themselves mentality more likely.

Some viewers will be more interested if everyone was constantly "cheating" in a maximum effort to win. I feel a lot more, like me, will be indignant after a certain amount of indecency. The sad thing is that the next contestants will feel they need to race at or near that level too - just like the experts. Still, I've always wondered why the contestants never did this from the start of the series unless they thought a TV show is like real-life.

Posted by: P Bauer | February 16, 2007 6:06 PM

I think they need to make the rules more strict - no 'helpers' showing the way, one air ticket purchase only (can't change flights if they find a better time), etc. This is one of the most fun shows on TV - the only reality show that is worth watching. As far as the interactions between the teams, I am not sure that there need to be any more rules. I hope that none of the teams are stupid enough to fall for any of Rob and Amber's tricks. And just as long as Rob and Amber don't win, I don't care who does.

Posted by: star11 | February 16, 2007 7:15 PM

Oh please. It's "unfair" to include winners of other game shows? On all reality shows--Amazing Race included--contestants are chosen for their ability to draw viewers--that's why the most common profession is MODEL. Do you want them to means-test the show, too, to ensure that the winners really need the prize?

Posted by: GJ | February 19, 2007 2:45 PM

What exactly did Rob and Amber do last time that was so devious? Seems like everyone gets all worked up over them, which causes them to lose concentration and lose the race!

Posted by: Alexandria | February 20, 2007 11:33 AM

I won't be watching TAR this season because of "Romber." For Pete's sake. Haven't they had their 15 plus 15 plus 15 plus 15 plus.... minutes of fame? When will CBS get over them? I - and I suspect many TV viewers - got over them 15 seconds into their first 15 minutes!

Posted by: Beth | February 20, 2007 1:08 PM

I won't be watching TAR this season because of "Romber." For Pete's sake. Haven't they had their 15 plus 15 plus 15 plus 15 plus.... minutes of fame? When will CBS get over them? I - and I suspect many TV viewers - got over them 15 seconds into their first 15 minutes!

Posted by: Beth | February 20, 2007 1:09 PM

This is the only show on TV that I watch. I'm glad to see Rob and Amber back so I will have someone that I really want to see loose. For this series I'm hoping the barbie tins win it all.

Posted by: Robert | February 20, 2007 1:56 PM

I gave up on this show when they rigged the Race 7 finale.

Rob and Amber should have been hours ahead of the next closest contestants in arriving at the final destination, Miami. However, somebody talked an airline into letting the next closest team onto a plane that already had closed it doors and was ready for pushback.

The show's website described it as, "engaged couple Rob & Amber,...suffered a huge blow when Uchenna & Joyce got tickets on their flight to Miami at the last moment,"

What suffered a huge setback was the show's credibility.

In 30 years of traveling, I've seen Gate Agents tell people time and again that once the door is closed, that's it. Everybody is on, who is getting on.

It didn't make any difference to me if Rob and Amber won. Whoever wins, wins. But, since the obvious rigging of that last leg I hadn't watched any episodes again until last night.

It may not be one of the rigged game shows of the '50's; but what else is the production company doing to ensure favorable outcomes and "good" (in their opinion) TV?

Is inclusion of Rob and Amber this time, a payoff for rigging the outcome in Race 7?

Posted by: DC | February 20, 2007 4:13 PM

I'm rooting for these two teams: Rob & Amber, and Dustin & Kandice. I always thought they play fair and know how to travel with the maximum speed and enjoyment. After all, that's what the Amazing Race is all about yes? The $1M is the bonus.

Posted by: agnesdv | February 22, 2007 12:08 AM

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