My Ox is Broken!

September 23, 2004

With Tuesday's season finale and race to the finish line, The Amazing Race demonstrated why it is the best reality show currently on television and clearly deserved to win its Emmy award for "Best reality program."

While Donald Trump may feel that his higher rated program deserves the Emmy Award, TAR is simply a better program than The Apprentice. Two components of the Race's structure make it much more engaging and compelling compelling television than its lesser competitors (e.g. The Apprentice and Survivor): the race itself and the group dynamics.

The Race has a short learning curve. Because it is a race, rather than some arbitrary competition decided by the whim of a billionaire or the votes of other players, the race simply makes sense. The first team to beat the others to the destination wins the race. Host Phil Keoghan succinctly explains the unique elements of the rules (Roadblocks, Detours, Fast Forwards, Yields and Philimination) each time those elements appear.

The producers send the teams to spectacular locations all around the world, and the visuals are stunning. If TAR was filmed in HDTV, it would be even more impressive (for both people who have HDTV sets.) Speaking of technical details, the camera and sound people do an amazing job at following the teams around, sleeping at odd times. I'd love to know more about logistics of the race.

The competitors have to interact with real people from all different cultures, many of whom don't speak English and often the difference between winning and losing is based not just on who performs the stunts, but who has better navigation skills, who books the best flights, or who ends up in a local jail.

TAR is a competition of teams while the two Burnett shows are competitions of individuals. The teams have a pre-existing relationship and will have to spend time with each other after the race ends. Not only can tension and conflict (which create drama) occur between the teams, but within the teams.

Not only does the structure of teams help the race as television, but the dyad dynamic helps provide exposition. Because the teams need to discuss their strategies with each other, that strategizing is captured on tape for the benefit of viewers.

Let's hope that TAR 6, which will debut sometime during the fall on CBS, is as interesting.

This 5th installment of TAR was the first that I watched, and I would like to see the earlier editions on DVD. Unfortunately, there are no such discs for sale.

Get more TAR blogging at A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago, from Prof. Yin, and message board madness at Television Without Pity.

Posted by Andrew Raff at September 23, 2004 05:58 PM
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