Monday, January 29, 2007

The Amazing Race – The Seventh Season

4-disc set; 12 episodes (10 hours, 49 minutes)

When “Survivor” came on the scene in 2000, its success resulted in the quick premiere (and subsequent quick fall) of many other reality shows. In the game show fan community, many swooped in and declared one show “the classiest reality show on TV,” and among one of the best programs on the air period. I’m talking of course about “The Amazing Race,” hosted by the awesome Phil Keoghan.

Me personally, I just never found it until recently. It wasn’t me being smug, saying I’m better than reality TV…just the rigors of school and work making weekly TV not a priority. Once college came around and work and school weren’t both all-week affairs, I had predetermined free time, and so here I came on the recommendation of a few close friends. And naturally, I regretted not diving in sooner. I’ve watched seasons 9 and 10 as they happened, and snippets of other runs via GSN repeats. I was told by one of those Race-recommending comrades that season 7 was among the best. Since they’ve released only seasons 1 and this one on DVD to date, I was inclined to agree.

The format of the show is as such: about a dozen teams “race” around the world. In any particular “leg” there are (usually, but not without exception) two tasks to be performed. One is a Road Block which is usually for just one person. The other is a Detour which is “a choice between two tasks – each with their own pros and cons.” Each team starts a leg with a clue which leads them from place to place, task to task. At the end is the Pit Stop, where the last team that checks in “…may be eliminated.”

That’s basically it. Teams usually get a prize for completion of a leg. The first team to cross the finish line wins $1,000,000. Now notice earlier how I say “may be eliminated” – in case a team arrives last at a pit stop that is one of three pre-determined non-elimination legs on the race, they get stripped of their money and possessions, and have to race the next day with nothing but the clothes on their back, and their passports. This twist of leaving teams emptyhanded began with this season, and it’s a good one. There’s also the possibility for a Yield, where teams arriving to the Yield mat first can choose to make another team wait there while an hourglass ticks away their time penalty.

This season was controversial before it began for letting “Survivor: Marquesas” alum Rob Mariano and his bride-to-be from the subsequent “Survivor All-Stars” Amber join the fray with the other “normal” teams. I do not watch “Survivor,” so I had no pre-disposed hate for the two, but most every other team did. Conversely, people all over the world recognized the two quickly and helped them out with tasks along the way. No matter what your stance, they provide a good antagonist right away, and make things interesting in the often-confusing first episode, where no personalities are really formed, and it’s just a means of getting things started before the story gets told in later episodes.

Personally, I hated Rob & Amber at the beginning, but within an episode or two, did a complete 180 and was rooting for them all the way. Other notable teams include Ray & Deana – Ray, who looks like Taylor Negron, giving a complete verbal beating to Deana all throughout the race with his favorite catch phrase “suck it up.” There’s also Uchenna & Joyce, who got the moniker “Zzzz” from me, because Uchenna liked to bore everybody with his self-commentary and lack of personality. There’s also Ron & Kelly, a POW and beauty pageant queen who inspired me to create a drinking game this season whereby you drink every time Ron brings up the army for no reason.

Everybody reality show has its token castings. “Amazing Race” wouldn’t be the same without two people who are just “guys” (Brian & Greg) or a team that everybody can refer to as “Barbies” or old people (Meredith & Gretchen) or homosexuals (Lynn & Alex).

Go out of your way to see this season if you haven’t already. Most of the finishes have the high drama you can only hope for once or twice a year. The locales and challenges are, as always, intriguing. And like I said, a story forms here pretty quick compared to the other two seasons I’ve had a chance to view.


On DVD, you get “side trips & mat chats” with every episode, plus commentary from selected contestants on selected episodes. Other than the main competition shows, two recap/behind-the-scenes type things are included.

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