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Handicapping 'The Amazing Race'

When watching The Amazing Race, it usually takes me about a week or two to pick out the teams I wouldn’t mind seeing taking home the $1 million grand prize and which ones I actively hope will be indefinitely detained in some foreign backwater far from CBS’s protective hand. This seventh installment has proven to be trickier when it comes to determining who has earned my favor and who needs to eat hot, fiery death (or at least, get slapped with a quick elimination). Part of the blame falls on the fact that first team to taste the back of Phil Keoghan’s hand was Ryan and Chuck, two delightful sons of the soil from the Carolinas. They fix cars! They’re oddly fluent in Portuguese! They bring a certain hillbilly joie de vivre to everything they do! How can you not want that on your TV every week? Normally, I forget about the first team eliminated from The Amazing Race before the closing credits of the season premiere are even completed; this time around, the show ran off the most enjoyable team in Week One. This does not bode well for the coming season.

(Fortunately, this week, lovable idiot brothers Brian and Greg managed to stave off elimination, sparing us another week of having to endure interchangeably bland blondes Megan and Heidi. Begone from my television, Team Blandina!)

The other problem that’s been keeping me from choosing up sides in this installment of The Amazing Race is the uncomfortable realization that, with this season, the show has apparently morphed into The Amazing Rob, in which we follow the adventures of ex-Survivor cast member and current meat head Rob Mariano and his colossally inconsequential life partner as they travel around the world, reminding us that they appeared on television. Occasionally, we are treated to glimpses of 10 other teams.

You know, if I wanted to watch Survivor… well, you can probably figure out where I’m headed here.

But, two weeks into the seventh season of The Amazing Race, I am ready to declare my loyalties. With the caveat that it’s a couch potato’s prerogative to change his mind, here’s who needs to take home the big prize and, more important, here’s who needs to suffer multiple on-camera humiliations.

Teams I Like

Brian & Greg: Yeah, I said that they’re idiots, but they’re my kind of idiots. You have to like a pair of guys who probably look upon the Wayne’s World movies as a documentary. Favorite moment from this week’s episode: when one brother let out a yelp in Chile’s Library of Congress only to be admonished by the other to “use your library voice.”

Debbie & Bianca: They seem like a nice couple of kids who keep their heads together when the bad craziness is going down.

Susan & Patrick: He’s just a nice boy who likes his mom — shouldn’t we all try and aspire to that? Though, seriously, the Begging Our Way Through South America tour needs to come to a close double quick.

Teams I Have No Feeling Toward Whatsoever

Lynn & Alex: I would have put them on the Teams I Like list, until the other night when one of the fellows — Lynn? Alex? Some sort of combination of Lynn and Alex? — mentioned that they wanted to win The Amazing Race to prove what a gay couple could do. Which would be a noble goal if a gay couple hadn’t already won on The Amazing Race , thus proving what a gay couple could do.

Remember Reichen and Chip? From The Amazing Race 4? I’m almost certain that was televised.

Besides, does a person’s success on a reality program have all that much effect on society’s assessment of them? Let’s pretend for a second that you’re a backward-thinking anti-gay bigot — the President of the United States, say, or any of the knuckle-dragging open-mouthed breathers who think he’s doing a bang up job. Do you watch The Amazing Race and think to yourself, “Boy, Lynn and Alex really handle that pack of llamas well. This totally makes me rethink that whole rewrite-the-Constitution-to-specifically-codify-discrimination-against-them-and-their-kind plan I had going.”

I put it to you that you would not.

Uchenna & Joyce: Whatever.

Teams I Dislike

Ron & Kelly: We need fewer beauty pageant contestants on our reality TV shows, if you ask me.

Meredith & Gretchen: Remember Jonathan and Victoria, the repellant couple from last season’s Race? Meet the geriatric version! And Gretchen’s Jonathan.

Ray & Deana: They have a whole diet supplements/Bowflex informercial-type vibe about them, don’t they?

Teams I Hate With the Ferocity of a Wounded Wolverine

Rob & Amber: You know, there’s nothing in the rules of The Amazing Race that says you can’t bribe people to withhold information from other contestants or con people you’re pretending to be aligned with into giving you money. There’s certainly not a rule that you shouldn’t act like a smug, preening jackass every time a camera is pointed in your general direction. But there’s nothing that says I’ve got to pretend you belong in the Good Guy Club either.

Above and beyond that, do Rob and Amber really need to be on television anymore? They have their $1 million. They have their 15 minutes of fame. Let someone else have a turn. If we keep letting the Rob and Ambers, the Ryan and Tristas, the fucking Ruperts appear on our television sets, we will never be rid of them.

Or to put it another way, to root for Rob and Amber to win The Amazing Race is like rooting for Bill Gates to find a satchel full of money, like hoping that the vain, stuck-up captain of the football team gets laid this weekend, like cheering for the tank to run over that kid in Tiananmen Square. They have the ethics of geckos with their tales caught and represent everything rotten and foul about modern life — excessive pride in worthless achievements, the inability to distinguish notoriety from accomplishment, the abiding belief that the ends justify how crappy you treat your fellow human beings. I believe that when you die and go to meet your maker, you will be asked three questions:

1) How did you try and make the world better than you found it?
2) Did you consider how your actions on earth affected other people?
3) Did you root for Rob and Amber on The Amazing Race 7?

Woe betide those who fail to answer that last one correctly.


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