The Amazing Race 8, the family edition, debuts tonight

The Amazing Race 8 debuts tonight at 9 p.m. ET, and changes the structure of its teams for the first time. Families of four will race against each other around the world–or, perhaps, around a smaller area, as reports suggest. The debut is two hours long.

The teams seem imbalanced at best; for example, one team consists of two young children and their older parents (8, 11, 40, and 42), while another are all in their late teens and 20s (19, 21, 22, and 24), but perhaps they’ll all surprise us. Only 10 teams will race, the fewest number of teams in the show’s history, although that’s 40 contestants, more than ever before.

Phil Keoghan tells the Calgary Sun that the four-person teams makes things more complicated. “On the Amazing Race, it’s always difficult for two people to make a decision about what they are going to do. Make it four and that becomes an impossibility,” he said.

CBS has admitted that the race will travel just 30,000 milies, roughly half of the usual distance, and says it is “family-friendly.” And that doesn’t sound too exciting. More significant, though, is whether or not this season will continue the trend of the last three seasons, during which the race became more like Survivor than ever before, focusing on interaction between the teams. Will any of the new family teams follow Rob and Amber’s lead? Last season, “instead of focusing getting themselves further in the race, they also focused on slowing other teams down.” Add in the effect of the Yield, and, as I argue in this essay, the race risks losing its way. Or maybe its ratings will just continue to climb, as they have over the past three seasons.

The Amazing Race 8 [CBS]
‘Amazing Race’ has lost its way [MSNBC]