|The Amazing Race 17 Wrap-Up
Season 17 of The Amazing Race ended with history being made. Nat & Kat are officially the first all-female team to win the original, American Amazing Race. 17 seasons, almost 10 years and finally an all-female team crosses the Finish Line first.
This is definitely a big deal, after many less than stellar, maybe undeserving, or worse unlikeable winners, we get a team that fully deserves the win. A great ending to one of the better post-All-Stars seasons. Having Nat & Kat and Brook & Claire as Teams 1 and 2 couldn’t have been a better way to cap off the season. Two teams who have not only done well, but dominated the Race. Two teams who didn’t just fall onto the Mat at the Finish Line, but worked their butts off the entire Race to get there.
Actually, Nat & Kat and Brook & Claire finishing so strongly could be enough to push TAR17 over TAR12, arguably the best post-All-Star season that was ultimately marred by the eventual winners.
The season as a whole was enjoyable. Despite others out there saying this was a lackluster season, on the contrary, I think TAR17 started off very strongly and was able to maintain a brisk pace through the entire Race. A surprisingly good mix of teams with some new locations and even marginally inspired tasks helped make TAR17 feel a little fresher than the last couple of seasons.
Two new twists to the Race were introduced this season. The first was the Express Pass. Phil hyped the Express Pass the entire Race as a huge, game-changing power. But it really is just a Fast Forward only not. I don’t see the drama they hoped the Express Pass would add, nor the game-changing… no, game-shattering consequences of it being used. Jill & Thomas used the Express Pass and it didn’t really make a difference. It saved them from Elimination, but so could a Yield or even more so a U-Turn, and both of those help contribute to the drama.
Since TAR has basically devalued the once powerful Fast Forward (I still resent them doing that), they needed another un-harmful jump to the front power? I don’t know. Does TAR really need an incentive to get first on the first leg? I guess the Express Pass helps save money since it takes the place of a trip from Travelocity or the previous first leg prizes of $20,000 or cars.
So I could take or leave the Express Pass. It did not add a single thing to the Race, enjoyment-wise. Sure it was great for Jill & Thomas, but not all that great for entertainment purposes.
The second new twist was the Double U-Turn. It has been very fascinating how they’ve been able to take a twist (the U-Turn) and twist it some more. After the Blind U-Turn, this Double U-Turn is actually very interesting and I think a good twist.
While the full extent of the Double U-Turn has not been explained, it can be a great source of drama. Brook & Claire became the first U-Turned team not to be eliminated that same leg, but only because another team was U-Turned after them. That can certainly bring some good drama and tension.
My question is, can the first U-Turned team U-Turn another team to ultimately help save themselves? That would be an interesting thing to find out by having the Double U-Turn show up earlier in the Race. We’ll see if that happens next season.
Back to Basics
The season had some great and memorable tasks.
Of course, the season’s first Road Block was a literal smash. One thing to fully commend TAR and the CBS promo department was releasing the video of Claire’s watermelon smash. It was a certified viral hit. People who didn’t watch The Amazing Race were spreading the video and linking to it, tweeting it and posting it on Facebook. I was surprised to see several of my Facebook friends, whom I know could care less about TAR, actually post the video and enjoy it.
Creating that eventual viral video was a genius move and it definitely brought some new eyeballs to the show.
One complaint I’ve had the last few seasons has been the lack of cultural and location-specific Detours and Road Blocks. Increasingly in the last few seasons, we’ve gotten uninspired, generic tasks that could be done in California or the French countryside, New York or the streets of Vietnam. Doing that totally defeats the purpose of traveling around the world. Even TAR’s Family Edition had better cultural and location-specific tasks than we’ve had in recent seasons.
Having cultural and location-specific tasks also allow for teams to interact directly with the locals. Again, one of the selling points for the show, having Americans interacting with a variety of cultures around the world.
So it was good to see that change in TAR17. From selling in the streets of Ghana and sitting with Ghanaian school children to mushing sled dogs and setting up traditional dwellings for the Sami in Sweden. Playing a traditional Russian game to experiencing daily life in Oman. There were plenty of great tasks that opened our eyes but were also fun to watch.
The route was good as well. Having teams go from the heat of Ghana to the cold of Europe and Russia and back to the oven in Oman.
The episodes were also a step up, with some better editing and mostly exciting and enjoyable weeks. The best episode of the season I think has to be Episode 11 in Korea that had drama, thrills, comedy, and competition as well as interesting locations. The premiere was one of the best in recent memory while the only lackluster episodes were Episodes 8 and maybe 9 for having legs that were too linear that didn’t provide much excitement by way of competition.
Need for Inspiration
The finale, meanwhile, was saved by the ultimate winners. It was sad finding out the Finish Line would be in Los Angeles. TAR needs to ban Los Angeles from being a Starting Line or a Finish Line for at least four seasons. There are so many other cities in the United States… MANY other cities that going back to LA is just boring and contributes to the feeling of being uninspired.
That might be the biggest reason the Emmys decided to go with Top Chef this year instead of keeping TAR’s Emmy streak alive. Maybe the Emmy voters are sensing the Race becoming too complacent and bland. Nothing fresh or new to offer, adhering to an almost paint by numbers format.
TAR17 was filmed before the Emmy ceremony, so TAR and Bert & Co.’s response to the Emmy loss should (hopefully!) be seen next season on TAR18. But TAR17, even without the knowledge of the impending Emmy loss, was a step up for TAR and a good sign that maybe even Bert & Co. know they need to spice things up.
A good start is finally transitioning the show to High Definition. It has been a long time coming and hopefully the HD era of TAR also brings a rejuvenated attitude to the show. A new era that revitalizes TAR, even though it has held up incredibly well going into its 10th year on the air.
So all in all, TAR17 was enjoyable and definitely the best season since TAR12. That puts even more pressure on TAR18 to deliver. And my worries about TAR18 can (and will) fill up a separate post later this week.
But as for TAR17, it was a good season, but it will be best remembered for making history. Good history. And that’s not a bad way to be remembered.