BEACON OF PREDICTABILITY (Thoughts On Finale Of TAR-22 And Future Seasons)

I would not do a traditional recap here – after all, everybody who was interested in this season of The Amazing Race by now knows who the winners are. But if you still don’t – stop reading now, because I will be spoiling it for you in the next sentence.

And the winners are…our Hockey Brothers – Bates and Anthony!

Final Pitstop - 2

Surprised? Yeah, I wasn’t either. Even though they finished second (by a few seconds) in the last leg, I was 99% certain that they would be the winners. And no, I am not clairvoyant, and there is no future for me in the fortune-telling business. I cannot claim any credit for predicting this so accurately – the show did it for us: it was one of the most predictable seasons ever.
With the majority of challenges being physical – when you have two major professional athletes among “regular” people it is like having Michael Phelps swim against you in the pool. Sure, there is a 1% chance he might get cramps in his legs or something and you would surge ahead, but how unpredictable could 1% vs 99% be?

So yes – I knew who would win. And I sort of wanted them to win. Who else of the remaining 4 teams?!

The blonde Barbies were sweet and lighthearted, but do you think someone who doesn’t know the difference between the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China really deserves winning? If you are so ignorant about the world – should you really win a race around it?

Watching the Boring Roller Derby mothers was as entertaining as watching the paint dry. Yes, once in a while they would open their mouths to say something “right” (read: “cliché “) like: “we are not quitters” or “we want to prove to our children, to our husbands…blah-blah-blah”, but it made them even more boring. And I have an issue with “we are representing all the moms”. No you are not!

Max and Katie – despite their over inflated opinion of themselves and total lack of warmth and likability, were quite a capable and probably most entertaining team of the remaining ones. After all, who else could we love to hate so much? Which other team could elicit this passionate “anyone but them!!!”? But loving to hate is one thing and rooting for an unlikable team to win is another.

So it left me with the Hockey Brothers to root for. They were fairly nice, fairly pleasant, fairly entertaining. Their extreme athleticism was an unfair advantage in the Race where the vast majority of challenges were physical, but it wasn’t their fault. So – congratulations, guys! – you should have won, and you did win.

During these 2 hours of finale we see teams bunching up a lot – at the train station, at the ferry, at the airport. Talking (yet again!) about excitement and unpredictability!
But I actually loved one of the Detours (“Tray it” or “Spray it“), especially the “Tray it” part. The teams had to serve a 5-course dinner according to the pre-printed menu to a table of 5. Several of the courses had a choice between 2 dishes – therefore, people at the table could select different dishes.

The information about who is who at the table and what choice they made was provided, but the dishes prepared in the kitchen didn’t have an identification sign on them. You would think – “so what? everybody can tell a difference between a soup and a plate of oysters!” But apparently not so. Our Boring Moms made about 20 attempts before they got it right and vowed not to serve their kids anything more complicated than macaroni and cheese from now on. I feel sorry for the kids, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Detour!
Mona and Beth-2

The final destination city was Washington, DC where the evil part of me was pleased to see how the teams got duped into believing that they would be taking their pictures with real President Obama. I mean – how gullible could they be?! Although I think it would be quite cool if the President himself was a fan of The Amazing Race!

I also had a good laugh watching the Roadblock around the Tidal Basin where one team member was given a “code phrase” and had to find one of 50 men dressed as spies (black suite, black glasses, black briefcase – I am not sure real spies would be dressed like that though) and use the phrase to receive their next instructions.Just watching Max bugging everyone in sight with his code question “Where could I have a good half-smoke of chili?” was hilarious. I am sure the passerby’s were amused too: “what has this guy been smoking already?”

Bates ran much faster than Max (are you surprised?) around the 3 or 4 mile course throughout which the “spies” were walking. And as a result – he found “his” spy much earlier. From then on – it was no race at all: the Hockey Brothers finished their last task even before any of the other teams arrived to it.

Part of the “spy” task and the final task of searching for the right globe both required some memory of the past legs. But nowadays all the teams keep detailed notes and use them freely, so it didn’t feel like a big deal. No one could surge ahead thanks to their memory alone – it ultimately came to who could run faster around the Tidal Basin. Which brings us back to what is so predictable – the Race is won by professional athletes, of course. The Hockey Brothers.

Was it a good season? You know, I love talking about the Race to the fans and to anyone who watches the show. I take every opportunity to do so. Sure, my “sample size” is not that huge to make my survey a “scientific” one. But I still can detect a general “theme”. And for this season the general “theme” is dissatisfaction.

Max and Katie

I am a big fan of The Amazing Race, so for me personally there are no “bad” seasons. There are “great” seasons and somewhat “ho-hum” seasons. This one was the latter.

The teams and their dynamics were not extremely interesting. The bunching up of the teams at various points was happening way too frequently, and I often had a feeling that it was not the race of individual teams but rather a race of one big team composed of several people.

Some challenges were fun, but I wish there were more “mental” challenges. Especially when you have one disproportionately athletic team – wouldn’t it be nice to have the opportunity for others to gain an advantage? And by “mental” I don’t necessarily mean some memory-related tasks that could be easily done just by keeping notes throughout the race.

Also – it is always embarrassing and painful for me to watch ignorance on reality TV. It is nice to see people who have at least some idea about the world they live in (not to mention the world they race around).

And if the production insists on picking up people who are determined to “prove” something to the world (as if the world really cares!), why not pick those who want to prove that knowledge is power? education is power? intelligence is power? Maybe it does sound cliché, but it still beats their other clichés like “we are not quitters!” or “we want to prove to the world that we can do it” Besides, some of the viewers are seriously considering taking anti-nausea drugs every time they hear that.

And for those who think I am too harsh in my critisism, consider this quote (Matt Mitovich, TV Line):

CBS’ The Amazing Race wrapped its 21st running with a total audience of 9.34 million viewers while scoring a 2.6 rating, down 21 percent year over year to match its all-time low for a finale

It was said about the last season, but do you really think this season was better? Fun locations can take you only so far – you need fun people to make the show fun. They often cite the budget constraints, but – first of all, I am sure most of us will endure a few extra minutes of “product placement” by sponsors (think Ford Fusion!) on the Race. And secondly – maybe it’s not the budget, maybe it’s the casting department that needs to do a better job?

My criticism here is out of love for this show, not because I have a nagging personality 🙂
I want The Amazing Race to exist years and years from now, to continue season after season, to bring its fans joy. But if the ratings are going down like this – would it?

I am an optimist and always believe (or rather hope) that the next season will be better than the previous one. We’ll see.
Thank you for visiting this blog, for enduring my opinionated recaps, for sharing your thoughts in the comments.

Till next season, dear fans of The Amazing Race!

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