Saturday, May 12, 2007

TAR Stars: Loathing & More Loathing

“What if.” That’s the most annoying and haunting question anybody can ask. You wonder if you should have zigged instead of zagged, gone down instead of up. For The Amazing Race: All-Stars, you can’t help but to ask that question over and over.

What if John Vito and Jill had better navigational skills? What if Drew didn’t fall down and go boom? Better yet, since he had gotten injured in a fight where he works as a court officer, what if the producers had the chance to replace him and Kevin with a healthy, popular team?

What if David & Mary weren’t a television exec’s dream come true, two Kentuckians going into the world for the first team. What if Rob & Amber hadn’t had the leg from hell, breaking their lucky streak in Argentina? What if Uchenna & Joyce had played conservatively in leaving Poland, not going for broke when they had a lead? What if Oswald & Danny had elected to make the noodles instead of going for the nostalgia trip with the dragon drum?

Most importantly, what if producers Bertram Van Munster and Elise Doganieri decided not to cast two people who had originally race as parts of separate teams? Well, we probably would have been spared one of the most depressing endings in the history of The Amazing Race.

You can probably imagine the mood at TARCon as Eric & Danielle arrive on the mat for the win. Save for a few wiseasses, I don’t think anybody wanted those two to triumph. Like I said before, I would rather have wanted beauty queens Dustin & Kandice to win, or Charla & Mirna. How upset was I? While venting to my camera, I actually said that I would have wanted Ramber to have won. And I said that with a straight face.

And how did the Stink and the Pink pull off the win? By winning one of the dumbest tasks created since a mere deep dish Chicago pizza stood in the way of Freddy and Kendra’s million bucks. One person from each team would answer four questions on what they thought of other racers, then enter numbers into an electronic safe. Then the other person would look at the questions and try to guess the combination. And Danielle finally does something right for once, as she get the combination before the others could. Next thing I know, Phil’s congratulating Stink & Pink, and butthead Jeremy’s giving his boy Eric love over the phone. I responded the only way I knew how: lots of booing and a middle finger. I don’t care if it was immature. So is Eric.

In the end, Eric & Danielle will go down as one of the luckier teams in the show’s history. They are the first pair to win only one leg en route to total victory. All this with Eric treating Danielle like crap more than half the time. Even worse, in an “Elimination Station” interview on, John Vito & Jill were happy with the end result, because Danielle is from Staten Island like them. First of all, I’m from Staten Island (or “The Rock,” as JV calls it), and I sure as hell wasn’t happy. Secondly, if JVJ had faced Eric & Danielle in any event, they probably would have smoked the Stink and the Pink. If you’ve seen Jill on TAR3, you know exactly what I mean. That girl was all but fearless going through four continents. One time, she fell down and didn’t even give herself time to go “boom” before picking herself up and running. Basically, Danielle is the anti-Jill. And John Vito cannot tell me that he would be applauding Eric and not think, “Man, I can take this guy. I really, really could.” To think...of all the Islanders to get on reality shows, the good (JVJ and Drew, Nitro G, Stacy Carmona from Murder In Small Town X) and the bad (Island-born Nathan from Survivor: Cook Islands, Danni from my alumnus Wagner College, the various guidos from both of MTV’s True Life episodes based on the Island)...and Danielle was the first to win? Damn.

Eric & Danielle entered TAR as losers, and they leave as losers with $1 million between them. They have confirmed that they are no longer a couple, which means that Danielle is free to date guidos from Staten Island, and Eric is free to date...guidos from Staten Island. Hey, I’ve heard stuff about his preferences. I did laugh at one forum poster who were torn as to what Eric would buy with his share of the money: two $250,000 hookers, or 250,000 $2 hookers. Mean? Yes. Sick? Probably. But if it helps me through to the start of TAR12, I won’t mind
That’s all for the venting. Next time, I’ll go over the pomp and circumstance of TARCon, the best way for me to take the pain away.

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.