The Amazing Race 12 introduction to the ranking

THE AMAZING RACE 12

USA – IRELAND – NETHERLANDS – BURKINA FASO – LITHUANIA – CROATIA – ITALY – INDIA – CHINESE TAIPEI/FORMOSA/TAIWAN/REPUBLIC OF CHINA – USA

Now back to some normalcy. Following the experimental nature of the first season of TAR Asia, and the first ever all-star of TAR in North America, it was time to return to some traditional TAR.

TAR 1-4: Classic Era
TAR 5-9: Revamped Era
TAR 10-13: Transition Era

But as you can see, we’re in the third part of the Transition Era. Anything about TAR 12 isn’t traditional.

In fact, more changes occur between TAR 11 and TAR 12 than any other break between TAR.

First, let’s look at the calendar. After the TAR 5-6-7 stretch in a single year, TAR reverted back to classic TV programming of one season in September-December then one season in February-May.

But for whatever reason, there was a longer hiatus between TAR 11 and TAR 12. TAR 12 didn’t make it to the airwaves until November and didn’t conclude until January.

It will be the last season to air outside of that schedule. It stabilizes between TAR 13-present day.

Much like what 24 did between seasons 6 and 7, and also what was forced upon TAR 4 and 5, a longer hiatus was beneficial.

Why? Because TAR 12 was. . .amazing. There. You don’t even have to wait until this entire season is ranked. I won’t hide it from you that I think very highly of this season.

But on paper TAR 12 looked like it would be a complete flop. As I just said, more changes occur between TAR 11 and TAR 12 than any other season. And it’s not just a November premiere date.

a) Majority of players from California; usually this means a lot of bland recruits. However, most of the Californians were compelling enough to be worthy of being cast. It’s not Survivor’s “Why the eff were they cast for just their looks?” that most Californians on Survivor fall under. I am sure the chunk of Californians were because of budget cuts, but casting agents did a good job.

b) Drop to eleven legs.
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tyler mom

WHAT!

Yep. For the first time in the TAR franchise, thirteen legs (yes To Be Continued legs count as a non-elimination non-penalized leg in my books) would no longer be played. In fact, TAR wouldn’t return to a 13-leg format again.

For this season and next season, production would experiment with the ultra-shortened 11 leg format. So eleven rounds leads to a shorter filming schedule which also leads to more budget cuts. Two whole rounds without crew, scouting, Phil, etc. On one hand I’d like to think eleven legs was a production decision, but it could ultimately be a CBS financial decision. Somehow it works.

c) As you can tell from the shortened format, this also means fewer non-eliminations.

Following Eric & Danielle’s unpopular victory, and telegraphed non-eliminations that TAR casuals and hardcores absolutely hated, production thought they would curry favour with the audience by fewer non-eliminations. Who knows if this was their own choice or if it was inevitable from the 11-leg format.

Phil promoted the fact there would “be no non-eliminations”. Yep. It was the first time I can recall Phil has outright lied pre-season. He kept saying “there will be no non-eliminations this season”. You can imagine the surprise when I bragged to everyone “there will be no non-eliminations” but then not one but two non-eliminations crop up.

Two non-eliminations is a huge improvement over four or five non-eliminations from previous seasons. TAR Asia was a surprise to have a 10-team 5-non-elimination format because of how poorly it did in TAR 8. Needless to say even the four non-elimination format had become a real drag in TAR.

Why they didn’t use TAR 3 and TAR 4’s 12-team/3 non-elimination leg format is beyond me. I honestly thought that is the best format TAR has ever implemented. TAR 3 probably had the best format of any TAR season, but no need to go down that road again.

TAR 12’s format of having 11 teams with 2 non-eliminations is just as good though if not better.

What would be even better is if they had a 12-team format with zero non-eliminations and a F2. You would still get eleven legs out of the race this way. But alas, my dreams would not be realized.

d) Speaking of non-eliminations, TAR introduces its next, and as of right now, its final non-elimination penalty.

TAR 1-4: Scot free.
TAR 5-6: All your money is taken away.
TAR 7-9: All money and bags are taken away.
TAR 10-11: Marked for elimination.
TAR 12-23/present: Speed Bump.

I personally prefer TAR 7-9’s penalty as the best, but Marked for Elimination was definitely flawed.

Why was it flawed? Well, watch the Zanzibar leg of All Stars. Uchenna & Joyce step on the mat in third or fourth. 30 minute clock begins. Meanwhile teams are intentionally spread several hours apart. Even 12 hours. It has zero affect.

Meanwhile watch the Poland leg. Joe & Bill check in the pit stop in 5th. The Intersection however ensures it is impossible for them to gain a 30 minute lead. Out they go with ease despite a decent performance in the round.

TAR noticed this double standard and made the change.

Introducing the Speed Bump!

Everybody reading this know what it entails. You finish last on a non-elimination leg. You keep your money, you keep your bags, you keep your current standing. But once you get past the equalizers of the following leg, you will have to complete a 10-30 minute task. In addition, the round must be an elimination leg.

Initially, Speed Bumps were neat. But as you’ll see as the series progresses, TAR gets lazier and lamer with the Speed Bump tasks.

In short: Was it awesome for TAR 12? Yes, because it was refreshing and seemed fair.

Long term: TAR will refuse to change its non-elimination penalty format despite all signs that it desperately needs a change.

You’ll see what I mean when we enter future seasons. But for the time being, I endorse it.

e) If you thought changing the non-elimination penalty was enough, well production has more to throw at you.

You know how Yields have lasted from TAR 5 through 11 without any signs of slowing down? Well, Yields will become extinct for the series. Unless you bother to continue to watch international versions of the series.

So what replaces Yields?
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Yep. The U-Turn. They don’t come Blind, Deaf, Doubled, or Doubly Blind and Deaf, just a U-Turn in its purest form.

As with the Speed Bump, I also thought the U-Turn would be a 2-5 season trial run as with all other TAR twists.

Teams will no longer be frozen as they have nothing to do except to talk s— about the team that yielded them and be left to draw devil horns on the yielder’s picture.

Toss that hourglass away. After a Detour is completed, a U-Turn board would appear twice during the race. If you U-Turn another team, they must backtrack and complete the other Detour task.

No longer could you choose the Detour option that plays to your strengths and be on your merry way. Instead some teams will dread the notion of completing BOTH Detour options. Much like the view of homosexuality at this time, it’s not a choice. You have to be prepared to explore your bisexuality in your Detour ventures.

It could only be used once just like the Yield, and teams would know who used it. I would say the U-Turn would be more severe in the early seasons because production didn’t exactly scale down both Detour options in these rounds.

Fast forward to present-day TAR and you will see both tasks be super easy when U-Turns appeared.

So for TAR 12, I’d say the U-Turn was much more cruel than the Yield.

f) Because it had the least amount of rounds, it was the shortest filming schedule ever. In fact it’s one of the shortest distances travelled ever (outside of TAR 8: Family Edition of course).

g) The second season to never touch the equator. In fact, TAR 8: Family Edition is close to reaching the equator than TAR 12. Granted TAR has travelled to nearly every safe country below the equator by this point, but it’s a shock to most viewers that it is the first ‘real’ season to not touch it.

h) The first time a city is ever repeated. Yes, countries have been re-visited as early as TAR 2, but never do they spend a full leg in the same city in separate seasons.

TAR 12 would play the role of being the first to break Hearts, leading to a future of cities being revisited for a full round.

Mumbai would be the first crowned with this honour. Sure, TAR Asia visited Kolkata, Kuala Lumpur, and even the same route markers that this version of TAR already visited, but it’s the first time a city is repeated for a full round in the same series.

There’s something about Mumbai that TAR was compelled to re-visit it after an eight-season break from it. A city with the population of LA but with 1/10th of its square area must have been the safest and best case of culture shock they could set up for the racers.

In fact, this will begin a three-season streak of visiting India. As if TAR 1, 4, 5, 7, and 10 weren’t enough, you’ll have to suffer through it for 12, 13, and 14 before you get another break.

i) A relatively unknown one that I didn’t know about until a reader named Ben told me, but this is the first season to bring in the rule of ‘you cannot hire a taxi to lead you to a route marker’.

After teams abused this in TAR All Star (particularly Charla & Mirna), producers decided to make teams test their mapping skills and interpreting verbal directions from locals as they could no longer safely tailgate a taxi to each route marker.

In addition, you couldn’t use the Fern strategy anymore (Fern named after the woman Oswald & Danny picked up in TAR 2 to guide them to route markers for the day). Rob & Amber abused their celebrity status to rely upon the Fern strategy to three straight first place finishes in TAR 11, and Charla & Mirna intimidated locals to accompany them as well.

I don’t know if TAR producers thought the race was boiling down to “Who Can Out-Fern the Other”, or if there was an incident where a Fern threatened to sue the show, but for whatever reason, production banned future Fernings in the franchise.

What was once a race staple, and probably factored into the money handed out to teams on each leg, was suddenly eliminated from TAR. I suspect teams received less money from production knowing that there wouldn’t be the possibility of a Fern expense.

Whether it be to make way for MORE budget cuts, or to refresh the TAR strategy and how it plays out on TV, this will be the new norm for the series.

j) Another big change. Another budget cut but also a long-time complaint of the series has been resolved.

Typical TAR format for all eleven seasons is that on the final leg teams would visit a US-controlled territory/Hawaii/Alaska and be caught in an equalizer before heading to the final destination city in the United States mainland where teams would do only a couple of tasks before heading to the finish line. Because of Eric & Danielle’s victory, fans were outraged that a couple of lousy tasks determined the outcome of the season.

So TAR solved this problem and saved their wallets simultaneously. How so?

Regardless if it’s Hawaii or Alaska, whatever is the first city or state they visit on leg 13 will be their final destination. So TAR 12 will conclude in Alaska–no longer does it serve as a waste of airtime and bridge in the TAR universe. Same thing will apply to Hawaii multiple times in future seasons.

But don’t fret. Teams will fly directly to the continental US for their final destination city. The season finale would suddenly become much more fair over the next eleven seasons much to the audience’s delight.

k) The final change. The two-season half-hearted experiment with Intersection was rendered extinct as well. Production wasn’t willing to immerse themselves in this twist, and realized that only going feet-deep in the twist made it suffer in terms of drama and gameplay on TV.

– I have supported my assertion that TAR 11-TAR 12 had the biggest, and what end up being the longest-lasting staples of the series.
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But there’s still more to observe regarding this season.

– There is a continued observation by fans that even-numbered seasons will always do worse than odd-numbered seasons.

If you look at my rankings, “4”, “6”, “8”, and “10” all fall below “1” “3” “5” “7” “9” and “11”.

But yet “2” is an exception for the most part. So I looked into this.

What do the even-numbered seasons after “2” have in common? They are Euro-centric seasons. They visit Europe and spend more time there than “2”. Furthermore, they spend way more time in Europe altogether more than the odd-numbered seasons.

And guess what? “12” is Euro-centric too.

For some reason Europe is either too easy for teams or isn’t a compelling location for viewers to watch. It’s cursed.

So how does “12” get the bye with being Euro-centric but still do well?

As with TAR 9-11, the former Soviet satellite states continue to be showcased in the TAR franchise. This season brought to us Lithuania and the late 90s war zone of Croatia. Ireland is showcased in the season premiere. I am surprised Ireland needed twelve seasons before TAR chose to visit it. For some reason these locations worked.

Let’s talk about Croatia for a minute. I can remember being genuinely surprised that Croatia was safe enough for TAR to enter. Why?

At the time of TAR 12, I was in Social Studies 11. We were studying the Yugoslavic wars of the 90s. You know, NATO’s bombings of Croatia-Bosnia-Serbia. The 3-way fights that also include Milosevic who would be reincarnated in the form of Dennis Hopper’s character in the first season of 24.

So to see Croatia on TAR when it was still a warzone during my childhood is the first time I saw a once-tumultuous area of the world be safe enough for a show like TAR to enter.

I should note TAR 12 spends 5 out of 11 rounds in Europe. Thankfully it’s not extreme percentage wise as TAR 6’s 7/13.

That is probably why TAR 6 sucked so badly. In fact TAR 6 and TAR 12’s route is like the Kendra Bentley Idea of World Travel.

kendra bentley map

My first TAR 12 screencap. Awe.

The taxi drivers south of the red line make less money in a year than Kendra makes in a day. Er, than Kendra’s husband makes in a day.

– You may be thinking that my bisexual comparison to the U-Turn was inappropriate and random. Actually it was intentional because the gay rights movement is in my notes for TAR 12.

Why?

I don’t know if you were around in the 2007-2008 school year in high school, but I remember it clearly as the school year where gay rights movement was supported and promoted in high schools across the country (Canada).

And either CBS wanted to cash in on the craze, or support it as well in its longtime ‘CBS Cares’ campaign, but TAR 12 cast a team that had zero chance of winning, and was promoted pre-season as a team ‘to watch out for’.

What was controversial about them? They looked like Gutsy Grannies 2.0 but with a 2007 twist. They were ministers. But not just innocent ministers too. Oh no. Gutsy Granny Ministers who are. . .
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Gay for each other! Female homosexual old gay ministers. The only thing they could do to take this one step further is if they were Little People or blind or deaf or have one leg.

Okay, I’ll stop. But seriously, this was a huge freakin’ deal for the race. The team raised eyebrows for a largely Conservative audience that dominates TAR’s viewership.

Need I remind you that TAR is the most popular show amongst American Conservatives?

LOLOLOLOLOL why the flippin FARK did they think this was a good idea?! Did NONE of the producers do their research?
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BAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Bertram should have written an apology for failing to research his own demographic and concede himself for such an act of stupidity.

lolololol.

So bring in gay ministers into the TAR equation and you bring in something that the audience will be talking about pre-season. Granted nowhere near as controversial as the song I posted above, but still was viewed as a bit scandalous by some. And very scandalous by few.

– As if bringing homosexuality and religion together wasn’t enough to push viewer’s buttons, how about pushing even more buttons off by having the starting line at the Playboy Mansion. From homosexuality to, just, well, sexuality, TAR suddenly had either a very Leftist or a very right-wing Libertarian view of presenting its program.

– Page eight already? Well, there’s likely not a whole lot more to discuss. I guess I should state that following TAR 11/All Star, TAR 12 acted as the Survivor: Vanuatu of the franchise.

The stars of the past are cleared out. Never mentioned again. Several format changes are made and make the series look a bit more bare-boned. New people. New stars. New format. New countries. New but few twists.

If TAR 1 to 11 was a complete collection of the series, TAR 12 would be like the bonus disc. It is like case 5 of the original Phoenix Wright game. It branches off from the preceding events and contests, and is merely something that can be presented in its own light but still be very good.

However, because TAR doesn’t end with TAR 12, it merely acts as the beginning of a new generation of TAR. Producers certainly weren’t expecting to go beyond season 12, and certainly didn’t expect they would be around to play out seven more seasons to reach a new all-star edition.

– Lastly, I should discuss the characters. Yes, they’re Californians. Yes, some of them even went to the same high school and university. And yes, some of them are old lesbian ministers.

But they are all likable and self-aware people.

In fact, the only unlikable team is dumped in the season premiere. The elimination was so well-received by viewers that it set up the reason why so many people watched TAR 12. This path would continue to where the boot order was virtually perfect. Not only in terms of likable teams but for making the storylines interesting. Plus the first five minutes has one of the funniest moments in TAR history. There was absolutely no reason for a viewer to turn away after the premiere.

When you reach the final leg you will be cheering for all three teams so much that you will have a tough time choosing who to root for and will support them all like a coach cheering for his players in the finals of a Tennis tournament or like they are your own children (unless they are a red-headed stepchild).

There is only one swap I’d make–the winners with the 6th place finisher. But really it’s tough to complain about the boot list.

– The final thing I wish to point out. You probably think that ratings decline for television programs no matter what once three or four seasons air on TV. Heck, I can’t think of a show that has increased their viewership after three seasons except for Seinfeld. And this was before the Internet where more and more people turn off their TV sets and instead choose to watch everything online

But somehow TAR 12 was the exception to this rule. In 2008, a couple years after YouTube was already established, when Facebook was surging with a kajillion members, TAR 12’s season premiere was the most watched episode of TAR since the franchise began in 2001. Seven freakin’ years later and twenty times more Internet usage and somehow TAR 12 was a time when everybody would flock to watch TAR 12. New fans tuned in, those tired with the show decided to come back after a break of several seasons, the addicts maintained their loyalty, and those disappointed with TAR: All Stars were hopeful for the most refreshing and most unique season to date. (Well, Family Edition is unique, but none of it was refreshing).

The stars were aligned. Casual fans, hardcore fans, new fans, and well, anybody who wasn’t a fan to begin with were watching TAR 12.

Well, this is already ten pages. I should probably end it here. If I forgot anything, I doubt it was important enough to mention.

P.S. Whodunnit’s season premiere is tonight at 9pm. If you are watching something different on TV at 9pm tonight, I will hunt you down. Thanks.

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One Response to The Amazing Race 12 introduction to the ranking

  1. I just re-watched S12 and bulletin i (not allowing a person or taxi to lead/guide to a route marker) definitely does not take effect this season. It’s the next season when teams start getting penalized.

    There were other big changes – less self-driving (2 or 3 episodes? only) and more younger teams (it becomes more & more harder to distinguish them) with less & less middle-aged/older folks. These weren’t problems this season, but would be big complaints of fans in the future seasons.

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