Amazing Race has been renewed, but it should be cancelled (temporarily)

CBS has renewed The Amazing Race for a 19th season. This is not a surprise: the one-season order is typical for the series, and the show is doing well, and CBS noted in the press release that the fall season “[matched] the prior year in viewers while posting gains in both adults 25-54 (+2%) and adults 18-49 (+3%), despite airing against Sunday Night Football.”

But it is a mistake, and CBS should cancel the show for now, putting it on a hiatus and bringing it back after the producers have had a chance to refresh the series and fatigued viewers can get over their fatigue. I think everyone would benefit from some time off.

Here’s why:

  • It’s just not as strong as it used to be. All of the problems I outlined a year ago remain, and while the show has attempted some changes, they’ve done so poorly. This season’s pit-stop fake-outs, for example, are a good idea, but the producers have followed them with equalizers, thus making the pit-stop fake-out nearly pointless. And that means…
  • It’s just not as fun to watch. Be honest: Why do you keep watching? As a long-time fan of the show, I am now watching to find moments that justify why I still watch, not because I am entertained start to finish like I once was. That’s in part because…
  • Its format has gotten stale. Survivor has weak seasons, but hasn’t aged like The Amazing Race has for two primary reasons: First, Survivor relies on strategic drama that has more of a potential to be new and different every season, even in a familiar context. (The race has attempted to add conflict, corrupting its nature.) Second, Survivor has made changes that keep things fresh; some work, some don’t, but it keeps trying. The race has done the opposite:
  • It’s gotten less interesting. Shorter legs, weaker challenges, fewer actual clues, and less time getting to know the teams have made it less watchable, even though I suspect some of the changes were made to draw new viewers. The show worked and, bucking trends, added viewers as it aged because its original formula was compelling. Time to revisit that.

Because a cancelled/on hiatus version will leave the show’s timeslot empty, or at least as empty as it is without all the 60 Minutes overrunes, CBS should re-air The Amazing Race‘s first few seasons. It’s easy to forget it debuted right after Sept. 11, when people’s freak-outs led them to declare the end of reality TV, and especially travel-related reality. Let new viewers discover it. (Thankfully, season two has recently come to DVD.)

This will not happen, of course, so during the show’s summer hiatus, I think I’ll re-watch season one. Besides checking to see if my nostalgia overwhelms the reality, it might be fun to review the show like it was airing now and rediscover the Emmy-winning series’ early years.

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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.