Why 60 Minutes won’t, and shouldn’t be, bumped for Amazing Race: it’s better reality

The Amazing Race‘s continual delays continually frustrate fans. Last night, the Masters went long, giving women a chance to see more of the golf club where they can’t play, and delaying TAR’s debut until 8:52 p.m. ET. (Canadians and those on the west coast are generally immune from the delays, a small reward for living in Canada or on the west coast.)

One argument that often comes up–and one I may have actually made in the past–is that CBS should cut 60 Minutes to allow its prime-time series to start on time. There’s some amount of logic there: 60 Minutes rarely has time-sensitive stories, and a segment or two could be held until the following week without creating a problem.

But that will never happen, and shouldn’t.

First, 60 Minutes is an institution at CBS–and one that has more viewers. The week of March 19 to 25, CBS said in a press release that 60 Minutes had 11.24 million viewers and a 2.3 rating in adults 18-49, making it “Sunday’s #1 prime program in both households and viewers.” It’s a top-20 show among all viewers; The Amazing Race isn’t, nor is it top 20 among viewers 18 to 49–but it does have slightly more younger viewers than 60 Minutes. That week, TAR had 9.35 million viewers and a 2.6 ratings adults 18 to 49. Younger viewers are important to advertisers, but it’s significant how both shows have relatively similarly sized young audiences, despite the content difference. The time overrun tends to benefit each subsequent prime-time show, too; it’s an accidental version of what some networks do intentionally by letting their show run over a minute or 10.

More importantly, 60 Minutes is just a better show, and bumping it for a reality show that has fumbled in its old age would be tragic. I watched it with my family growing up, but didn’t watch during my 20s. Ironically, it was delays in the start time of The Amazing Race, back in the days when I was watching the show regularly, that caused me to watch accidentally and got me back into the show. I have new appreciation for what an amazing program it is.

The reporting is outstanding, and not just when its correspondents are dramatically confronting wrongdoers. Mike Wallace’s death Saturday reminds us that they can have a significant impact on our society via their reporting, and pretty much all its correspondents are strong, although I’m increasingly annoyed by Scott Pelley’s melodramatic approach to asking questions, which includes just answering the question in the question.

This is television journalism at its best, and puts the 24/7 cable news networks to shame.

On some level, whether the story is breaking news or a human interest profile, the show is even like the best kind of reality TV, bringing us into someone’s life. Every week, I learn something, from frightening new information about sugar to the interior of Adele’s rental house (watching her sing at the piano to Anderson Cooper is pretty amazing, too).

The ascent of Alex Honnold is one of my favorite recent 60 Minutes reports, which you should watch because it does exactly what the race–and all reality TV–should: slows down to let us experience a place and learn about a person, surprising and shocking us at every turn.

60 Minutes: A+

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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.