Sometimes I use questions in headlines and answer them, or attempt to answer them, but in this case I’m truly wondering: Is The Amazing Race too long at 90 minutes? Or am I just out of my mind—I mean, more than usual?
About the 45-minute mark in both the first and second episodes, I started to lose interest.
This week, it was when Jocelyn and Victor checked in first for the second time in a row—which is amazing considering they’re both 49 and thus an “older” team (and I use the scare quotes very intentionally!). I love watching them kick ass.
Yet I couldn’t quite believe that there were another 45 minutes of watching all the other teams do the same three tasks, over and over again: lotus flowers, shopping, pomelos.
While I was excited that the race expanded itself to fill 90 minutes, we haven’t seen that yet.
The second episode had a very standard leg: Route, Roadblock, Detour, Pit Stop. With 12 teams still in the race, that resulted in too many teams repeating the same beats and challenges, never mind keeping track of where they are.
Maybe this is me and COVID fatigue and brain fog still lingering. Perhaps when the teams thin out, and the legs get more complex, it’ll feel different.
I’ve loved the back-to-basics revitalization TAR has gone through over the past few years—in part because of the pandemic—and I want to look forward it every week.
Now, though, with a record number of teams, and so many same-sex teams with partners who are currently indistinguishable to me, it’s hard to keep track. And there were people who I forgot about from week to week (Elizabeth and Iliana, Robbin and Chelsea, Steve and Anna Leigh, Garrett).
Meanwhile, the edit insisted on repeating literally what felt like the exact same dialogue from episode one for other teams (Corey: “I’m a CODA, which stands for Child of Deaf Adult).
What network executive thought we needed to be reminded that Rob is deaf? It’s great that there’s a member of the Deaf community on the show, and that his signing is treated just the same as anyone speaking.
‘Old-school’ Amazing Race travel? Not yet
The promise of “old-school” Amazing Race travel has only partly manifested. Host Phil Keoghan said there’s “travel back in play.” Where?
I never expected TAR to return to the thrill of early Amazing Race seasons, where teams ended up spread across the world because of their bad travel planning. That makes for a logistically challenging—and far more expensive—production.
But getting on one of two prebooked flights? In the premiere, at the airport, the first six teams got on a flight, with the other seven teams 90 minutes behind.
Having everyone travel on a charter plane and delaying the start of some teams accomplishes the same thing. We’re basically just watching charter plane travel anyway, since all the flights have been prebooked.
In Bangkok, teams took taxis. Were these provided by the race? Did the teams have cash to pay for them? Clearly, the drivers weren’t instructed about where to go.
Taxis are the one form of transportation I didn’t miss, because they introduce a layer of chaos that’s out of the team’s control. Self-driving? Navigating trains? Bring it on! That’s all about a team’s ability to plan and communicate. Being at the mercy of someone who goes drives slowly? Hearing teams yell at drivers to go faster because they’re in a race? Not as fun.
I may sound grouchy about The Amazing Race 35 so far, but I’m not entirely sour on it. There have been great moments in these two episodes:
- In Los Angeles, teams struggling to figure out the clue agreed to help each other, but forgot to turn around and tell Rob, who figured it out before them.
- Team members doing the roadblock and failing again and again, while their partners fed fish and laughed.
- Steve and Anna Leigh sinking their boat.
- Malaina and Andrea showing up to where Morgan and Lena were attempting the Express Pass, seeing what they were eating, and immediately saying, “We’re not doing the Express Pass.”
- The 30-minute massages!
The Amazing Race 35 has delivered some great challenges, especially ones that require attention to detail, and what I’ve seen of—and remembered about!—the cast has me excited to watch most of them more. I just kind of want to watch at 1.5 speed right now.