CBS’ third major reality series, The Amazing Race, debuted 10 years ago today, on a Wednesday, when 11 teams of two started racing from New York City. Its second episode was delayed by a week because of the events of Sept. 11, a Tuesday.
That Thursday also saw the debut of a similar series, NBC’s Lost, which had no smoke monster nor frustrating character development but instead dropped six pairs of people in a remote location (Mongolia) and challenged them to return to the United States. The CBS show did better in the ratings, and survived: Lost was cancelled after airing only part of its second set of episodes, when the teams started in Bolivia.
The show was originally called Race Around the World, which just happened to be the name of a Fox Family series, but changed its name after a lawsuit was filed to Global Adventure, and while a judge initially stopped production on CBS’ show, it was eventually allowed to be produced, and was filmed in the summer of 2001. Travel Channel host Phil Keoghan (“Phil Keoghan’s Adventure Crazy”), who was attached to the show since 2000 when he lost the job of hosting Survivor to Jeff Probst.
The Amazing Race has gone on to air 18 seasons and won seven consecutive Emmys and, just last month, the first-ever TV critics’ reality TV award. The show moved timeslots, from Wednesdays at 9 to Thursdays at 8 to Tuesdays at 10; season nine was even in three different timeslots. But it found and grew an audience and eventually grew frustrating.
Season one is on DVD, and you can watch the start of episode one here. It’s similar yet also very different (for example, the pace was a lot slower than what we’re used to now, with very little of the insistent, constant music). Watching this first episode, I’m stunned at how much of a better show it used to be: