Check it out!: THE AMAZING RACE

The TAR25 cast, at the starting line in Times Square (May 31). Courtesy of CBS

Show: The Amazing Race

amazing_race

Courtesy: CBS

Created by Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster

Hosted by Phil Keoghan

Original Premiere Date: September 5, 2001

Status: Season 25 starts on September 26. Already renewed for a 26th.

Time Slot: Fridays at 8/7c (formerly Sundays at 8/7c) on CBS.

(Full disclosure: I’ve only seen the last few seasons, but I’m totally hooked.)

Elevator Speech Version: A dozen teams of two people (who already have some sort of relationship) race around the world to be the first to get to the finish line. Before they do so, the teams must ensure their safety by not being the last to check in at the designated pit stops. More on the specifics and the lingo in a second.

One of the stunning places the contestants raced through in TAR22. Courtesy: CBS

One of the stunning places the contestants raced through in TAR22. Courtesy: CBS

Look For: Beautiful locations! Every season has 12 legs. The show visits multiple cities on several continents each year. Think of this as a way to tour a city like never before.

Why You Should Check It Out: As the reality show that’s won 10 Emmys, aren’t you curious to see why it’s been lauded? Truth is, this is one of the most entertaining reality shows out there. Yes, it’s been on for thirteen years now and some seasons aren’t as entertaining as others. Yet, even the weaker years still have drama and exciting travels, as well as gorgeous locations.

The structure of an episode is quite simple: there is a starting point (in the premiere, it’s usually LA or NYC). Teams are given the route information, with instructions to fly somewhere else and meet at a designated location in the next city. A clue at that place will ask them to go somewhere else, where they’ll either face a detour or a roadblock. After a team has successfully completed their mission, they’ll be given another clue and will go somewhere else, where they’ll get yet another clue with a detour or roadblock, depending on their previous choice. After that, they are often asked to go to the pit stop, which is the final destination of that leg, where they check in with Phil in hopes of not being eliminated. The last team to check in usually gets the boot. (There are exceptions. Check below!)

Lingo: Here are some quick points to help you understand the show better. (Google any wiki to go more in depth as to how each one works.)

A TAR Clue Box. Courtesy: CBS

A TAR Clue Box. Courtesy: CBS

An envelope likely contains…

  • Route Information: Exactly what it sounds like. It gives the contestants the name of the place where they are going, and it’s up to them to get a flight or whatever transport they need. Only exception is the first leg, when they are told the specific flights they might get.
  • Detour: Contestants have to choose between two tasks and both of the members of that team have to complete it, usually together. Names are usually a rhyme or a pun.
  • Roadblock: A task that only one member of the team can complete; usually presented as a somewhat cryptic (and sometimes deceiving) riddle. The split of roadblocks between team members should be as even as possible.
  • Fast-Forward: Only presented a handful of times throughout the race. It’s a task that, if completed, allows the team to bypass any other tasks they would have to complete in that leg and go directly to the pit stop. The task is usually given in the same envelope as a detour or roadblock.
  • Switchback: A task that was introduced in a previous season and was distinctly difficult, revived in the current leg. Most recently, Season 22 included two: the Swiss cheese roadblock and the Tidal Basin spy/briefcase roadblock in the DC finale.
The second roadblock in TAR22's first leg in Bora Bora. Courtesy: CBS

TAR22’s first leg had 2 roadblocks. This one was the second one of those and it was pretty hard. Courtesy: CBS

There are also obstacles! Only including the ones at play in most recent years.

  • U-Turn: Usually happens twice in each race, at least in the most recent years. It’s placed after a detour and when a team is selected, this means they will have to go back and do the Detour task they didn’t perform. Nowadays, two teams can u-turn another team each. However, you only get one u-turn per race.
  • Speed Bump: If a team arrives last at the mat at the end of a NEL (non-elimination leg), they aren’t eliminated, but will have to complete an additional task at some point in the following leg. If you arrive last during a To Be Continued Leg, nothing really happens.

But there are some favorable things, as well.

  • Express Pass: Given to the first leg’s first placing team. It can be used to skip any single task they don’t wish to perform (except for the Fast Forward). They will be given the next clue immediately. As of S22, a second one was given to that team for them to hand to another team by the end of leg 5. These expire by the end of leg 8.
  • Double the Money: Only present in S21. If the winner of the first leg were to win the final leg, they would get $2 million instead of $1 million. Spoiler alert: this didn’t happen, as the team who won the first leg of the race was eliminated before the final leg.
  • Phil Keoghan, host, at the starting line in Times Square on May 31. Courtesy: CBS

    Phil Keoghan, host, at the starting line in Times Square on May 31. Courtesy: CBS

    The Save: New for Season 25! Not sure if this means the Express Pass(es) are not handed in anymore, but this is the prize for those who arrive first in the first leg. It gives them the option to save themselves if they come in last in any leg up until the ninth one. (Read more here)

There are of course many more specifics I haven’t mentioned, but these are the basics you need to know to follow new episodes. (In case you are wondering, Phil will explain each and every task well so you won’t be lost.)

Honestly, I think this is one of the most entertaining reality competitions out there. Phil Keoghan is a fantastic host, charming and with the nicest accent to boot. It’s also rare not to find a team to root for – or eventually be disappointed if they are Phil-minated.

Contestants aren’t always TV-newbies, though: from time to time, there will be some former Survivor or Big Brother contestants running. (CBS synergy at its best.) There have been also a few beauty pageant contestants, former professional sport players or their wives, Youtubers and more. However, for the most part, they are average joes.

Thanks to the scenery, the tight direction and the editing, each season becomes a thrilling adventure that seldom disappoints, especially when there are teams who are just so happy to be racing and enjoying every second of it. It’s contagious. It makes you want to explore the world and go to those same places.

TAR25's new contestants. Courtesy: CBS

TAR25’s new contestants. Courtesy: CBS

Fun Fact: Van Munster challenged Donagieri to come up with a TV show concept in less than five minutes, while attending a trade convention. After she replied with a race around the world, the two ended up polishing the concept and selling it to CBS… And the rest is history.

Where: Hulu Plus. CBS.com has the latest season.

 


 

The Amazing Race returns Friday, September 26 at 8/7c on CBS, finally moving away from Sunday night’s sports delays. Meet the new cast here.

 

… is a young graduate student that has been way too passionate about television ever since she was little. While she insists she doesn’t have a specific type of show, they all usually have strong but flawed lady characters, some derivation of the stubborn friends-in-love/friends-to-lovers trope, and they all make her yell at her tv a lot. She just wishes she had more hours in the day so she could actually write about this.
You can usually find her on Twitter, Tumblr, and at cassidy at thankyoulizlemon.com

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