Sunday, May 06, 2007

Countdown to TARCon

"It could be worse."

This is what I keep thinking. I’m heading to TARCon tomorrow night, where the diehard fans of The Amazing Race convene for the season finale, and I keep thinking that, over and over, a mantra to keep away the thought of another dismal finish. Through crappy eliminations, poorly-planned legs, and Danielle’s barely concealed cleavage, I keep thinking: "It could be worse."

With the exception of Survivor: Fiji, The Amazing Race: All-Stars is a better reality show to watch than anything else. The Apprentice? Totally irrelevant at this point. American Idol? Hijacked by a voting bloc dedicated to keeping the less-talented in contention. Dancing With The Stars? I don’t follow that, but the phone voting raises the same questions as AI, especially with Master P – a rapper with all the mobility of a tree – lasting a few episodes too long two seasons back. The Real World: Denver? Fighting, fornicating, and the biggest psycho ever seen in the form of Brooke. Road Rules: Viewers Revenge? If I get started on that show and the all-new, all-ugly Axis of Ass, I will never stop. So yeah...even at its worse, The Amazing Race is still the superior reality program to watch.

The finale still has the prospect of being very painful. We start with Charla & Mirna, the quarreling cousins. These two hail from the show’s fifth season, where the producers went for broke and gave viewers enough gaudy contestants to get viewers’ attention, like beauty queens and a Big Brother runner-up with her dummy boyfriend. The big draw of Charla & Mirna was Charla being a little person. They performed well enough in TAR5, securing several second-place finishes before their elimination. The big problem wasn’t Charla’s height, but the space between Mirna’s ears. Sadly, these two haven’t improved much in their second go-round, starting with three straight eighth-place finishes before they managed to catch fire. Mirna still seems intent on making everybody miserable, she still puts on broken accents, and she still insists on being pushy to everybody she meets. As much as people adore Charla, they seem oblivious to her not being much better than her kooky cousin. There’s Mirna putting the squeeze on an airline agent...and there’s Charla underneath the desk. The cousins (or "Charla & Snarla," as I like to think of them) have gotten too lucky for too long...and yet, they’re a far better alternative as winners than the next team.

Meet Eric & Danielle. In the ninth season, Eric was running with best buddy Jeremy, while Danielle floundered and faltered with Danni. Apparently, Eric’s juvenile flirting rubbed off on Danielle, and they became a ugly, loud, eyeroll-inducing couple. These two are the latest in a very long line of racing couples that bicker and nag at each other while going deeper and deeper into the race. Eric hasn’t evolved at all from his first season, he doesn’t seem to be in sync with his partner, and he takes things too seriously. When they were Yielded by Dustin & Kandice, he got pissy, calling them "dirty pirate hookers." Ron Burgandy, this idiot isn’t. He pitched a similar fit when they were Yielded later, this time by Oswald & Danny. From what I heard, his biggest rant didn’t make the cut on television, but it was very ugly. Danielle races and acts as well as she did the first time: poorly, and with barely-covered breasts. Worse yet, she’s from my home borough of Staten Island, which has yet to field a winner in any reality show. Sadly, Danielle is closer to that goal than John Vito & Jill, the darling and hot team from TAR3 who displayed the same sense of direction as in their first go-round, getting eliminated first this season. Nine times out of ten, Jill would hand Danielle her ass on a platter, but I guess we’ll never see my hypothesis tested.

By process of elimination, I feel the need to root for beauty queens Dustin & Kandice, who placed fourth in TAR10. Back then, they raced competently enough that Phil Keoghan kept bugging them about their chances for becoming the first all-female team to win the race. They wound up placing behind Lyn & Karlyn, two women who had zero business finishing third. Then again, if that didn’t happen, they wouldn’t have gotten an invite to appear on The Early Show, they wouldn’t have come to TARCon with several older women in their entourage, and I wouldn’t have seen at least one of them rock out to "Sweet Home Alabama" playing on the jukebox. Anyway, both teams feuded, and the beauty queens kept calling their rivals the "sistas." Ugly? Sure...but I figured maybe Lyn & Karlyn reminded the queens of the fellas who raped Andy in The Shawshank Redemption. This season, Dustin & Kandice have raced well enough with a few bobbles here and there. Why root for them? They have four leg wins (to two from Charla & Mirna and zlich from Stink & Pink), they race competently enough, and I finally found a mnemonic to tell them apart (Kandice: girlier name, curlier hair). Sure, the "all-female" title was taken by the winners of the inaugural season of The Amazing Race: Asia, but I’d put my money on the beauty queens.

As you can tell, I just want this season to be over...and even then, I’m dreading CBS dropping an "America’s Choice" fan vote, where the overhyped and overrated get big money (lookin’ at you, Rupert). Sure, the good moments weren’t that many (Ramber’s colossal flameout, Charla in knight’s armor falling down twice, any moment with Oswald & Danny where they weren’t sweating a task). Yeah, this season couldn’t really be called "the best of the best," especially with David & Mary and a banged-up Drew running. And the redemption of teams of Team Guido and Teri & Ian got cut off as they got eliminated (as least the Guidos get to take part in the celebration this time, instead of being stranded some 4,000 miles away). In summary, this won’t go down as the best season in the show’s history. Heck, some folks actually consider it to be the worse.

So why am I pumped up for this show? Because my aderaline gets pumping watching every week. Because I learn new stuff at every location shown. Because I end up caring who stays in the game and who gets eliminated. Because Phil Keoghan kicks the ass of every other reality show host. And because thanks to TARCon, I know that I’ll never be alone in watching this show and taking it too seriously. No matter who wins tomorrow night, I know that I’ll have fun either way.

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