No airports, new opening, great challenges improve Amazing Race

I’ve been mostly bored with The Amazing Race for the past few seasons, for the reasons detailed here. The show hadn’t become worse, it just was repetitive, refusing to do anything differently, which was the real problem. And because of that, it certainly didn’t deserve all the Emmys it keeps winning, since it was up against stronger reality shows.

But if the first episode of The Amazing Race 14 is any indication, the show may be undergoing a renaissance period, as Survivor did a few years ago (and is still riding). I was more consistently engaged and entertained during last night’s episode than I have been for a few seasons now.

The changes, which were minor but obvious, presented themselves immediately: The opening sequence had a modified logo, edgier theme music, and an emphasis on the dramatic instead of spectacular. Even better, there was basically zero airport time! Halle-fucking-lujah. If there’s anything that sucks the show into a black hole of boredom, it’s contestants trying to get flights. Of course, flights were pre-purchased for them on the first leg, so we’ll see how long that lasts.

It also started with two strong challenges: a 700-foot bungee jump that made my hands sweat every time a contestant jumped to a hysterical Detour that featured 50-pound rolling wheels of cheese, laughing locals, and contestants sliding down a steep, muddy, slippery hill was almost as entertaining as last season’s colorful Holi challenge.

The editing was also strong, with several split-screen moments, and also a lot more time stamps than usual. That The Amazing Race is still hasn’t switched to high definition is pathetic, though. What a damn waste.

The contestants are fun but not too crazy. For example, the experienced travelers and flight attendants Christie and Jodi pulled their backpacks behind them on wheels, even across rough surfaces. There were confessions (Mel told us, “every time my legs parted the groin muscle would just ache”), a thinly veiled reference to how amazingly thin one contestant is (“This is my body weight,” Amanda said while carrying 100 pounds of cheese), incredible powers of observation (five feet from a piece of cheese that weighs 50 pounds and is as big as a small tire, Jodi told Christie, “There’s your cheese”), and sentences that are hysterical out of context (Victor to his sister, Tammy: “Your thing broke but the cheese is still in”).

Besides displaying some great eyebrow and making Linda swoon, Phil learned ASL and signed “You are team number one” to Margie and Luke, the series first-ever deaf contestant (although as fans of the Asian edition of the series point out, its second season was won by a deaf contestant).

Best of all, the young, bickering couple went home first. Although that still leaves the “hicks from the sticks” bickering couple, who are just kind of tragic, Preston and Jennifer were the really annoying, gratings ones. At least now Jennifer can pursue her dream to augment her existing nude photography and Playboy DVD appearance by doing Playboy. She told The State, “I keep waiting for that call. I hope that happens.”

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

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.