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How to Fix The Amazing Race
Travis Eberle

I've been a faithful watcher of TAR since the very beginning, and for the most part enjoyed each season. After season six, things started to become apparent, patterns visible, and things were changed to avoid the show falling into a rut. I propose five things that could make the Race even better.

More “Fast Forward” passes
One of the great dilemmas provided in the original series was when to break from the pack and go for the brass ring. What if other teams have done it? What if the pass is gone already? What if the team will need it later on? With a Fast Forward on each leg, we got to see much more strategy involved, not to mention more challenges. With only two Fast Forwards buried along the way, that strategy is gone. If a team forgoes the Fast Forward once, they may not get another chance, and it becomes a race to get there.

Fewer 'luck' tasks
Over the past two races, we have seen two tasks that boil down to the luck of the draw. One had teams looking for a clue in 200 gigantic bales of hay, the other turning a key in over 3,000 locks. In both cases, that task was the very reason a team was eliminated. I don't mind seeing a team eliminated because they fail at a task. After all, that's part of the game. But when they lose because that clue isn't in any of the hay bales, or the key won't fit in the locks, that leaves a sour memory on the brain. Even worse, a team was eliminated on the first leg because they searched among orange buoys, trying to find their next clue, but it was all for naught.

As a Fast Forward, or half of a Detour, it's not so bad, at least you have the option to skip the task and go another way. Having luck-based challenges featured so prominently is not good TV; I can always watch a tape of "Let's Make a Deal" if I want to see dumb luck be the driving force of a game.

Less bunching of teams and eliminating advantages
In TAR5, Colin and Christie used their Fast Forward to race ahead by seven hours or more, only to find that the next task opened at eight in the morning. By that time, all the remaining teams were in the race, and their advantage was gone. Not only that, but C&C were out a Fast Forward, and were in fact at a disadvantage. If a team can manage to build up that much of a lead, they should get to capitalize it, not just let it waste away because the producers want to keep the race close. Even worse is the airport situation. If teams can only escape from a city using one of three named flights, it takes some of the fun out of the contest. We don’t get to see teams haggle with a travel agent to find a flight with two stopovers that gets to Australia an hour ahead. It’s Column A, B or C, and that’s all. Besides being uninteresting, it keeps the teams close together, and does not give any one team the option to take a gamble and put some distance between them and the other Racers. A missed opportunity, I think.

More interesting challenges
The complaint about the challenges from before would be mitigated partially if more of them were interesting. I’ve seen bungee jumping, wall climbing, and shlepping animals from one store to another. BOR-ING! Building bricks from clay? Yawn. I want to see more of teams carrying 20 kilos of cow carcass along the streets, or moving a dozen dogs along a French boulevard. At least I can get a laugh out of that.

For that matter, I’d like to see more mental tasks. So much of the game is brute force, or speed, that we don’t see more memory, or visualization tasks. Now, I’m not saying that I want to see the teams undergo a quiz session about the country they’re in (would that be so bad?), but it wouldn’t kill them to have something like “Concentration,” or having to recite a list of native vegetation. Anything.

It sounds like I hate the show, if you read only this list. Not true. I love it. I want to see the show grow, and improve, and last a good long time. I think the Race can do just that. I also realize that there has to be a balance between a good game, and a good show; I hope we get the best of both worlds. These five items would be a good start towards the finish line.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this piece, send them to traviseberle@hotmail.com.

 

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