Monday, March 22, 2010

10 Reasons Why “The Amazing Race” is Just Like Real Life

  Note: While this diatribe basically applies to all seasons, I’ll try to throw in nifty references to the current teams so you can feel all hip and up-to-date. But really, it doesn’t matter what the names are. The stupidity carries forward from year to year.

1. People will argue about anything.

  First and foremost, this a race. You need to get things done quickly, and there’s really not any time for pointless discussion on arbitrary matters. Sadly, most of the teams don’t really get this.  You’d think by now that the contestants would have seen previous seasons, and would understand that if you have to waste more than three words on any given topic, you’re already falling behind.

  Of course, all the teams start the race bubbling with enthusiasm and universal love. (This is so much FUN! I want to do this forever!) But within five minutes, one of the teams is bound to get into a bitchfest, usually over something stupid like a left turn that didn’t work out or someone’s ability to utilize a road map.

  Immediately, the camera zooms in on the bickering couple as they rip and tear at each other. It seems reasonable that the mere presence of the camera would inspire some degree of caution in the words being expressed. Nope. They babble away endlessly, with all the pettiness and bad grammar that might entail.

  Current case in point: Brent and Caite. Let’s put aside the fact that I’m having a hard time envisioning Brent as a “model” (He looks like “Exhibit A” in a brochure warning against the dangers of drugs and plastic surgery.) or the hard realization that Caite will never be able to live down her insipid response during whatever beauty pageant she was in where she confused the concepts of cities and countries and, well, everything.

  These two need to shut up. Every time they say hateful things to one another it’s like a flashback to recess in the third grade. No intelligence, no thoughtful reasoning, and both of them glancing around for the wind machine that is supposed to blow their hair while they look seductive.

2. Americans expect the rest of the world to speak English.

  Don’t really need to say much here. It’s evident in every episode. At least half the teams will have scathing comments about some innocent bystander they’ve accosted who can’t really bond with them due to the language barrier. This should not surprise anyone, yet there’s still bitterness on the part of the contestants. Perhaps you should have taken more than just shop class and Phys Ed while in high school.

  Current case in point:  Jordan (the gay one, not the blonde one) whining because he thought that French woman saying “cathedrale” was really saying “Cathy Drone”. Seriously? You’re looking for a local French landmark and you really think the word “Cathy” is going to be a part of the name? And then he wants to blame the poor woman for his own lack of international culture. Please.

3. There’s always one team with a really old person that you know is not going to make it.

  I don’t understand why the producers do this. Most of the teams are young, nubile children who have incredible stamina and haven’t yet learned that life sucks. I am ALL about including everyone and giving all levels of ability a chance, but let’s be realistic. You have to do physical things on this show, all the time.

  So we end up with competitions where ten of the eleven teams race across the screen to go build an entire village out of 50-pound flour bags or giant wheels of cheese. Then here comes Ethel, hobbling along with her walker, accompanied by her teammate who is spouting things like “I’m so proud of how hard she’s trying!” (Trying? She’s barely breathing. Does she still have a pulse?)

4. At some point in your life you must eat something that you don’t even want to touch.

  It’s going to come up at least once in every season. There will be a challenge based entirely on your ability to quickly gulp down some local culinary favorite that includes ingredients which cause you concern. This dish might involve advanced fermentation or maybe even something that’s not yet dead.

  Why are you going to whine about it and hold your nose, reluctantly picking at the plate and just stirring things around instead of consuming them? This mode of operation will get you no where. See those people at the table next to you? The folks who just wolfed down the fried wasp larvae in about two seconds? That’s your competition, and they just passed you in the rankings, running out the door in search of Phil while you take tiny bites and spit most of them back out. Just shut up and eat. Now.

5. Lazy people litter.

  I’m talking about the hundreds of times in every episode where we see huddled teams ripping open those yellow clue things. What those people then do with the tear strip is one of the qualifications I use when determining whether or not I like a team. If they carefully tuck away the strip for later disposal, then I instantly like them and their obvious concern for the condition of the planet.

  If they instead hurl the strip to the ground and instantly forget about it, I don’t want that team to win, no matter how well they might otherwise be doing. It doesn’t matter that you’re excited and perhaps not properly focused. The cameras are on and they are recording your actions. The world is not your litter box, and you need to care for any waste that you produce. Bend over and pick that thing up.

6. People who live in small rural towns can surprise you.

  The producers always cast some yokel duo from the sticks, and then they amp it up by highlighting the cute phrases these folks say “(“Oh my gravy!”) and ensuring that banjo music plays in the background every time the country team appears on screen. Oh, and there’s always a lot of focus on the fact that the duo might not be as educated as the rest of the race participants.

  Which makes it very satisfying when Jet and Cord prove that there’s more than one way to lasso the bull. While they might come from a place where there’s not much art, and “social networking” just means being polite at the barn dance, it doesn’t mean these guys are stupid, as they keep proving this season. Besides, anybody who can bungee jump and not lose their cowboy hat in the process deserves some respect.

7. Some people are just too cute no matter what they do.

  Jeff and Jordan.

8. Some people are just completely annoying no matter what they do.

  Carol and Brandy. Especially Brandy. (Sweetie, is there any challenge that you haven’t whined about? You don’t want to do ANYTHING. Why are you on this show?)

9. People named Phil are awkward at reception ceremonies.

  He’s welcomed hundreds of people to the check-in mat, dramatically giving out rankings time after time, so you’d think he would have this down by now. But he’s still just not right in some way. (Maybe it’s the hair?) I realize he’s supposed to hide his emotions and thereby increase the suspense, but come on guy, lighten up. You’re not giving a dissertation on the mating habits of the dragonfly. Crack a smile.

  And he doesn’t seem to know how to react when interacting with certain teams. He seems a little out of place when female teams burst into tears. He looks like he wants to run the other way when male teams exuberantly high-five each other and chest bump. And the gay teams? Don’t let one of them twirl a bit too fiercely. He really doesn’t care for that.

10. It’s all about the scheduling.

  It doesn’t matter how well any team is doing, there will always be several key points in any season where everybody catches up and people just sit around, bored. The fluke here is that although the race is supposedly a non-stop, 24x7 kind of thing, most of the world couldn’t care less about your urgency. So there’s down time.

  Perhaps you need access to a certain ancient church so that you can find the clue next to the Holy Tortilla? Sorry, God has a bigger agenda and we don’t open until the morning. You’d like to climb this famous hill and then yodel the national anthem while wearing wooden shoes? Oops, the next tour doesn’t leave for three hours. It’s important that you obtain a bottle of champagne from our sacred vaults? Sorry, the caves are only open on Tuesdays from 3 to 4. Have a seat.

  And of course, the greatest equalizer involves air travel. You can be doing everything right, miles and days ahead of the rest of the pack, and then suddenly you’ve got to get on a plane. And there’s only one flight. And it doesn’t leave for 12 hours. So one by one all the teams arrive and we have a slumber party on the floor of the airport while a lone janitor mops the floors in the distance.

  And basically, the race starts all over again. Perhaps the show should actually be called “The Amazing Sort-Of Race Where You Really Only Have to Run Fast in the Last Episode”…

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