The Evolution of the Amazing Race!

Howdy all. Well, I’ve mentioned it before but I bloody love ‘The Amazing Race’. If there was a show created that suits the likes of travellers and backpackers around the world, I am yet to hear of it. And right now it is in full swing with the American iteration (the original) cranking up, and the Amazing Race Australia just concluding a week ago. And a little bit before that, The Amazing Race Canada finished it’s first season since the advent of Covid-19. So it seems August to October are significant months of the year for the show, which takes teams of two across continents and countries.

And so it is that I felt the urge to go back and revisit the old seasons, going all the way back to the very first season of the original show in the US, which is presently airing the 34th season. The show has some real longevity about it, perhaps surprisingly. The very first season in many ways, whilst still clearly the same show, seems like it was made 100 years ago. People generally don’t have smart phones, the pacing is much slower and it’s a show finding its feet and inventing a format.

Over the years things have changed greatly in the way it’s produced, it’s an incredibly polished show nowadays which you couldn’t say for season one, but at the same time that is part of the real charm of the first season, it’s kinda ‘raw’. I wonder if we will ever see the return of teams fighting to get tickets on the flights again, which for me was a great part of the show. But now they have a private jet to take them from country to country.

Of course, they are trying to prevent the teams from getting Covid which would still force them into a period of isolation. The Canadian and Australian 2022 seasons were both impacted by teams and in Australia’s case the HOST getting Covid and being forced into isolation. At one point there were five teams or even six or seven in iso along with Beau Ryan the host, and that is probably why they decided to go with a record 20 teams in this year’s season on the Australian version. Teams were brought back when out of isolation, and had to do a very mild speed bump. In some ways this was a little unfair with teams eliminated from bad luck when if the whole field was in they surely wouldn’t have been.

Back on the main version, the US version, and teams no longer leave at the intervals they arrive at the previous pitstop. So a team that survives but gets in 3 hours after the previous team doesn’t have that large gap to make up, rather I think it’s now 15 minute intervals. Not sure how that works when teams are close though, it would basically be a penalty. It’s a far cry from the first season where the third place team never got to the finish line as they were 24 hours behind the first and second teams and received a message in Alaska whilst the season finished in New York.

And no-one wants to see such a huge gap. And they worked it all a bit better as the seasons go on and season two for example, although basically being the same format as season one, has worked out how to time everything much better and ensure that tasks are set and done in such a way that massive gaps of many hours don’t open up. Also season one had a lot of timing issues where they were doing tasks in the middle of the night. It’s not ideal for shooting first of all and then there needs to be adequate lighting, it’s seems a lot of those issues have been worked around for season two. Which evens things up a lot and hard earned leads can evaporate but it makes the show work better.

(Photo by Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images)

They started off pretty ambitiously, and races generally go for 35000-40000 miles. The logistics must be mind boggling. In season one the host, Phil Keoghan, could only get to the finish line in time to eliminate the last team, and doesn’t feature along the race as much as comes to after that season. And it helps the format as he is the face of race. We see celebrities also take part – winners of Big Brother USA (not known to me but I guess famous there), Survivor contestants, and a couple of guys from the Harlem Globetrotters who turn up three times including two all-star seasons. We had the experimental season 8 where families took part – an experiment that I guess didn’t really work. One of the more recent places they found teams was from influencers, people with huge followings.

Personally, I like seeing more regular people on the show. There always used to be a good mix of teams with different abilities in different skills. I do feel that teams are more similar to each other today and they are geared more towards the physical challenges presented in the road blocks and detours.

In the latest season they have invented a concept called the ‘Scramble’ where teams can do the tasks for one leg in whichever order they like. I didn’t mind the idea it worked okay. But to keep it fresh in some way after 34 seasons must be an incredible challenge.

Despite it generally being a show that has evolved away from some of the aspects of the show I instantly loved all those years ago when it started, I still find it unmissable tv today. Interestingly it debuted in America on September the 5th, 2001, less than a week before the terrorist attacks. The fact that it managed to grow into a huge success in that environment shows what a great ‘heart’ the series has.

How long can it go on? 21 years and 34 seasons thus far, and there are still endless possibilities about where the race could go. I think there’s plenty of life in it in the US, Canada and Australia. There have been Asian versions too and perhaps next year we’ll see that revived. At the moment they seem to be playing it safe with the main franchise, but I hope that sooner or later we will see them go to more exciting and varied destinations – my favourite adventures in the show occur when they are taken right of their comfort zones in places like India!

So here’s to many more years and seasons of this delightful show! It’s full of adventure, fun, and more. I’m going to review a season or two before the year’s out – so please join me when I do here on the blog if you’re a fan. Or even if you’re not! Thanks for joining me today – May the Journey Never End!

6 thoughts on “The Evolution of the Amazing Race!

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