Since 2001, the Amazing Race has been a staple reality TV show for CBS, along with the one that started it all, Survivor. As a three time Emmy winner, the show also has the honor of being one of the few reality TV shows to actually gain viewers as seasons progressed. In fact, it was on the verge of cancellation for the first four seasons.
The Emmy wins gave it the publicity to jumpstart its ratings climb, although the 8th family edition season was rather lackluster in both fan reception and Nelson ratings. Host Phil Keoghan speculates that the lack of international sites was to blame. He promises there will be less faces and more places in future seasons.
If you haven’t been watching the Amazing Race, it is composed of teams that try to race each other to designated locations, with limited resources and various challenges along the way. The winner gets the designated reality show prize of $1 million.
The teams are of the two-person format. Season 8 was an exception. On each team, the contestants all have a certain relationship to each other. We’ve seen long time married couples, homosexual and heterosexual partners, siblings, and friends of various varieties. With each of these relationships comes a preconceived stereotype, but as a season moves forward, the stereotypes unravel.
Under the harsh light of national television, and the rigors of international travel, the contestants are often exposed in a way that astounds the viewers. Jonathon and Victoria in Season six, Colin in Season five, and Lake of Season nine, just to name a few. Of course, it all makes for good dramatic television. Jerry Bruckheimer produces the Race, so just be thankful the explosions are metaphorical.
The exotic locations of each Amazing Race season are nothing to scoff at either. While they aren’t out of the way like the ‘Survivor’ islands, some of the places are hardly the average tourist traps. From Senegal to Uruguay, the locations add to the tension of the race as we watch the American contestants navigate through foreign territory and engage with unfamiliar faces.
Viewers can watch with a voyeuristic glee as the contestants flounder like fishes out of the water, removed from the elements that we take for granted on American soil. The numerous obstacles placed on each leg of the race also give us plenty of opportunities to boo the villains when they falter and cheer for our favorites when they succeed.
Whatever it is that attracts viewers to this show, it looks like there’s no stopping The Amazing Race. The concept of the show, much like the race itself, has gone international. The Amazing Race Asia and The Amazing Race Central Europe editions will be on the tube overseas, showing us that bickering, yelling, and rivalry with complete strangers transcends languages and borders.