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Race to the Center of the Earth: a new worldwide race from the creators of Amazing Race, which has become dull

Race to the Center of the Earth: a new worldwide race from the creators of Amazing Race, which has become dull
A composite view of Earth from the NASA/NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership spacecraft taken April 9, 2015, with Tropical Cyclone Joalane in the Indian Ocean. (Photo composite by the Ocean Biology Processing Group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

A new race competition series from the co-creator and executive producer of The Amazing Race is coming to National Geographic Channel. It’s called Race to the Center of the Earth, and will follow four teams racing from different places to the a central point, where $1 million waits.

NatGeo is also bringing back Brain Games, but as a show with celebrities, including Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Rebel Wilson, and Anthony Anderson. More on that below.

Race to the Center of the Earth is described as “an extreme nonelimination competition that follows four groups of adventurers, each starting from different corners of the earth as the race to a buoy in the middle of the ocean that holds a $1,000,000 prize.”

Amazing Race co-creator and executive producer Bertram van Munster, who’s producing alongside TAR creator Elise Doganieri, said, “What excites me most about Race to the Center of the Earth is that this partnership is such a natural fit. By combining our expertise in adventure competition series with National Geographic’s legacy of exploration and unrivaled visual storytelling, this series promises to raise the stakes of this genre and deliver something totally unique, breathtaking and exhilarating.”

NatGeo’s reality TV executive, Geoff Daniels, said in the press release, “Our goal is to create a gripping, completely real experience that pushes the edges of adventure and embeds viewers in extreme action, breathtaking drama and stunning locations as we follow four highly skilled teams on the race of a lifetime. Unlike other competition formats, Race to the Center of the Earth will combine the grittiness of a survival show with the cinematic style of a feature film action-thriller dropping viewers into the middle of a heart-pounding journey unlike anything ever made for television.”

How will it work? Here’s NatGeo’s description:

“Each team is challenged with navigating their designated route, featuring unpredictable terrains, harsh climates and unique cultures as they make their way to the finish. Along the way, they will face untamed jungles, frozen arctic, arid deserts, bustling cities, treacherous mountains and vast oceans to reach the location where all four routes intersect — a buoy with the cash prize. The first team to arrive claims it all.”

This sounds truly exciting, and a really creative reimagining of a race around the world.

That brings me to The Amazing Race, which has been a shadow of its former self for most of this decade, though there was a splash of hope a few seasons ago.

I’ve been consistently surprised at how absolutely dull this current season is, even with a cast of CBS reality stars bringing their relationships and conflicts. TAR can still deliver beautiful cinematography and entertaining moments, like Rupert talking to an elephant, but the structure of the legs constantly undercuts any actual racing by evening up the teams. This season started with the teams competing in two challenges in California (one was edited out), and then all the teams just flew to Tokyo and rode a bus together and started over from zero. Teams’ decisions matter far less than random things like cab drivers, and that doesn’t interest me.

Whether it’s for budgetary or creative reasons or something else, the CBS reality show moved away from teams navigating the planet together, and instead became a large-scale scavenger hunt/obstacle course, with teams spending a few hours checking off some boxes on their way to the mat, and then moving on to a new city and doing it again.

What’s happened to TAR does make me slightly apprehensive about the “designated route” part of this Race to the Center of the Earth. If the first team to arrive wins, that means it’s about speed in navigating these routes. How will the routes be designed? Will they be broken into legs, or can teams race 24/7? If so, how will breaks in filming for the crew be handled? It’s a logistical challenge, but of course, the team behind The Amazing Race knows how to handle those.

I’m very curious and excited to see how this new series turns out. There’s no air date yet; it will “go into production later this year,” NatGeo said.

Brain Games is returning with a new host

Keegan-Michael Key
New Brain Games host Keegan-Michael Key. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for IFP)

Brain Games is returning as a celebrity-themed show with a new host, Keegan-Michael Key.

This actually returns the show to its roots, at least in terms of hosting. While Jason Silva hosted for seasons two through seven, between 2013 and 2016, the first season—which was just three episodes long—was hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.

NatGeo describes this as a “rebooted” series, which will be produced by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, creators of Top Chef and Project Runway’s new company Alfred Street Industries, along with the production company they founded, Magical Elves.

The new season, which will premiere Dec. 1, promises that it…

“…adds a Hollywood twist to its classic mind-bending format by challenging some of the world’s biggest celebrities to realize their special brain power through fun and highly entertaining interactive games, illusions and social experiments. 

The first five celebrities confirmed are: Kristin Bell (‘The Good Place’), Dax Shepherd (‘Bless This Mess’), Drew Brees (QB, New Orleans Saints), Rebel Wilson (‘The Hustle’), and Anthony Anderson (‘Blackish‘).

In Brain Games, host Key will investigate mind-bending questions with the help of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Joining Key on stage in front of the live studio audience, world-famous mentalist Lior Surchard will assist with brain games and challenges for the celebrity guests. Meanwhile, field correspondent and science communicator Cara Santa Maria will take the cerebral challenges on the road and put everyday people across America to the test. With insight from some of the world’s leading neuroscientists, engineers and brain experts, we’ll explore the “why” behind the “wow” of questions like the following: Are women better communicators? How do our brains control what we love to eat? Can brain science help us with our dating lives? What is the magic ingredient to gaining, having and keeping power? And much more!”

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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