If you're a fan of The Amazing Race, there's some good news, and there's some bad news. The good news is that we're back to teams of two, back to travelling around the world. As always, Phil Keoghan is still the host with the most, bringing his charming accent and awesome eyebrow to the party. And after a stint on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. away from American Idol, CBS put TAR on Wednesdays at 9, so as not to get slaughtered by Lost and the AI results show.
And the bad news? Let's see...the legs don't allow for much bunching. There have been three "needle in haystack" tasks in six episodes. Actually, that's four if you count the gnome-hunt Roadblock, which ticked off fans due to the lingering stench of sponsorship. But the worst part is this: out of the six teams remaining, only one is worth rooting for.
This isn't new for diehard fans. In TAR6, most of the nice teams were gone by the midway point, leaving us with whiners, racists and losers. The following season wasn't much better, with hard-luck couple Uchenna & Joyce facing off against the reality veterans (Rob & Amber), the twit gay couple (Lynn & Alex), the old couple that had no business lasting eleven legs (Meredith & Gretchen), and the dopey ex-POW and shrewish beauty queen girlfriend (Ron & Kelly). And the less said about last season and the Weavers, the better. The point is that we've stared down long odds for a happy ending in the past. Yeah, TAR can kick the stuffing out of any other reality show in terms of excitement, but we might be looking at one dark season finale next month. Let's look at the teams that have left us so far.
John & Scott The first team out, and we didn't feel too bad. Now that's a rarity. Their early ouster was for the best, since John was probably going to drag in the next several legs. Also, that whole "genie" business from John? Kinda creepy. They do have good taste in dogs, though: a Great Dane, Dane puppy and bulldog. Very nice.
Lisa & Joni Last season, the Linz siblings became the first team to win the Race after barely avoiding elimination in the first leg. This season, these big-boned sisters finished tenth in the first leg...and stayed there for the second leg, earning the boot from Phil (another first for the show's history). I'm sure these self-named "Glamazons" are nice people, but it was like they were auditioning for The Travelling Godlewski Sisters: A Two-Woman Play. Very, very loud.
Wanda & Desiree The token parent/child team got off to a great start, but the double-leg killed them. It's bad when Wanda had to overcome her fears of deep water on the fly during a Roadblcok. It's bad when they kept missing an exit...but then the cameraman caught the sign in the back window while filming from the front seat. If there was a Pit Stop in Moscow, they'd still be racing.
Danielle & Dani I really wanted to like them, with no questions asked. They're from Staten Island...home of Bobby Thomson, Paul Zindel, the Wu-Tang Clan, Drew Feinberg (one half of the Frats), John Vito & Jill, and myself. In fact, one of them just graduated from Wagner College, where I got my degree in 1997. So what happened? They were horrible racers. I honestly can't sugarcoat it...they were good for at least one major mistake per leg. In their last leg, they fell behind, got Yielded...and even when they went into the Roadblock ahead of one team, the "Double Ds" got eliminated. Also, there's the business about hooking up with a few male Racers. It's probably an overblown story...they probably felt sorry for the guys, and they let 'em cop a feel. Honestly, I don't know, and part of me doesn't want to know.
Dave & Lori Their elimination hurt last week. I don't think any other couple was as much in love as these two. Unlike a certain other team, the humor from the self-professed nerds wasn't that forced. I think the beginning of the end came with the statue Roadblock, where Lori couldn't figure out that she had two extra pieces. After they, there wasn't much bunching to be had, and they ended up getting passed and eliminated.
Who's left? And why am I dreading the coming weeks?
Eric & Jeremy
No other team has been as hot at these guys. In the first five events, they have finished first, second, first, second, first. In a cruel twist, such divine racing talent is wasted on these idiots. They've flirted with damn near any woman they've come across, and they've been "chummy" with Danielle & Dani. It's gotten to the point where fans wonder if they're closeted, virigns, or both. Or maybe they're just two huge assholes.
BJ & Tyler
At first, there was a parallel to Jon & Al, the circus clowns of TAR4. Jon & Al mugged and schticked through the first few episodes. But then they turned a corner...they helped out Millie during a major asthma attack, flung poop at each other, and broke through as that season's fan favorite team. But with BJ & Tyler, what you see is what you get. And what you get are two camera-hungry "hippies" who will not shut up at all. Watch them prance around Italy, shouting in horrible Italian accents! Witness them jumping in front of cars, trying to scare other Racers! See them try to be so "alternative" that it physically hurts them! And naturally, they are the second best team in the race (2, 1, 2, 1, 2). Unless they piss off the locals to the point of torches and pitchforks, we're stuck with these two dopes for the long haul.
(Oh, and the wearing of the "Bowling Moms" t-shirts? Not funny. I'm not changing my mind on these two just because they paid tribute to Linda & Karen from TAR5. I am honestly distressed by the number of people who flipped based on that. And their drawn-out refusal to Yield was crappy...give me Chip faking Kami & Karli out any day.)
Lake & Michelle
These two are doing so much for the South. How come a pair of good ol' boys like Ryan & Chuck get sent home so soon, and we're stuck with their two? We've seen this couple before in the forms of Colin & Christie and Tara & Wil: guy is a butthole, girl isn't much better. They stumbled right away by reserving their first flight over the phone, which was a big no-no. Lake whined and bitched about going to Moscow, as if he read the travel guide written by Marshall & Lance. Also, the move to Yield the Double-Ds was foolish, especially with Ray & Yolanda in the back of the pack. It would have been a lot smarter to kill a more compentant team. And I'm getting tired of all the "dangummit!" from Lake. A few more weeks of these two, and I'll be begging for a team of Tom "Don't be stupid, stupid!" Buchannan and James "Jeff Probst is a sumbitch" Miller.
Joseph & Monica
I love the producers. This rather blah alpha mixed-gender team calls itself "Mojo," to the point that they wore "Mo" and "Jo" t-shirts. At this point, the people running the show basically said, "Fuck you, you're 'Joseph and Monica'." They've had good moments, but Monica has had a few emotional moments, and I think that will kill JoMo's chances for the win.
Fran & Barry
There are two types of elder teams: those that get unbelievably lucky and go farther than they should (Teri & Ian, Meredith & Gretchen), and everybody else. Fran & Barry fall under the former category. This is a team that has struggled to find the clue box on two seperate occasions. If it happens again, they would get tipped off by the cameraman laughing at them. They've had a lot of "we're doomed" jags, but they are in the middle of the pack. Also, Barry has a hairline similar to Uncle Leo from Seinfeld, so I can't take these two seriously.
And that leaves us with...
Ray & Yolanda
Meet the token black team. Ray is an attroney and only the third black man to appear on this show with a lot of hair on his head (joining Tramal Raggs and Reggie Black). Yolanda is a science teacher with a great pair of legs (I don't really notice them, but Phil won't shut up about them). They're not quite as lovey-dovey as Dave & Lori, but Ray did shoot a death glance at locals who were hooting at Yolanda. Yolanda works to lighten things up, and Ray jokes from time to time (best example: When Lake introduced himself and added "like the ocean," Ray responded with "Ray, like the sun.") The main problem is that these two have been in the back of the pack, narrowly avoiding elimination in the past two legs. I compare these two to Uchenna & Joyce not due to the color of their skin, but by their average racing skills. The Agus did perform better than Ray-Ray and Yo-Yo (as Dave dubbed them in an interview), but they didn't really catch fire until the eighth episode. That gives my favorites-by-default enough time to forstall the sucky ending, if not prevent it altogether.
A new episode airs in less than an hour. Hopefully, one team I can't stand will get their walking papers tonight. I'd settle for Phil dope-slapping Eric & Jeremy, especially for calling him "Big Philly Style." Hey, you can only raise that eyebrow for so long before something gives.