Incredible finish not enough to change my mind about Amazing Race’s decline

During the last Amazing Race, I broke up with the show and stopped watching. I didn’t regret it. But a combination of CBS’ deplorable but effective stunt casting of two obnoxious Big Brother contestants–and, more importantly, my desire to rekindle an old romance–brought me back last night.

I came prepared, consuming a Cougar Town-size glass of wine before the episode. That was inspired by a relatively recent flight, during which I found myself laughing hysterically at a sit-com I normally find to be dumb. Perhaps the tiny screen plus the alcohol took away my judgmental edge? Alas, no–or maybe I’d just need an entire bottle to ignore all the stuff that screams for judgement here.

The episode opened with its usual strength in production values–host Phil Keoghan on his bike, the teams biking behind him through Santa Barbara (aka Los Angeles, starting point of so many recent seasons). And the eventual skydive was amazing, at least in terms of high-definition footage. I also liked the twist with the Roadblock clue, sending the chosen contestant to go chase after the person who had to jump out of the plane. That had the potential to be a fascinating challenge, having to find where their partner landed after skydiving, but it seems like teammates just drove right to the landing site. Typical, as was the general lack of challenge in the challenges, and the lack of movement in the pack.

However, the final moments were truly amazing, with Misa and Maiya–who’d been in last place pretty much the entire episode, taking almost two hours to find their first clue and getting their car stuck in sand–arriving second-to-last and missing, somehow, Phil and the greeter and the cameras and the lights and the producers. They turned around and ran the other way, allowing another team to check in first, and they were eliminated.

Overall, The Amazing Race was the same, sadly diminished show it’s been for years now. What works for many viewers and Emmy voters is a product of editing, but I can’t stand that frenetic energy and insane editing have replaced everything I used to love about the show. I’ve written all these complaints before; I don’t need to write them again, because nothing has changed.

It’s just become nearly impossible for me to engage with a show that can’t bother to develop its characters enough for you to be able to tell the difference between same-sex teammates, so it’s become boring–which seems counter-intuitive, considering how frenetically it’s edited. Yes, there’s some good stuff here. I get why people still watch it and defend it. But I’m not willing to eat a week-old pizza just because there are some spots without mold.

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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.