The next season of The Amazing Race will have only teams of dating couples, but it will do much more than that: it’ll drop the conceit that made the show special since its first season by including teams of people who’ve never met.
Even after the race was finished, only a few teams had been identified, with some exceptions, such as New Kids on the Block’s Jonathan Knight and his boyfriend Harley Rodriguez. There’s good reason for that: five of the 11 teams are “blind date” teams.
Host Phil Keoghan describes it in the preview below as “a special season of The Amazing Race” and says “for the first time ever, five teams will meet right here on the starting line for the most extreme blind dates ever.”
The show has bailed on its pre-existing relationships conceit once before, during season 24, when Mark and Mallory raced together after Mark’s partner Bopper had to drop out at the last minute. Before the race, Mallory said, “We don’t know each other that well,” but they weren’t exactly strangers, and that was, of course, an emergency.
Still, a significant part of what made Amazing Race so special was that its teams already came with history and baggage, and watching them navigate the world and their relationship made for terrific television.
What’s most interesting to me about this is how the stalwart network reality TV shows are now not just borrowing each other’s cast members, but borrowing their central casting ideas. The Amazing Race is becoming The Bachelor; Survivor became The Amazing Race for Blood vs. Water; The Biggest Loser cast couples.
This twist feels like a desperate way to inject more drama, perhaps as a response to its severe ratings drop this fall: The show dropped 27 percent from its May finale and 38 percent from its fall finale last year, though of course they aren’t directly comparable. As Deadline notes, however, those “finales were on much more competitive nights.” When CBS moved the show to Fridays, it didn’t mean the show was on its last legs, since other reality TV has thrived there–Shark Tank, MasterChef Junior–but these significantly diminished ratings aren’t great.
Will this twist save the show? Probably not. Will it alienate viewers who’ve stuck with the show? Maybe, but since half the teams do have pre-existing relationships, it’s probably not enough to kill those with continued interest in the series. Like other network shows, Amazing Race is experimenting by taking what works from other series, and perhaps it’ll pay off like Blood vs. Water did for Survivor.