The good news for fans of The Amazing Race is that the long wait after 60 Minutes is no longer an issue with the show being broadcast on Friday nights. The bad news: the network has to show every NCAA basketball tournament game, and shows on Thursday and Friday nights will be taking a three-week vacation. It's probably for the best, with the online "celebrities" not riling up many people after five episodes . . . in contrast to Jason and Scot on Survivor: Kaôh Rōng, whom I've dubbed "The Brotherhood Of The Ugly Tattoos" on the Previously.tv forums. Those two deserve white-hot hatred. The seven remaining TAR teams? Not so much.
I have a friend named Silvia. Actually, she's my mother's friend. I've met her and her family a few times. One of the few things we have in common is that we're both TAR fans. Recently, she e-mailed me a link to CBS.com. The subject: "The 25 Most Favorite Amazing Race Teams of All Time." Right away, we have a misfire. "Most Favorite"? Seriously?!? Maybe it's the journalism classes I took ages ago, but I can't help but cringe.. Beyond that, we get a mixed bag of genuinely-adored Racers and those who should never rear their heads again. Because I have no life and three weeks to kill, I figured we can go over CBS's list, and make adjustments afterward.
Adam Dirks & Bethany Hamilton (TAR25)
I figure this was a "safe" team to start the list. Adam & Bethany weren't the best Racers of their season, but they didn't rub people the wrong way. They had more faith in a higher power than I will have in anything, but their actions weren't in the realm of "God-bothering." Also, Bethany went farther than previous amputees (Sarah Reinertsen in TAR10, Amy Purdy in TAR21). While Bethany brought in attention for her life story (losing an arm to a shark while surfing in Hawaii), both she and her husband were credible Racers . . . not as cuddly as Amy & Maya, but more fun to watch than Misti & Jim and Brooke & Robbie.
BJ Averell & Tyler MacNiven (TAR9)
No. No. Hell, no. Sure, their season was a bit of a crap sandwich between these "hippies" and the equally loathesome Eric & Jeremy. Having BJ & Tyler on a "best-of" list is an affront to TAR fans everywhere. They constantly mugged for the cameras, they survived finishing last in two non-elimination legs, and they only won because Eric melted down on the final Roadblock. Thankfully, their win means that we'll more than likely never see them again. And they can stuff their "Bowling Moms" t-shirts, too.
William "Bopper" Minton & Mark Jackson (TAR20)
They stay. These were two "good ole boys" who charmed their way through their season. Bopper filled the role as his edition's resident knucklehead, and Mark was his cool friend. Their last two legs were brutal . . . first, Mark almost died in the heat of Thevara, India, trying to perfect a Bollywood-themed Roadblock. They were spared elimination, and they wound up taking the subsequent Fast Forward, where Bopper got his head shaved at a Hindu temple for luck (Mark was already bald), only to finish in last place again and get booted. They were supposed to run together in TAR24, but Bopper showed signs of pancreatitis, and he was replaced by Mallory. I'm still holding out a little hope that we see Bopper again, as well as Mark.
Charla Faddoul & Mirna Hindoyan (TAR5, TAR11)
I know, these two were a handful. In the go-for-broke edition that was TAR5, they appeared to be the ultimate gambit: the show's first dwarf contestant and her absolute pill of a cousin. They lasted seven legs before bowing out, and they provided lots of memorable moments . . . like Charla getting shocked on an electric fence. And Charla lugging a slab of beef over 50 pounds through the streets of Maldonando, Uruguay. And the cousins getting into a blood feud with Colin & Christie, where Colin said the "m-word" at least once. The team struggled at first during TAR11, but they wound up winning two legs en route to a third-place finish. Admit it . . . it would have been better had they won instead of Eric & Danielle.
Reichen Lehmkuhl & Chip Arndt (TAR4)
I don't think so, and not because they broke up after the show. They were average Racers at best, too intense at worst. I don't see how CBS would recognize them, especially since their celebratory kiss at the end of TAR4 was edited out. Also, I couldn't tell them apart, not even when I posed for a picture with them at that season's TARCon.
Dave & Connor O’Leary (TAR22, TAR24)
I know they don't get a lot of love on the forums, and I realize the producers might have rigged the Roadblock rules in TAR24 to ensure Dave an easier path to victory. I figured the father/son cancer survivors got their second chance because they were the only team that could have challenged Bates & Anthony in TAR22, where they had to bow out due to Dave's Achilles Tendon tear after five legs. So what if Dave often cried like Dick Vermeil staggering through a tear gas cloud? It's my list, and I say they stay. Besides, the alternatives for rooting interests in the TAR24 finale were a pair of underachievers who needed the help of others to stay in the game (Caroline & Jennifer) and a stuntcast team from Big Brother (Brendon & Rachel).
Rachel & Dave Brown (TAR20)
No. I don't remember them. The only thing that's clear to me was that they were the team that skipped the final Roadblock, went to the big mat with all the celebrating teams, and got told by Phil Keoghan that they had to go back. And because their nearest competition (Art & JJ) were having problems with the final task, the Browns rallied for the win. Interesting to see their CBS.com profile credits them as the "most-winningest team" in the show's history with eight leg wins. Seriously, who edits this stuff? Dinobots?
Dustin-Leigh Konzelman & Kandice Pelletier (TAR10, TAR11)
Before Nat & Kat and Kisha & Jen won TAR17 and TAR18, respectively, the "Beauty Queens" came closest to becoming the first all-female team to win. They fought hard in TAR10, only to be eliminated in the penultimate leg. With little rest, they came back to win four legs in TAR11, thwarted by friggin' Eric & Danielle. They stay on the list.
Herbert "Flight Time" Lang & Nathaniel "Big Easy" Lofton (TAR15, TAR18, TAR24)
These two stay as well. I know, they were not the best Racers in any of their three seasons, but they handled themselves as benefitting members of the Harlem Globetrotters. While I don't think any team should get more than two shots at the million bucks (especially while Survivor is heavily into three-timers), I'm glad these two came back again and again. If only they had more brains between them.
Gary & Mallory Ervin (TAR17, TAR18)
They're off. I don't remember anything about Gary. I know Mallory was the person that substituted for Bopper in TAR24, and she and Mark only lasted two legs. Gary & Mallory did win three legs in TAR18 en route to a third-place finish, but I don't think that's enough for "most favorite" status.
Jaime Edmondson & Cara Rosenthal (TAR14, TAR18)
I'm not feeling these two, either. All I can recall is that they underachieved in TAR14, and they only got second place because they helped a struggling Luke in the final Roadblock, and he and Margie let the ex-cheerleaders finish runner-up. In TAR18, they didn't place higher than sixth place, bowing out after five legs.
Jason Case & Amy Diaz (TAR23)
Drawing a blank on these two. Looking at Wikipedia for a refresher, I see they won TAR23 over the quarreling exes (Tim & Marie) and the bickering couple (Nicole & Travis). I guess somebody had to win.
Jordan Lloyd & Jeff Schroeder (TAR16)
Big Brother contestants? No thanks. They only ran six legs before getting eliminated. How did they make this list? A better case can be made for Brendan & Rachel . . . not that I'd make one, of course.
Jet & Cord McCoy (TAR16, TAR18, TAR24)
They have to stay. Sure, they were rumored to utter a discouraging word about Dan & Jordan's win in TAR16. And they couldn't match their second-place finish in their original run. But they were fun to watch. And it was easy to tell 'em apart . . . Jet wore the black hat. Get it? "Jet black"?? Also, remember the time they had to take their hats off during a task, and the local holy men wound up donning those? Good times.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell & Brent Ridge (TAR21)
They stay, despite having the worst leg-placement average of any winning team in the show's history. Maybe it's because their bumbling wasn't as sad as Andrew & Dan in TAR13. Or maybe I have a soft spot for goat farmers in love. I know, I've seen their commercial for Time-Warner Cable, and I'm guessing that the farming isn't their primary focus, but the only other goat guy on reality television is two-time Survivor contestant Tom Buchannan. . . and I never felt compelled to make jokes about Josh or Brent fiddling around with livestock like I do with Tom.
Ken & Tina Greene (TAR13)
Pass. They may have patched up their relationship by race's end, but they were rather rocky throughout most of the season.
Laura Pierson & Tyler Adams (TAR26)
Pass. They may have been the least objectionable of the "blind date" teams, but they shouldn't make this list.
Margie O’Donnell & Luke Adams (TAR14, TAR18, TAR24)
Pass. Hey, I have to deny one three-time team, and this is it. I never bought into Luke being evil . . . at worst, the show's only deaf contestant to date acted like a brat. Also, his Roadblock meltdowns were not fun to watch, despite being epic. On the other hand, it was cool for Phil to whip out his sign language skills when Margie & Luke made the Pit Stop.
Nat Strand & Kat Chang (TAR17)
They stay, even though they were not the cuddliest all-female team in their edition. Yeah, Nat having type-1 diabetes wasn't that big of a "hook," but they managed to win five legs en route to making history as the first all-female team to win the Race.
Nick & Emily "Starr" Spangler (TAR13)
They stay, because somebody from TAR13 has to. They were the first sibling team to win a "regular" season (sorry, Linzes), and they set the bar high with seven leg wins. Also, Starr's "showmance" with Dallas wasn't as painful to watch as Drew/Flo (TAR3) and Eric/Danielle (TAR9, TAR11).
Rob Mariano & Amber Brkich-Mariano (TAR7, TAR11)
*ssssiiiiigggghhhh* I'm not a fan of Rob. I feel he won Survivor: Redemption Island -- on his fourth try -- because Mark Burnett and the casting department set him up with the biggest creampuffs in the show's history (four words: "Special Agent Phillip Sheppard"). Before that, he and Amber finished Survivor: All-Stars because the people competing against them down the stretch were morons (e.g., Lex, Kathy, Jenna Lewis, Tom Buchanan, the overrated Rupert). Their inclusion on TAR7 basically turned that season into a 20-on-2 affair, where people like myself rooted against them. That said, I'm keeping them on the list. Ramber were probably better Racers than Survivors, winning four legs in TAR7 before stumbling and losing in the last leg. They followed that up two years later by winning the first three legs of TAR11 before bad luck knocked them out of the game in the fourth leg. Sure, Rob was "overrated" in my mind as well as that of John Vito (the Italian guy I wanted to go the distance in TAR11), but he and Amber made for good television. And now, here's a poster I made upon their elimination from TAR11:
Uchenna & Joyce Agu (TAR7, TAR11)
If I'm keeping Rob & Amber on the list, I can't dismiss the team that rallied against them in TAR7. Sure, Uchenna & Joyce wound up getting divorced after two Races, but they stepped up big against Ramber when it counted, coming back from getting relieved of their money and bags in the penultimate leg to triumph. I credit their win to taking the Fast Forward, where Joyce got her head shaved for good luck (Uchenna, like Mark after him, was already bald). Somebody had to step up to defeat Ramber, and these two gave us the happy ending TAR7 needed.
Zev Glassenberg & Justin Kanew (TAR15, TAR18)
These two stay on as well. Their hook was that Zev lived with Asperger's Syndrome. They came off well enough in their original season, winning the fourth leg, but that was undone when Zev found out he lost his passport, and that eliminated the duo from the game. Needless to say, their story was tailor-made for the season of "Unfinished Business." While they bowed out in the penultimate leg, Zev & Justin won four legs in total, highest among the other teams in TAR18. Unlike Luke, Zev didn't draw as much criticism for his gameplay, and Justin proved to be a capable wingman.
Brook Roberts & Claire Champlin (TAR17)
I can understand why some people wouldn't want these two on the list, since the home shopping hostesses were very, very bubbly. Still, they supported each other, rivaling Nat & Kat in terms of teamwork. Also, Claire survived getting a watermelon catapulted directly in her face in the opening leg, which was both awesome and hilarious. Judge for yourselves . . .
Tammy & Victor Jih (TAR14)
I guess that one team from TAR14 should stay, and it's the winners. While they did win five legs, I think they should be known for blowing the third leg and almost getting eliminated. Actually, Victor was the one that almost doomed the team, as he tried finding a cluebox on an unmarked trail in Romania. After that, Victor deferred to his sister more often, and they wound up finishing no lower than third in subsequent legs. How many times has somebody that hardheaded gotten the message to ease up? Not often enough with this show.
Okay . . . so we have ten slots open. Let's see if we can fill them in a way that can make the most people happy.
Rob Frisbee & Brennan Swain (TAR1)
Including the first winners is a no-brainer. The lawyers/best friends from Minnesota ran a competent Race, finishing out of the top three in only two legs. They may not have been as controversial as Richard Hatch (the first victor of Survivor), but they won a lot of fans in the process.
Kevin O'Connor & Drew Feinberg (TAR1, TAR11)
You can never forget your first fan favorites. On the surface, the bald frat brothers may have seemed like pushovers, but they managed to get three leg wins, and they were the official comic relief of the season. So many great quotes from them . . , like "SWING, YOU FAT BASTARD, SWING!!" The show invited them back to give out clues in the opening leg of TAR8, and they even got a three-episode series on Discovery Channel (Kevin and Drew Unleashed) which I recapped. While they couldn't outrace the nefarious Joe & Bill (aka Team Guido), they wound up with the most love from fans of the burgeoning show.
Oswald Mendez & Danny Jimenez (TAR2, TAR11)
Consider these two the ancestors of Tyler & Korey from the current season. After Team Guido ran an insufferable Race, Oswald and Danny showed that gay guys didn't have to be obnoxious snobs. Dubbed "Team Cha-Cha-Cha" by the competition, the platonic friends found their groove by racing with less intensity than their competitors. For instance, while waiting for a prospective flight reservation in Hong Kong, they decided to go shopping, getting some Starbucks and cologne. The Chas wound up winning three legs in both TAR2 and TAR11 en route to two fourth-place finishes, and they looked fabulous doing it.
Ken & Gerard Duphiney (TAR3)
The only thing these brothers had in common was their hairlines. Ken was tall, liberal, gay and single. Gerard was short, conservative, straight and married. They managed to outrace teams that were younger and fitter, and usually making themselves (and others) laugh along the way. Also, they knew Phil's tricks . . . like the leg they came in fifth thanks to a blown tire, and the host tried to fool them into thinking they were in last place. The brothers laughed, breaking the tension. Two legs later, they arrived in second and gave Phil grief about trying to increase the drama. Among the crying shames of TAR3 was the fact that Ken & Gerard wound up finishing in third, behind Flo & Zach and Teri & Ian.
Derek & Drew Riker (TAR3)
While Ken & Gerard was their season's competent comic relief, Derek & Drew were the eye candy. The twins/models racked up four leg wins, and they wound up uniting most of the other teams in their mutual disdain of the alpha males. Aside from a disastrous first and eleventh leg and Drew's flirtation with Flo, the guys ran a solid Race. Also, they formed a cohesive alliance with Ken & Gerard, which served both teams well throughout the Race.
John Vito Pietanza & Jill Aquilino (TAR3, TAR11)
Hey, it's my list. If you don't like it, make your own. I wrote about them in 2002 (with supplemental details here). In brief: they were the most unified of the male/female teams in their season, and Jill might be -- pound for pound -- one of the strongest competitors in the show's history. Sure, people may have started off rooting for them out of sympathy because Jill's brother lost his life on 9/11, but they ran a good Race and did Staten Island proud. If only their sense of direction was better.
Jon Weiss & Al Rios (TAR4)
I know, the first instinct is to shun clowns, but these two were all right. The best friends originally came off as insufferable camera-muggers, but they evolved into credible Racers (are you listening, "Hippies"?!?) In the eleventh leg, fans were bummed out as the Clowns got a bad flight out of South Korea. They were unable to make the Pit Stop ahead of Reichen & Chip (who were waiting out a penalty), resulting in their elimination. Jon & Al were also frequent guests at TARCon, and the red clown noses were prevalent amongst the party-goers.
Chip & Kim McAllister (TAR5)
These two didn't start out as fan favorite material. They were mediocre in the first few legs of their Race, and Chip ticked off twins Karli & Kami. But the married couple wound up winning four legs, including the last one for the million dollars. Sure, two of the legs were won by Chip's appetite at eating Roadblocks, and Kim only did one Roadblock (as did the other female finalists), but their stability and ease were a nice contrast to the agro style of Colin & Christie. And thanks to Kim finding a better flight to Dallas in the final leg, the couple became the first team embraced by the fans to win.
Kris Perkins & Jon Buehler (TAR6)
The sixth season went down as one of the worst editions in TAR history. From the nicer teams going out early to the antics of raging jackass Jonathan, TAR6 sucked hard. The only ray of hope came from the couple in a long-distance relationship. They came off as a genetic experiment . . . a couple that had John Vito & Jill's likability and Colin & Christie's ruthless racing skills. It was a success, with the only side effect being the visors that they wore. Kris & Jon wound up winning four legs, but a bum flight landed them behind the winning team of the odious Freddy & Kendra (or "KKKendra," if you prefer). The scene of Kris & Jon embracing and kissing while waiting for a train to pass has to go down as one of the most poignant scenes in the show's run.
Amy DeJong & Maya Warren (TAR25)
The food scientists had an uphill climb on their way to winning their season. Amy had two stress fractures in her pelvis. They endured a brutal session of cupping therapy in Singapore. And they finished in last place in the penultimate leg, only to take part in the first four-team final leg in the show's history. With their pluck and enthusiasm (especially from Maya, who was particularly manic), the "Sweet Scientists" came from behind to win the final leg, putting an exclamation point on the show's silver anniversary season.
And because this is my list and I can add a 51st person to it . . .
Zach Behr (TAR3)
Zach makes the list on the basis of winning the grand prize with Flo, his friend and overall albatross. While future Racers have made far worse impressions on the show, Flo was a humungous drag on Zach. She quit during tasks, participated in only one Roadblock (selling escargot in Marrakech, Morocco), and was an overall nightmare in the final two legs. While Flo & Zach's win was a bit of a downer ending, at least Zach won $500,000.
Honorable Mentions: Frank & Margarita (dubbed "Team Danza" by Miss Alli because he asked her, "Who's the boss?" at the start of TAR1), Joe & Bill (who deserved credit for not racing like assholes in TAR11), Linda & Karen (the fourth-place team of TAR5 that prompted the show to set limits on Roadblocks), Brian & Greg (the good-natured brothers from TAR7 who rallied from an auto accident in Botswana to get past Ray & Deanna), the Gaghan family (from the mostly-reviled Family Edition, particularly daughter Carissa), Nicolas & Donald (the first grandchild/grandparent team from TAR12), Toni & Dallas (who might have had a shot at winning TAR13 had Dallas not lost his passport), Jaymes & James (TAR21's Chippendale dancers), Leo & Jamal (aka "The Afghanimals"; cousins who finished in fourth place in TAR23 and TAR24), and Kym & Alli (the cyclists that might have completed TAR25 had they not tried their luck at a surfing Fast Forward in Singapore).