After the introduction of the deus ex sign twist, I’m breaking up with The Amazing Race

Some relationships are hard to end. You’ve been friends for, say, 10 years, and during that time, things change. Some of it’s so similar and familiar that holding on to only those things that were once good and hoping the bad will go away. But why cling to something that just isn’t working?

I’ve spent the past three years or so trying to accept The Amazing Race‘s evolution, and most recently, it has attempted to change, which I appreciate. Unfortunately, they’ve changed the wrong things. The problem with the show was never that it had too many top-secret, hidden clues, but that its clues were more like directions, so teams just went place to place.

Mostly, this week’s episode was more of the same: an equalizer followed by tasks that, while visually stunning (in the case of the cave) and potentially amusing (the street dancing), offered no actual challenge, so the teams just left them in the order that they arrived. The old couple’s speedbump was even more lame than usual (untying a knot, really?), and thanks to the equalizer and a cab driver, they were so far ahead of other teams that they could have been asked to figure out where that satellite landed and they would still have left before other teams. The high-energy music and frenetic editing tries to cover for all this but just makes the episode chaotic.

This week’s attempt at change/”twist” was a deus ex machina in the form of a small sign that instructed teams to hand over all their cash to an orphanage. That’s very nice, but their clue–the instructions they rely upon–apparently only told them to give the money they’d earned in the detour task. Phil even said “teams must notice this sign.” To be sure, being observant and noticing a large sign on a table isn’t exactly that challenging. But it didn’t have race colors on it, nor was there any indication that they should do anything else than what their clue instructed them to do. If they see a person holding a sign on the side of the road that says “give me your money,” should they do it?

That sign forced most teams to return to the orphanage after arriving at the mat, where Phil and/or Phil’s voiceover (hmm) told them to go back. I was at first wondering why they didn’t all just get–or ask for–time penalties, but the net effect was probably the same, shuffling those teams that missed the sign to the back of the pack.

As a result, Ron and Bill, and Survivor winners Ethan and Jenna, were all eliminated from the race. We kind of knew Ethan and Jenna weren’t long for the race, considering Jenna’s public bitterness. And though their casting inspired me to tune back in, I actually don’t care that Ethan and Jenna were eliminated. Although Ethan’s story is incredible of beating cancer is incredible, they weren’t noteworthy at all until, disappointingly, they turned into every other bickering, yelling team when they left their clue behind at the detour. Since every team gets reduced to a single bio line and their most contentious moments on the race, I think it’s safe to assume that wasn’t Ethan and Jenna, but instead yet another example of the race dumbing itself down.

I was pretty much done with The Amazing Race last season, because it’d changed into something that I no longer truly loved; I just tolerated it. But it’s hard to let go.

Some people are understandably frustrated by my frustration with the show. They like it and either a) disagree, which is great, or b) get annoyed that someone points out the flaws in something they want to like, which I understand, as it’s kind of like eating soft serve ice cream with cookies and candy mixed in while some asshole stands next to you saying, “Do you know how many calories are in that? Did you know how bad that is for you? Did you know that’s basically poison?” And all you want to do is enjoy your fucking ice cream om nom nom nom.

Well, the show is no longer a treat for me. I’ve previously outlined what it needs to do to fix itself and argued for its cancellation, even drawing a response from its creator after it won yet another inexplicable Emmy.

Why bother bitching about the show for so long? Because I actually care about it. I want it to get better. I believe in the format and appreciate what it has done for reality TV. But it’s time to acknowledge it just no longer does anything for me.

Amazing Race: :(

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.