Wow. Even after 16 seasons, I am still amazed and grateful that The Amazing Race has finished another round-the-world adventure. I just can’t help but look back to TAR2, TAR3, and TAR4 when the series’ future was very much in doubt.
But seven-eight years later, the series continues to grow and buck the trend for long-running shows, not to mention a reality show. The show definitely has things it needs to work on moving forward, but you just can’t beat a Race around the world.
Season 16, though still very much enjoyable, was definitely a little lackluster and at times uninspired. There were memorable challenges like the World War II Detour in France, but most of the Detours and Road Blocks this season seemed very simple, many of them tasks that could have easily been completed in other cities around the world.
The funny thing is, despite the easy tasks, the teams still managed to find ways to screw up, which may say more about this season’s group of teams than the challenges themselves.
Cultural tasks and tasks that are inherent of their destination that leg, like the drums or ice cream selling in Singapore, or the whole cowboys and bandits theme in Argentina, are always best. The Amazing Race prides itself on being a travel show just as much as a reality show, so rappelling into a wine cellar or counting chain links at the dock are more generic especially compared to the other stuff they did get to do.
The changes to the Leg structure, like having two Road Blocks in a leg, are small but interesting twists that add different dynamics to the Race. It was such a shock to have the Road Block before the Detour for the first time in TAR4. The accidental creation of double/superlegs was another. Having two Road Blocks, though maybe a budget measure just as much as a freshening up move, is simple, yet throws teams and the viewers off guard. How about two Detours next season?
I prefer those kinds of tweaks than having to add things like the Yield or the U-Turn that causes drama that is more annoying than interesting.
Speaking of things TAR should work on, I didn’t notice it until this season, but for a while now we’ve had the Final Leg take place entirely in the End City, which is great. The early seasons had maybe one task in the End City at most, many times just random clues after already completing Detours and Road Blocks in the original port of entries of either Alaska or Hawaii.
One of the criticisms with the TAR16 finale was how it was a straightforward leg that was decided by Dan & Jordan’s move on the airplane, not allowing other teams to maybe catch up and pass them. But I actually think the leg provided many opportunities for things like that to happen. With the Coit Tower Road Block, look no further than TAR5’s penultimate leg in the Philippines where Linda & Karen had a pretty comfortable lead over Colin & Christie, until they came to the ascender. With physical tasks like that, teams can either fall behind or catch up easily. The virtual task was another interesting crapshoot with the spinning clue a nice curveball. Add to that the riddles instead of straightforward clues and the mercy of taxi drivers, by the time they got to the incredibly simple final task, there have been plenty of passing opportunities.
And that’s one of the big things in this season, bunching points and equalizers, or the lack thereof. In the past, everyone hated Hours of Operation, bunching points, plane and train equalizers. But this season, it seemed like they were gravely necessary. The France legs were especially horrible because if it weren’t for the U-Turn of Joe & Heidi, there wouldn’t have been any change in placements leg-to-leg. The Legs were designed as very straightforward with tasks that did not allow for teams to catch up. Legs like that actually made you appreciate those equalizers that many have hated for so long. The Race is leg to leg so maybe some better Leg design in the next seasons can avoid the forced bunching, but also allow for teams to catch up or fall behind based on their actions and task performances.
There’s also discussion about the use of taxis in the Final Leg. If taxis are a part of every other leg, what makes the Final Leg so different? I know Bert & Co. are hesitant at having teams drive themselves in the Final Leg for fear of reckless, fast driving in the heat of being this close to a million dollars. That’s a valid concern, there were times in this finale where Jet & Cord were running into San Francisco traffic.
Overall, this was an okay season. Phil mentioned at the start that this would be a “difficult” and “demanding” Race. It was far from it. I enjoyed it but wished it had a little more. The teams were less than exciting and the stunt casting is really not necessary. I definitely believe in Dan & Jordan as winners and that actually helps boost the season in my book.