The Amazing Race: Week One
The first amazing thing I noticed while watching CBS tonight was the gaggle of new sponsors who are bankrolling what the network has called Amazing Wednesday. Even during Big Brother 2, the commercials were more high-toned. Gone were the forty Blockbuster ads, and in were the more upscale Volkswagen and vaginal cleansing wipe spots. More remarkable still, we were only subjected to nine previews of Wolf Lake (“This show contains partial nudity, viewer discretion is advised”, the voice over announcer gleefully yet ominously intones during the closing.) Partial nudity? I am there.
The opening scene of AR shows a high bank shot of New York ensconced in the warm embrace of yellowed snow. Standing “high atop the center of New York City” is Phil Keoghan. Phil is presumably the host of this new reality show although his role is relegated to little more than a soft New Zealand accented voice-over. From his perch on the top of what looks to be the CBS backlot, he introduces us to the 22 people, grouped in teams of two, who will be competing in the Amazing Race. Phil performs these duties with all of the passion you might expect from the guy at the Greyhound Station who announces that the next bus to Saskatchewan will be leaving from bay four.
So, here are the 11 teams in the order they got off the bus:
The Divorced Couple:
Frank, 30, is a corporate trainer and Margarita, 28, is in educational technology sales. Both hale from the inaptly named Sunnyside, New York. According to Frank, the two have divorced but they have gone on this adventure so that they can work as a team in raising their baby daughter. Apparently their first bright idea was leaving their baby daughter with a stranger while they globe-trotted around the world, seeking fame and fortune. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. Perhaps dropping the child into a pit of vipers so they can learn problem-solving skills.
The Engaged Couple:
Paul, 32, is a personal trainer that doesn’t seem to be smart enough to navigate his way out of a cardboard box. His fiancée, Amie is 27. She is a dancer and choreographer. Both come from the New York area. Oddly enough, they have less chemistry than Frank and Margarita. I can only assume Amie is marrying him for his enormous nose. (You know what they saw about the size of a man’s nose and the size of his…you know…huh…come on…)
The Eye Candy:
For the single men in the group there is Kim, 28 and Leslie, 27. Both are school teachers from Baytown, Texas. They are also roommates who like to wander around the house in their panties and occasionally drip hot wax on each other’s naked bodies. (That last part I made up but doesn’t it just sound so right?) Unfortunately, we see little of this duo during the hour. But Leslie, ever the optimist says, “what concerns me the most is dying.” Apparently they filmed her shortly after she signed her waiver forms.
The Almost-Engaged Couple:
Lenny 33, says he is a video technician (read: VCR repairman). Karyn is 29 and a lawyer. Both are from Brooklyn, New York. Lenny says he is on the show so that he can afford the huge rock that Karyn deserves for an engagement ring. This couple flies so far under the radar that we won’t see them again until they reach the first “pit stop” in fourth place. I am sure they are very nice.
The Elderly Couple
David, 64, is a retired Air Force pilot and Vietnam veteran. (Don’t get nervous anyone, the angry vet thing has been done.) His wife, Margaretta (yes, I spelled that right), 59, is a part-time newspaper reporter. Both live in Rockwall, Texas. (My current home town.) This couple is so lovable and cuddly, you just want to sweep them up into your arms, wipe the drool from their wrinkled chins, and put them back in their nursing home before the kitchen runs out of Jell-O with the fruit at the bottom that Dave likes so much. Actually, the only real tension the couple brings to the race is wondering if Margaretta is going to break another hip during the bungey jump.
The Retarded Couple:
Matt, 28, claims his occupation as “irrigation technician” (read: ditch-digger). His wife, Ana is an office manager. The couple live in Simsbury, Connecticut. We are told the couple met and got married in the Army, although Matt’s long locks and nanny goat facial hair suggest he hasn’t seen the working end of a pair of Army shears in a more than a few moons. Ana tells us right away that she likes to be the boss and that her gimp..er..hisband likes that too. Matt tells us Ana has a good head on her shoulders because she “never trusts my instincts.” I’ll bet they work together fabulously.
The Gay Couple:
The first shot we see of Joe 50, and Bill 47 is in their stylish flat in Laguna Niguel, California. The place gleams with the style and grace only found in the finer gay homes. They announce they have decided to call themselves “Team Guido” named after their dog, you guessed it: a Chihuahua. Joe and Bill were obviously given the “Stereotypes of Gay Men” handbook and they are following it to the letter. They prefer dressing in the same clothes and wear identical outfits to the launching of AR. They match right down to the green jackets, chino pants, and mighty hunter safari hats. I mean couldn’t you just die?
The Working Moms:
Patricia, 42 is in research and development and tends bar (obviously leaving ample time for “the kids”). She is from Landenberg, Pennsylvania. Brenda, 41, is a children’s fitness instructor from Elkton, Maryland. Brenda looks like the type who might enjoy playing a little dodge ball with the kiddies as long as most of them are crying by the end. Brenda tells us that their husbands aren’t too crazy about them doing the show but they said, “What the hell? Screw our families. Let’s do it.”
The Eye Candy II:
Robert, 27 and Brennan, 29, both reside in L.A. and are lawyers there. Cut from the pages of GQ magazine, this duo is bound for being quickly forgotten as uninteresting and unremarkable. By the way, what is the freaking deal with lawyers on reality television shows? I mean, haven’t we seen enough lawyers as it is? I swear, the next reality show with a lawyer is getting turned right off in my house. *nods to Shakes*
The Mother and Daughter:
Nancy, 46, is a self proclaimed “conservative homemaker”. (Big shocker) She has teamed up with her daughter, Emily, 21, who is a student. Both reside in Waco, Texas. Emily has the big breasted body we all like to see in the “Ladies of the Southwestern Conference” edition of Playboy, but all the emotional maturity of a 13 year old girl who has been told she can’t go out with her friends because her mother smelt smoke in her friend Jennifer’s hair. Nancy has the detached look of a woman who hasn’t seen the outside of Waco since they went on that Tour of the Holy Land, and the greatest trial she has ever faced has been not enough punch at her Ladies Bible Study Group. She largely ignores her daughter, which only drives Emily to stomping her feet and exclaiming “moooooom”. Sometimes, I thank God that I am a son.
The Gay Couple II:
Drew, 35, is a court officer from Staten Island. Kevin, 34, is a litigation consultant from Bayonne, New Jersey. Together they are the Fester Twins. Their only connection seems to be that they belonged to the same fraternity. (And since both are in their mid-thirties, you can imagine how easily they have let go of their frat days) They both have the easy-going demeanor one might expect from New Yorkers. They talk in thick Brooklyn accents and one has only to wait before we hear a few “fugedaboutit”s or until they decide to “whack” someone. Luckily, they seem to keep their insults flying at each other instead of the myriad assortment of helpers and fellow gamers they meet along the way. These two bald loud-mouths look so much alike that the only way to tell them apart is that one of the Festers occasionally wears glasses.
The race begins as our cavalcade of losers is lined up in Central Park. They are told by Phil “I am trying not to sound too New Zealandy” Keoghan that they will face trials along their path, yadda yadda yadda. Race around the world, yadda yadda yadda. They have been given a travel packet with instructions and a whole sixty dollars that they can use to reach the first “pit stop”. The last one to the pit stop will be eliminated.
The teams race up some steps and find their packets attached to the bags they had packed before arriving. For three minutes we get to watch them hunt for their bags, which is just about as exciting as watching people wait for their luggage at the airport. They find out that they are headed to Johannesburg, South Africa on one of three flights that are leaving soon. The seating is limited, so first come, first serve. Everyone takes off through the park to find their flights.
The first real challenge is to find out what airport the flights are leaving from and then to get to the airport first. The next ten minutes is spent watching in utter dismay as these idiots try and figure out the intricacies of pay telephones and the art of waving down a cab. I was glued to the television, let me tell you.
When I got back from taking a crap, I find Frank and Margarita sitting in a cab as Frank quizzes her on who is the boss of the team. Margarita finally slumps in her seat and says, “Well, that would be you honey…” Frank beams with the pride of a man who has full control of his scene. It’s amazing these two crazy kids couldn’t work it out.
On other fronts, The Retarded Couple takes the subway and The Engaged Couple tries to take the subway but the morons have trouble even getting through the turnstiles and then miss their train. Big Nose Paul assures Amie the Dancing Fool that they are making the right decision because they are saving so much of their money. “I mean, we’ll lose, but at least we’ll still have fifty bucks or so right honey?”
Team Guido arrive at the airport first, much to the chagrin of “You Ain’t The Boss Of Me” Frank. Joe grins sheepishly in Bill’s arms with the air of someone who knows that all gay men have an acute sense of both style and direction. Frank is left to mutter in the corner with his always grinning side-kick “No Salt” Margarita.
The teams land in Johannesburg and make their way to another airport, this time to catch a charter flight. Boss Man and No Salt arrive at the second airport and find Team Guido has already arrived before them like gay ninja. They are doing the cha-cha at the ticket window. The day mercifully ends with an uncomfortable shot of Team Chihuahua entering their private room to do God only knows what in celebration of beating that Bossy black man.
The next day, four charter planes drop the racers at another airport where the groups get their own vehicle and must make their way to two different locations before finally finding a place called Songwe Village in Zambia. Finding these places requires several skills which many of the teams don’t seem to have in abundance.
The first skill is following directions, but several teams, including The Festers seem more interested in just driving aimlessly, but quickly around hoping that someone will point them to their path. They were going nowhere but they got there fast.
The other skill required seemed simple enough, reading. But in this group, readers seemed to be in short supply. The Retarded couple, for example, drove around Zambia for the better part of the day asking the locals who didn’t speak English if they knew where to find the “Pitoka George”. When a gas station attendant grabbed the directions from Nanny Goat, he said “Oh, the Pitoka GORGE.” Apparently, there are not many gorges encountered in Army service or the ditch-digging industry.
The teams are led to a huge waterfall where another clue send them to a place called Pitoka Gorge. They also find another clue called the Fast Forward Path. If they follow this path, they get to skip the next leg and go right to the pit stop. The GQ Team go for the fast forward path as do the elderly couple. Guess who wins that race? The GQ Lawyers are the first to Songwe Village where they are met by a stage-hand dressed in an “authentic” African tribal chiefs outfit. The elderly couple get to the bottom fo a cliff and fins the fast forward clue missing. After a round of heart-attacks, the two are pushed back up the hill by a couple of locals who came down to help.
The rest make their way to Pitoka Gorge where they find they must slide over said gorge on a rope slide and then bungey jump to the bottom of the gorge where they will then make their way to the village. Team Guido beats Boss Man and No Salt again and jump into the gorge shouting, “Team Guido!” and performing little herkys like high school cheerleaders. No Salt is of course afraid of the jump, but pushes through for the sake of the kid.
The rest follow similar paths. On a few, helmet cams are placed so that we can see their expressions as they make the fall. Its pretty much what you expect. One of the “Spank Me Cuz I’ve Been Naughty” schoolteachers, Leslie, says she’s afraid to jump because she has to hold part of the rigging up as she falls and she says “I’m just not good at holding things up…”
Not in my book baby. You held me up the entire time.
Meanwhile the Festers drive about aimlessly shouting insults to each other. When they finally reach the gorge and jump, one of the Festers yells at the other, “Swing you fat bastard! Swing!” I think this was the best line of the show. Oddly enough, this was also shouted at Texas’s last recorded hanging in 1923, when Billy “Fat Bastard” Shanlon was executed in Austin.
The rest of the idiots finally make their way as well. Some better than others. The Engaged Couple find that getting directions from non English speaking locals is more difficult than it seems. Amie takes the unusual approach of yelling insults at a poor woman who is trying to help them out. “How do you not know where it is? You live here!” she exclaims. Good plan, sweetheart. Piss off the voodoo priestess.
When everyone makes it down the bungey cord, they find that they must drive to the village. It’s a short drive and requires only one real turn but leave it to the dim-witted to get lost again. The Festers follow their original plan of driving really fast while the Retarded Couple decide to try and find a shortcut through the wide open jungles of Africa.
Everyone but the Retarded Couple make it to the village before dark. Drinks are served and a tribal dance is had around a roaring fire in the heart of the village which is surprising bare of actual villagers. (Extras are so hard to come by on reality TV.)
In the wee hours of the morning the Nanny Goat and Dominatrix arrive, still hopeful that they are not the last. They are informed by a bleary-eyed stagehand cum tribal chief and Phil Keoghan that they are the last and are therefore eliminated. The four share a moment of uncomfortable silence as Nanny Goat struggles for the right words. Nanny Goat was near tears and then just kind of walked away with Dominatrix, looking like two children who have been told they can’t play ball with the other kids because they already have enough for two teams.
Stay tuned, merry readers. More of the “The Amazing Race” is to come….
Somebody pinch me.
The PEN is mightier than the sword