A neutered Amazing Race still manages to be suspenseful as the youngest kids go home

Two hours of The Amazing Race and the teams haven’t even been in to an airport? Welcome to The Amazing Race 8, the Family Edition, which was definitely a watered-down version.

The altered title sequence seemed to confirm rumors about this season, emphasizing both driving and American locations, although I didn’t analyze it frame by frame. Teams started in New York and traveled all the way to, um, Pennsylvania. By Google’s estimation, that’s just 162 miles, and they stayed overnight in Pennsylvania. In his narration, Phil Keoghan did his best to make his lines sound daunting: teams would have to “navigate more than 90 blocks,” he told us. Ooh, 90 blocks. In an SUV.

Still, despite the less-than-spectacular challenges and travel, the race managed to be suspenseful, thanks to the action-packed music and masterful editing. Of course, the TAR editors could create a suspenseful race between a person who died five years ago and a newborn baby.

But there was some true suspense: The team that everyone expected to win, the Linz family, arrived second to last, and nearly got their asses beaten by the team with the youngest kids. That team, the Black family, was eliminated. Earlier, there was even a footrace between two of the teams with kids for second place; the Gaghan Family, which also has younger kids, made it to Phil before another team and placed second.

And as it turns out, four-person family meltdowns are much more exciting than two-person fights, and the youngest kids were fun. As their parents dragged them on an Amish buggy, 12-year-old Billy Gaghan said, “Mom, Dad, I’m proud of you. I’m sorry I couldn’t contribute.” Then his 9-year-old sister Clarissa said, “Get used to it, dork.”

A cameo and biting commentary from first-season racers Kevin and Drew, who only one racer recognized, also provided some comic relief.

But most fun of all was the sexist fundamentalist Christian, Denny Rogers, who was ready to let his all-mighty penis lead the way before the race (“I’m the one that’s going to be taking control. I think it’s a man thing; I think it’s a Biblical thing. I truly believe that the man is the authority of the house.”). But once they got lost, he apparently changed his mind about his God-given right to tell his family what to do, insisting that it was someone else’s job to “be able to know where we are and where we gotta be.”

Sisters Swing into First; Black Family Edged Out [CBS]

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.