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TV Review | ‘The Amazing Race’ reveals new twists

Competition, adventure pair well in veteran reality series

Published: Friday, March 1, 2013

Updated: Friday, March 1, 2013 02:03

Now in its 22nd season, “The Amazing Race” has proven to be a huge draw for viewers in America and around the world. The promise of exciting challenges and scenic travel locations has given the reality TV show multiple Primetime Emmy awards, and the show continues to attract more than 10 million viewers every episode, a testimony to its transcending popularity and appeal.

The show has seen various twists and modifications to make the race more challenging for racers. The Express Pass twist, which was introduced in Season 17, was used to give the first team — following the first leg of a challenge — the power to skip any task in subsequent legs without penalty. In this season, this power has been further magnified to give the first team the chance to determine the fate of the others: the first team gets two Express Passes instead of one. This immense shift in power provides that team the ability to manipulate others in its favor. In the first two episodes, Jessica and John — the couple who won both passes — became an instant spotlight in that leg. This strong urge for teams to please each other has never been more apparent in “The Amazing Race” than this in this season. It almost felt like the Immunity Idol from “Survivor” had been transplanted into the show.

Jessica and John are not the only highlights in the show thus far. The 22nd season has gathered an interesting ensemble of teams from more diverse backgrounds. Apart from the pairs of couples who use the race to affirm their love for one another, this season includes a father−son pair, both of whom were diagnosed with cancer prior to the race. Other teams include a pair of twin doctors and famous YouTube hosts. The differing personalities and experiences of the members of these pairs have resulted in many opportunities for interesting interactions between the groups. For a reality TV show, such potential for human drama can be one of the pulling factors for the show’s high viewership.

The 22nd season of “The Amazing Race” started in the French Polynesian Islands, a setting fans of reality TV will find familiar as these islands were host to three seasons of “Survivor.” Viewing the islands again from the perspective of “The Amazing Race” is really refreshing. In the first task of the race one team member skydove from a helicopter, introducing viewers to majestic views of the islands’ sandy beaches and lush greenery. This sunny beach paradise was a little−seen side of the islands, compared to the rocky beaches and rich forestry that hosted the “Survivor” castaways.

This season seems to have created more opportunities for teams to even out their strengths and weaknesses. In the first leg, the placement of a second Roadblock required one member on each team to dig through 400 sandcastles in search of one of 11 clues buried inside. The second leg saw teams completing tasks in the ocean before requiring one team member to practice their strength and balance in a traditional Polynesian Roadblock. This provided teams with the chance to catch up with others in the unfortunate event of a flight delay, poor navigation or bad luck. While some viewers may find this unfair for more capable teams, this also minimized the chance of capable teams being eliminated due to unforeseen circumstances.

The 22nd season of “The Amazing Race” does not seem to promise anything new — the show formula is still the same one decade after its conception — but this season might appeal to the casual viewer who just wants a taste of the more exotic destinations in the world. “The Amazing Race” has always been a travel show for the uninitiated, and the latest season looks to have more challenges and interesting sights to behold.

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