With the end of the year quickly approaching, and a very unique year of The Amazing Race in the books, I felt obligated to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of what we witnessed in 2016.
For anyone who has paid any attention to my TAR blog over the past 5+ years, you know I don’t do any full length episode-by-episode rankings of a season until recency bias has passed (I am currently working on The Amazing Race Australia 1, which aired in 2011).
The unique nature of 2016 can be marked by one fact alone: Only one season of The Amazing Race was produced by the United States this year. If I recall correctly, a gap like this hasn’t occurred since the writer’s strike gave birth to The Amazing Race 13. Since then, a steady schedule of two seasons per year has occurred until 2016 ended that streak.
Oh, and remember The Amazing Race Asia? It took a cue from Gilmore Girls and returned from a six year hiatus. For anyone who was a fan of The Amazing Race Australia, this gave you hope that the same could happen to your beloved franchise in 2017 or 2018.
We also saw The Amazing Race Canada appear for its fourth summer in a row, but it did not provide as many newsworthy bulletins as TAR US and TAR Asia showcased this year.
There were, of course, many non-English seasons which were broadcast in the world this year, but I don’t speak Hebrew nor Mandarin, thus Hamerotz LaMillion 5, TAR Vietnam All Stars, and TAR China: Celebrity Edition 3 shall not be ranked for this end-of-year blog.
Let’s get to it. We had TAR US 28, TAR Canada 4, and TAR Asia 5. Of course, we will go from the bottom to the top.
It is time to present part one in this brief three part ranking project. These rankings may change years from now when I get to it in TARstorian. Therefore, take this ranking with a large grain of salt.
#3: THE AMAZING RACE 28: Social Media Stars
The Amazing Race 28 is a weird season. Reddit thinks highly of it while many other places on the Internet have it ranked up and down on the charts. There has never been a consensus regarding this season.
That doesn’t surprise me. Many things about TAR 28 deviate from the typical TAR formula prior to the start of the season.
a) THE PRE-SEASON HYPE
Social Media Stars! This is also known as Twenty-Two People Logan Saunders Had Never Heard of Before!
Producers have always talked about a season featuring celebrities. Tony Danza and Sarah Jessica Parker are names frequently thrown around. The Amazing Race is the one reality show which celebrities have not crapped on over the years.
Due to scheduling constraints, Social Media Stars is the closest production could get to booking such a season. An unprecedented road was taken as we saw unprecedented levels of promotion for such a season:
i) Super Bowl previews!
ii) TAR 27 finale preview!
iii) Grammy previews!
iv) Much like TAR 25 and TAR 27, a live :”starting line” stream which other websites proceeded to mock.
v) Contestants posting videos about their TAR experience before, during, and after the season aired.
vi) Selfies taken with fans along the race course, and this content airing in episodes.
The desperation to boost ratings was very obvious from the second this season was announced. Look at all of that promotional content. Some of the contestants had millions of followers, and boy oh boy did producers want to use this to their advantage.
When it comes to TAR Asia, this is a bit different because TAR Asia has -always- centered around media icons throughout Southeast Asia and Oceania.
This is different for TAR US because it never did this before. Therefore, it comes off as stooping to the lowest common denominator rather than it being a core of how the franchise acts and operates.
Remember, DO NOT BLAME the contestants for taking advantage of this opportunity. If I was a Social Media Star, I would be all over the chance to run The Amazing Race. If you are going to complain about this theme, write to production.
Not Cam and Darius Benson. Darius just wanted to write a rap about skillets on Instagram! He didn’t ask for this!
NOTE: Yes, Darius rapped about a skillet on Instagram. I am not even kidding. It’s awesome. By the way, I wonder how upset he is now that Vine shut down since TAR 28 ended?
Poor Darius. Stay strong, my chill friend! 😥
Rumour has it that production made sure the teams they cast for TAR 28 wanted to be on the race rather than trying to be famous.
Although if that is the case. . .the argument could be made “Then why the hell did it have to be Social Media Stars in the first place?” If you wanted people who would be a good fit for this season, then why need a theme with semi-known figures at all?
That leads us into another point of discussion about TAR 28.
b) IT IS -THEIR- SEASON; NOT OUR SEASON
I don’t think production anticipated how much of a negative reaction they would receive when Social Media Stars was announced. Yes, ratings were -steady-, but when you have some contestants bringing in millions of their fans, it makes you wonder how many fans you lost between TAR 1-27 in order for ratings to remain unchanged.
The online aspect of this season became vicious between the casual fan and the contestants.
“WE WANT REGULAR PEOPLE!”
“WELL, WE WERE PICKED BECAUSE WE ARE FANS! WE -ARE- REGULAR PEOPLE!”
“SOCIAL MEDIA STARS ARE THE SCUM OF THE EARTH! YOU’RE ALL A BUNCH OF ATTENTION WHORES!”
“IF WE ARE SUCH SCUM, THEN WHY ARE SOME OF US SO SUCCESSFUL AND SO RICH?”
I am not kidding. These are some of the arguments near verbatim.
Fans would initially tease the contestants and production for not using regular people. Then contestants would have to prove they are normal (rather than being cyborgs or something). And if their profession was brought into question, then the contestants had to prove they were not normal by promoting how much they were worth.
Let me say that not every contestant participated in this tussle with fans, but a few of them did at the beginning of the season. It was super awkward to watch unfold as a neutral commentator online.
It created this atmosphere of Fans vs. Them. I have never seen fans react with feeling this alienated because of a season airing on TV. Their show had been adopted by the social media realm, and the series that superfans had been begging to be apart of for so long was being stripped from them.
Yes, I know teams like Dana & Matt applied repeatedly in the past, but think about it.
What if there was a season called Teachers Edition? Or Auto Mechanic Edition? The other 99 percent would be pissed off due to the exclusiveness of the theme.
Since Social Media Stars aren’t exactly a big percentage of the population in the US, many teams were familiar with one another. Some had responded to each other on Twitter years before the season was even announced. A tight knit community meant that the season was truly out of the general audience’s hands. It was like watching a private family video. You felt awkward watching a glimpse into somebody else’s lives, and needed to find a way to rectify that as a viewer.
Of course, talking about the interaction between fans and the contestants could not be complete without the following. . .
c) LOGAN GETS PULLED INTO THE RING
I suppose I need to address the elephant in the room. The Amazing Race 28 is the only season where I, Logan, was brought up as a subject of controversy.
Because of how offensive the fans were to the contestants prior to the start of the season, and also because of my distinguished position within the online community, anything or anyone my name was remotely attached to was the subject of controversy.
As somebody who has talked about nearly every competitive reality show online for the past decade, I was stunned to see I was thrust into the fray.
I can understand where the contestants were coming from. Your sense of humour is usually one of the first things to go when you are constantly being criticized. TAR is their first televised journey, and they do not get a say in how the content is presented nor how the audience can react to it.
There is no ‘delete’ button for them to use when it comes to comments on various online pages.
One day I posted a few jokes as I normally do, then I went to work at a pharmacy for the day. I come home and see a HUGE fight between many fans and contestants, with me being the subject.
Obviously, I resolved the situation with everyone within the span of about 48 hours. I gave fans and contestants the opportunity to cool down. Again, I am a fairly chill guy and can resolve conflict well.
However, to this day one contestant still has me blocked and I still don’t even know why. I have met him personally, but didn’t bring up the incident. He hasn’t spoken to me since then.
Tyler Oakley, if you are reading this, my door is always open to discuss whatever grievance you have with me. I know we are both in our 20s, and I have a lot of friends in our age group who are still finding themselves. Hell, I haven’t even been able to remove the boulder off of my shoulder until about eighteen months ago. I know what it can be like for people in their 20s. Some take longer to remove that boulder longer than others.
If you don’t talk to me, then I don’t know why you are upset. I can only speculate, and even then I am still confused.
It has been nearly ten months since you blocked me, but hey, if you still need more time as you sort things out, then feel free to wait a bit longer. Your perception of me shall continue to remain a mystery in the meantime.
And to a lesser extent, the same invite goes out to Erin Robinson. I could just be making shit up, but I get the impression you weren’t too impressed with me either. Again, my door is always open.
d) THE BIZARRE STARTING LINE TWIST
Sorry Deputy Minister Patana, but the Nationwide Impromptu Electronic Starting Line will always be the strangest opening to a season of TAR.
I know it is because it is a social media season, but the tradition of having all of the teams size each other up at the starting line would be one of my favourite things as a contestant. Going through the lectures by production as the hotel as you eye everyone else, and try to see who the weak ones that will crumble while also taunting the strong duos is something I dream of doing one day.
Taking away all of that and replacing it with a “Say Hello to Fans at the First Clue Box Which Will Be Delayed Significantly Because All of You Will Get Lost” was a silly error in judgment.
e) THE SOLID SEASON PREMIERE AND SECOND EPISODE
Otherwise, the season premiere was great. The tasks were unique, and some hilarious moments happened at the cave due to Dr. Fowler. Even the second episode performed above the initial expectations. Things were looking up. And then. . .
f) CHAMONIX: THE WORST EPISODE OF ALL TIME? MAYBE?
Oh god. The Chamonix episode. Scenery porn everywhere! No chance for teams to overtake one another! Ultra linear tasks! No interaction with locals as you are stuck on a mountain! A final Roadblock challenge that makes for boring TV but is forced to be the most suspenseful part of the leg!
Do you know how production has been out of touch with fans over the years? Well, even though folks like myself and NANU put this episode in the Hall of Shame, this ended up being production’s nominee for the Emmys.
Surprise. It didn’t win.
Production: Please never design an episode like the Chamonix leg ever ever ever again. It was the fifth episode to air in 2016, and held up as the worst leg through TAR Canada 4 and TAR Asia 5.
g) MASS ALLIANCES EVERYWHERE AND A VERY PREDICTABLE BOOT ORDER!
When a cast is too familiar with one another, like in TAR 18 and the series low TAR 24, mass alliances is what you get.
I have always advocated that TAR is a social game. We have seen alliances since season one, and have even seen alliances make it to the end of a season together.
However, when the absolute strongest teams band together for the majority of the season to ensure everyone except Sheri & Cole are eliminated in a precise order everyone was expecting can be tiresome for the viewers.
Remember the episode before the Chamonix leg where it was EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER vs. JESSICA & BRITTANY? That was a tad bit excessive.
P.S. There was also the meta game of teams not wanting to U-Turn each other because of the fan rage they might incite online of the fellow contestant’s fan bases. Kurt & Brodie confirmed this as the reason why they and many teams refused to use the U-Turn this season.
h) SPEED BUMPS, U-TURNS, AND EXPRESS PASSES NEEDED A FORMAT CHANGE
TAR Canada has experimented with their own version of the Double Battle, and teams needing to complete a risky task to obtain an Express Pass. Sure, the Express Pass was once again irrelevant, but hey, at least it tested everybody’s risk-taking abilities.
TAR Asia experimented with the highly craved simultaneous U-Turn and Yield twist.
TAR US? Almost no format change. The Express Pass was randomly handed out to the winner of leg six, and must be used in one of the next three episodes. The Express Pass was wasted, and its presence did not impact the season whatsoever.
i) AT LEAST THERE WERE NEW COUNTRIES!
The Caucasus States and Colombia for one-third of the season? I dig it. There are still plenty of areas for TAR to visit, and luckily another cluster is checked off the list.
j) AN UNDERDOG VICTORY. . .ALMOST
Who knew the mass alliances would only struggle to eliminate Sheri & Cole? A teenager and his mom couldn’t be eliminated by four other teams who won every single leg this season except one.
They had the second-worst average ever of any team internationally to make it to a finale, and nearly won the whole freakin’ thing. Sheri & Cole’s potential underdog victory was the most interesting storyline heading into the finale of a season where Tyler & Korey and Dana & Matt’s day one alliance nearly occupied the top two slots of the race.
k) -SHE- WON?!
Michael and Ben thought Dana & Matt were winning due to the edit; I didn’t.
For the first time since TAR 3, an unconventional winner’s edit threw many people off of their game. Sure, the audience hated it, but I do love the casual fans getting trolled once in a while.
Dana’s growth while dealing with the online community was also fun to watch unfold. She started as somebody who got into fights with fans by being able to overcome the commentary and ultimately winning over the more sane online casual fans by the end of the season. It is one of the most intriguing meta-narratives to see play out during the year.
l) THE FINALE EXPERIENCE
I was at the TAR 28 finale party thanks to being smuggled in there.
Can you separate the character on TV from the person in real life? If not, you should try it sometime. The TAR 28 finale party was the unofficial blessing I got from the TAR alumni to keep doing what I’m doing, and to continue being a role model for all of those out there who provide ridiculous and over-the-top reality TV commentary.
m) IT MISSED THAT KICK
TAR 28 isn’t bad television like TAR 6, 14, or 24. However, it is not a top tier season either.
It lies somewhere in the lower mid-tier mainly due to a failed concept, and not having that defining kick to make it stand out on its own. I predict the season will become forgettable very quickly. The Indonesian Face Cream jokes can only be memorable for so long.
n) ONE SELF-DRIVE LEG
I mean. . .it was better than zero self-drive legs in TAR 27. But c’mon, production could have found one car company willing to sponsour them. Ford may be out of the picture, but they should have put more effort into enticing Jeep being involved beyond the Dubai leg.
The Dubai round was perhaps the best round of the season, and it was because of the self-drive drama. When the episode aired, we were told there was specific unaired drama between the teams while driving. Teams being forced to work in a stressful environment is what TAR is all about.
P.S. Thanks Bergen & Kurt. Well, we assume this is why self-drive legs have been nearly extinct from TAR US.
Now for an insanely brief ranking of the teams and legs this season.
Quick Ranking of the Legs
12) Chamonix, France -> Ten feet away in Chamonix, France
A leg so awful I spent a few paragraphs earlier talking about how terrible it was.
11) Cartagena, Colombia -> Chamonix, France
Everybody vs. A Team Everyone Was Expecting To Go Home Early Anyway. What fun is that? And where is Switzerland? Nah, just playin’.
And what the fuck was that yeti?
10) Chamonix, France -> Garni, Armenia
A new country with lousy production decisions. That car mechanic Roadblock featured bad logistics.
9) Cartagena, Colombia -> Cartagena, Colombia
An unused U-Turn that could have changed the game.
Also, Cam & Darius’ elimination made me sad. So sad. Why oh why couldn’t Darius find Julianna?
8) Shenzhen, China -> Santa Barbara, California, USA
I can’t blame producers: The final episode receives about 35 minutes of airtime until you have your farewell scenes at the finish line.
The memory challenge could have been better.
7) Garni, Armenia -> T’Blisi, Georgia
It would have been higher, but Phil’s Midnight Train to Georgia joke was lame.
Scott & Blair’s infamous backpack choke and also teams making their fingers bleed was entertaining.
Although anything involving puke or blood on TAR is fun for me to see. . .wait, that came out wrong.
6) Mexico City, Mexico -> Cartagena, Colombia
Teams have to book the right flight?! What decade is this?! This was the true gem of the leg.
5) Their House -> Mexico City, Mexico
We were expecting much worse. Much much much worse.
4) Dubai, UAE -> Denpasar, Indonesia
Neat tasks and a neat location.
3) Denpasar, Indonesia -> Denpesar, Indonesia
Two words: Face cream. Also, goodbye Kurt & Brodie. A bit too linear, though. It really only is this high because Face Cream has become a prime running joke in The Amazing Race universe.
2) T’Blisi, Georgia -> Dubai, UAE
Nearly everyone crumbles. Kurt & Brodie use an Express Pass, Dana & Matt’s insane meltdown on the road, Sheri & Cole realize TAR 27 is more suited for them, and a NEL keeps in the remaining underdog of the cast.
The camel racing was a neat task.
Lastly, extra points for more jokes coming at Mika’s expense nearly a decade later.
1) Denpasar, Indonesia -> Shenzen, China
They see me rollin’. . .they hatin’. . .on those slippery Segway vehicles. Justin from TAR 27 and I happened to see one of those in LA on the day of the TAR 28 finale when we went out for lunch.
After months of Burnie & Ashley unintentionally mocking Sheri & Cole’s performance throughout the race and being certain of punching their ticket to the Final Three, they are in for a huge surprise.
Quick Ranking of the Teams
11) Erin & Joslyn
Snap. Snap. Slay. . .and then their airtime was gone. I hear a different Erin Robinson won a reality show recently.
10) Zach & Rachel
Good people. Reality TV characters, though? I don’t think they are meant for it.
9) Marty & Hagan
Marty amused me. I correctly assessed she would be out first, but she did entertain in her two episode cameo. I wonder if she is a long distance runner now?
8) Brittany & Jessica
They took their elimination surprisingly well. I don’t think they were designed for something like The Amazing Race, but they took their role as the All Around Weaker Team like champs by the end of their run.
As I have said before, half of the TAR experience is being able to be chill and let go of how you will be edited once you get home. It was neat to see them learn from this over the course of four weeks.
Perhaps Jessica’s newest “product” is what everyone needs that takes their TV character too seriously. 🙂
7) Tyler & Korey
I know producers wanted to show Tyler Oakley whenever they could, but I think others were underedited. It’s not Tyler & Korey’s fault, but producers should have known better than to pander.
6) Cam & Darius
I am the only person who will rank Cam & Darius this high. It’s my ranking, aight?
They were a unique duo, and think if Darius was a bit more assertive that they could have been fun characters.
5) Scott & Blair
Dr. Fowler being the bumbling dad was hilarious. Blair as a cartoon character was also entertaining. Loses points for Blodie, though.
4) Kurt & Brodie
Many will hate Kurt & Brodie aren’t ranked at the bottom, but think about how this season would have been edited otherwise.
Nearly every storyline from the beginning is about Kurt & Brodie. Yes, we didn’t need the awful Blodie storyline, but the other pieces to the season could have been missing entirely.
Plus their U-Turn was delicious.
3) Burnie & Ashley
2) Dana & Matt
Dana holding a chicken and talking to it is enough to boost her and Matt to #2 in this ranking.
Matt might also be the quietest winner I have ever seen. He also reminds me of the guy from the music video from Pretty Fly for a White Guy more than any other racer ever.
“He asked for Ice Cube but instead he got Phil Keoghan.”
1) Sheri & Cole
They have been runner-ups on the race, but they are number one in my books! Ohohohoho.
Well, that’s it for me tonight. Part two should be released tomorrow night.Hopefully.
Happy holidays to all of my readers! And yes, TAR Australia’s TARstorian ranking is still in progress. Be patient.
P.S. This is the most negative blog of the three seasons. Remember to not take anything too seriously since this is a post about a fucking television show.
Just chill. . .til the next episode.