There have been a lot of reactions since it was first announced that TV5 would finally be bringing The Amazing Race to the Philippines.
For some, it was a frightening announcement. The idea of a locally produced TAR made a lot of people cringe, what with mixed experiences from the other locally produced franchised reality formats like Survivor Philippines and the bastardizedPinoy Big Brother.
There were some who were upset that it’d be undertaken by the upstart #3 network, TV5 instead of, say, the self-professed media titan ABS-CBN. Then there was absolute horror that *gasp* TARPh wouldn’t even leave the country. There were cynical reactions to rumors of celebrity contestants. And then bewilderment at a daily, five episode… actually, six episode a week schedule.
But now that the first season of The Amazing Race Philippines is over and the first winners crowned, it’s safe to say that not only did it exceed expectations, it did well enough to be able to stand with other international versions of the Emmy winning franchise with its head held high.
High and Low Expectations
For anyone familiar with Filipino television, it’s no secret the kinds of production limitations any of the local networks have. You aren’t going to see comparable productions from (forget the United States) with those of neighboring Asian countries like Korea or Japan which the Philippines loves to import.
So there were definitely tempered expectations of TARPh. As long as it wasn’t embarrassing, then it’s all good.
But still, for The Amazing Race, long considered one of, if not the, premiere reality-competition program in the world, you really couldn’t mess this up. Which is why many people would’ve rather not had any network attempt a local TAR.
But TARPh exceeded those low expectations as well as matched the high expectations one would expect from any version of The Amazing Race.
Derek Ramsay hinted then confirmed before production started that TARPh1 would travel only amongst the 7,107 islands of the archipelago.
While that definitely horrified some, it turned out pretty well. Personally, the fact that some of the more memorable (and not so memorable) tasks from other TAR versions could be staged in the Philippines is pretty impressive.
Having a TAR franchise Race only within its own borders isn’t a bad thing. And the Philippines certainly isn’t the first. And TARPh was definitely the best opportunity to show off the country. With such diverse cultures and landscapes, the Philippines provided a great Race course.
Originally I thought, okay, just for season 1 with out of the country Legs a sure thing for season 2. But now, I think a TARPh2 staying in the Philippines again would still be okay.
Many were weary of the pseudo-celeb teams at first, but the cast turned out to be one of the better groups we’ve seen on any TAR in recent memory.
While I’m personally meh on the Final 3, the cast overall delivered some amazing television. And by that I mean drama. Drama that only Filipinos could do. There were some hilariously awesome meltdowns, some usual catty Filipino behavior, but also a great sense of fun that only Filipinos have when doing anything and everything.
SIX Days a Week!?
It was originally unthinkable that any Amazing Race would work with a daily format. It might have been okay with Survivor, but part of TAR’s excitement is that a whole Leg is contained within an hour or two every week.
But the six episodes a week format ended up not being all that bad. It might have finished the show quicker than most (Only 7 weeks!), but they managed to pack in enough tasks and team drama to be able to make each episode worthwhile.
There were some duds, but overall, it was a different, but still exciting way to watch an Amazing Race season. With this schedule though, I thought the Legs would be completely different from a regular once-a-week TAR, but…
….TARPh’s Legs ended up being exactly the same.
There weren’t many extra tasks, despite Derek saying so at the Starting Line. So most Legs had 3 episodes each which would amount to a 90-minute episode of a TARUS or TARAu.
But since Filipinos have sadly been trained to only watch things 5 days a week and for TV5 to maximize returns on the expensive series, the daily format was not a bad decision.
Now as for Leg design, you just can’t get away from the linear Legs I guess. That might’ve been part of the reason for some of Marc & Kat’s Leg wins. Also, the unique situation of having to fly back to Manila, twice, just to get to another destination was interesting.
Overall, for Legs, nothing special. Nothing more, nothing less from typical TAR Legs.
Derek Ramsay was pretty much the obvious choice to host the show. TV5’s other in-house candidates were already tied up. Paolo Bediones, former host of Survivor Philippines on GMA, was busy with TV5’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition as well as anchoring the network’s primetime newscast.
Ryan Agoncillo, who would’ve seen a familiar face on TAR in LJ Moreno having hosted ABS-CBN’s Pinoy Fear Factor, was busy with the breakless Talentadong Pinoy.
The only other names mentioned was a strange non-announcement from TV5 that Amazing Race Asia alums and experienced hosts Marc Nelson and Rovilson Fernandez would BOTH host the show, together.
But even before ABS-CBN and their fans shunned him for his transfer, TV5 was intent on getting Derek Ramsay to be their Phil Keoghan (or Allan Wu).
Overall, Derek did fine. But I think his hosting was affected too much by lack of script. Allan Wu of TARA and Grant Bowler of TARAu both used Phil Keoghan’s TARUS spiels. Any TAR fan is used to hearing “So and So, you are team #2!” at the Mat. But we didn’t get that on TARPh. The lack of uniformity and sometimes, strangely, Derek’s lack of energy, made the check-ins at the Mat a little awkward.
Even if they did have written scripts for Derek, it appeared he was going off the cuff which made the show almost seem a little unprepared.
But again, Derek was fine. And really the only choice to host.
It would’ve been nice to watch the show in HD. It also would’ve been nice not to watch the show via blurry uploads to YouTube and sketchy ad-filled Filipino blogs.
But it was nice to see the show was indeed filmed in HD (as shown by the production screencaps posted to TARPh’s Facebook). It sucks that it had to be downconverted before even editing to place all the bugs and Twitter hashtags onscreen.
Now the sound though, eek. There were times when it sounded like Derek had recorded his voiceovers over the phone. It was so jarring.
But production overall was good and up to par with at the very least TARA (the punching bag for iffy production values). TV5 definitely spared no expense and it was definitely solid, production-wise.
I expected Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific-sponsored trips as Leg prizes, not 10% of the grand prize. Seeing Marc & Kat accumulate almost as much as the P2 million prize took all the fun out of competition.
Maybe TARPh could’ve taken some of that American Tourister money and used it to make two more sets of wooden statues for that final Road Block. There’s really no reason to give that big a prize for Legs.
So overall overall, The Amazing Race Philippines was solid. TV5 did a great job sticking to the format and not inserting some crazy, eyeroll-enducing Filipino-only twists.
The cast surprisingly delivered, the tasks and challenges were on par with TAR’s other international versions.
I’d have to say The Amazing Race Philippines defied the odds and ended up being an exciting, fun ride.
My Subjective FINAL Team Rankings
Pamela & Vanessa – Hilarious. They were definitely a fun team to watch even though they might not have been all that great as Racers. They definitely enjoyed a lot of luck, or an “angel” as Derek said. But it was fun while it lasted and I’m sure TV5 is prep raring “The Real Housewives of Alabang” right now.
Dani & Mish – They were some iffy moments, but for the most part, Dani & Mish were an amazing team to watch. Both highly competitive with a drive to Race well. But Dani’s volatile personality was definitely the draw. Her outbursts and meltdowns were hilarious to watch. But it was also good to see they were also capable of Racing well. It sucks the other teams unfairly targeted them for purely superficial reasons.
Sheena & Gee – They started out okay, but definitely kicked it up a notch as the Race went on. When Dani & Mish got knocked out of the Race, Sheena & Gee took over the alpha females. They Raced well, were competitive, feisty and determined. They didn’t care about other teams even when other teams put a lot of effort into them. And when there were only a few teams left, they ended up being the final hope.
Anton & Armand – It actually would’ve been fun to have seen them Race longer and maybe take it all. They seemed to be laid back, nice guys who are definitely athletic who could’ve done very well in the Race. Which just makes Anton’s HUGE mistake that much more disappointing. I guess they’ll get their chance for redemption on The Amazing Race Philippines: Unfinished Business.
Ed & Angel – Parent-child teams are great to watch on TAR. And Ed & Angel, most times, were a determined and feisty team. But there were also unfortunate moments when they’d be so down and ready to give up, not just on their last Legs but even in the beginning of the Race. I would’ve liked to have seen them work it out and take it all the way.
Saida & Jervi – They were definitely a strong team in the beginning in addition to being fun to watch. But that all tapered off halfway through the Race. While they were still the better of the teams that were left at the time, instead of stepping up their game they began to lose a lot of steam, which was unfortunate.
Mykey & Crystel – Despite basically almost getting taken to the hospital, Mykey & Crystel would’ve survived another Leg had it not been for their horrible taxi. I would’ve rather had them in the Race and most of the teams that made it past the halfway mark, that’s for sure.
LJ & CJ – They were boring then used forced drama to make themselves look good. I couldn’t care less that they won… or if they had lost really. They were the least offensive and annoying team of the Final 3, but that’s merely consolation. Two “Meh” TAR winners in one week. And thanks LJ and CJ for now not making me care if a TAR fan wins the show.
Marc & Kat – They were cast as and started out as the alpha team and they ran the Race like they were the alpha team. Not only did it get tiring seeing them accumulate more than half… HALF! the grand prize, but it made the latter half of the season almost boring. They definitely benefited from some bad Leg design, but it takes the fun out of competition when one team is dominating the whole way. Can’t even enjoy their dysfunction since they end up winning Legs anyway.
Fausto & Dayal – They started out being cocky and delusional, which was actually great to laugh at. But they soon took that overconfidence and turned it into license to be obnoxious and annoying. Dayal’s meltdowns were fun to watch at times, but then you start to think, Maybe he’s just playing up to the camera. That definitely takes the fun out of it. Dayal’s shit stirring and drama queen attitude definitely got old quick.
Boom & Cheng – They started out as a funny and charming team, but quickly became rude, obnoxious and inappropriate jerks. It became pretty clear they were trying to position themselves as the next Jose & Wally, but instead made themselves look like asses. First to the local Pit Stop greeters, then grossly stealing kisses from every woman they saw. And their oddly misogynistic Yield and U-Turn decisions. Them being in the Final 3 would’ve been the absolute worst.