Blind. Bertram and Co. must have been blindfolded when they stuck a bunch of strange ideas onto a wall and threw a dart to see which gimmick they’d use for Season 26 of The Amazing Race.
All-couple, blind dating season it is!
I’ll just say it right off the bat. The Blind Date twist/gimmick seemed like a bad idea from the start and now that the season is over and done with, it still is a bad idea.
It added almost nothing of value to the show. It didn’t add any new viewers. It didn’t make things more exciting. The only positive of the twist is that it introduced us to Hayley. But that could’ve easily been accomplished by forcing her to find a partner and throw her onto a regular season. (It’s not like TAR hasn’t cast that way before.)
But let’s backtrack first. All the way to TAR25.
The milestone 25th season is the best TAR season since TAR17. It’s no secret that TAR has been at its weakest these last few years and going all the way back to TAR12 even, the last truly amazing season. Season 17 was the closest TAR has come to regaining some of the magic that made the series such a success in the first place.
After the disaster that was “All-Stars” 2 or TAR24, anything would’ve likely looked better. Even some dumb blind date twist. But TAR25 took things a step further. For some reason, Betram and Co. went back to basics for TAR25. They touched on the basic elements that make for a good TAR season: great casting, great tasks, great locations and great competition. No need for twists or gimmicks. (The Save was a non-factor.) TAR25 was just a pure, no frills, enjoyable season with good winners.
But with the move to Friday and the ratings catching up with the declining quality over the last few years, apparently CBS and Betram and Co. were looking for ways to bump up the ratings.
Why they thought recycling NBC’s failed Jenny McCarthy-hosted Love in the Wild was the answer to gain new or win back old viewers, who knows.
The love aspect was so heavy-handed the entire season. Much of it so forced and contrived. Especially with Phil needing to ask every team about falling in love every chance he got. Even at the Finish Line!
The idea of strangers Racing together may or not be a good idea. (Leaning towards not a good idea.) But shoving an all-couple edition of the Race while pursuing some sleazy blind dating/Bachelor-type gimmick really made the whole concept of strangers feel used and stale instead of fresh.
And it didn’t help ratings one bit. You might want to credit the gimmick with keeping TAR above a 1.0 live rating. But that can be credited as much to TAR’s loyal, core audience.
And despite what some people will tell you, the facts are these [/Pushing Daisies]:
TAR is *not* cheap to produce. The logistics and travel and worldwide crew cost about as much as the normal scripted drama. You want an inexpensive reality show? Undercover Boss is inexpensive. Big Brother is inexpensive. Any other studio-based show is inexpensive. Not TAR. If TAR were to slash its budget any more than they already have, we’d have the opening Leg in the Starting Line city or TARAu3-style 10 short Legs with less teams.
And for a non-cheap show to produce, even in this age of DVRs and Hulu and CBS All-Access and iTunes and less people watching TV, a same-day rating of below 1.0 in the demo on any broadcast network that isn’t the CW is still not good. No amount of awards of recognition or critical acclaim (which TAR struggles to hold on to in recent years) can save such a low-rated and poorly watched show.
Now TAR is definitely returning for season 27 in the Fall, but there is no question TAR is teetering on the cliff. And whose fault is that? Just point to whoever was responsible for the less-than-amazing seasons we’ve got over the last few years. It’s no surprise even the most dedicated fans have lost interest in TAR.
Who knows what TAR has in store for season 27. It’s great to stay positive, but the reality is TARs in Canada and Israel will likely live longer than the trailblazing original mothership.
Back to this season specifically.
But what can you say about a season that draws ideas from The Bachelor and thinks #selfies are things you want to see on a travel/reality-competition show?
It was nice to see Fitbit sponsoring the show. And again, product placement and sponsors are one of the reasons TAR is still breathing.
So then why with these dumb selfies did TAR not find a sponsor for the phones they would use on the show? They used Microsoft Lumias, but didn’t get Microsoft to sponsor? Could they really not find any company to sponsor the devices they would use on the show or did they not even attempt to find one? Mind-boggling.
At least Travelocity and Ford haven’t given up on the show.
Phil popping up during the Legs was actually a little better this season. But still not including team placements at the Mat is annoying.
Couples, dating couples specifically, usually blend in together on the Race. There are usually a few on each season. And on TAR26, we had 11. So it was unavoidable that you pretty much couldn’t tell most of the dating couples apart in the first half of the Race. That’s definitely not a good thing.
One of the reasons a TAR cast may be great is that it will have a diverse mix of characters and team dynamics. An added bonus is if there is great competition. By having all couples, TAR26 eliminated one of the biggest things that makes the Race fun to watch. Seeing people of different backgrounds and relationships competing with each other is much more interesting than seeing the same, young dating couple at every turn.
The only big personalities to have come from this season are Hayley and, to a lesser degree, Jenny. Both feisty women who are accomplished in their careers (a nurse and a lawyer) who may be too naggy for some to take. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not like TAR hasn’t pulled from Survivor or Big Brother’s casting pool and forced an applicant to find themselves a partner to Race with. So if they liked Hayley and Jenny so much, they could’ve easily asked them to find a partner. No need for this Blind Date gimmick. Because it certainly didn’t produce any other memorable team.
Why yes. This season isn’t all bad. And as you’ll see below, it’ll rank in the middling seasons of TAR. In other words, it fits in perfectly with any non-TAR17 or TAR25 post-TARAS season. Not garbage like TAR24, but not amazing either.
Still, the fact that no one team dominated and several teams won Legs is a testament to improved Leg design. The only Linear Legs this season really were the two Namibia Legs and the penultimate Leg in Peru. In Peru, the Leg was a Non-Elimination anyway.
It was good to see the Detour return in the First Leg. But really, it was just so TAR could have a BLIND Double U-Turn. (Get it? BLIND!)
The tasks were all pretty standard TAR most of the season. Tasks like the New World Order dance, the ladyboys in Phuket, the Oktoberfest Detour, and the Peru 1 Road Block and Detour were good tasks. And the multi-part Detour in Bangkok was creative.
But even with typical TAR tasks, it can still work if the Leg design is okay. And for the most part, it was this season.
Overall, TAR26 is at the bottom of my 2nd tier of seasons. Dragged even further down by the unnecessary gimmick.
Maybe after TAR24, this season would’ve looked great. But especially after TAR25, it was back to more of the same TAR that’s caused its steep decline.
I’m certainly holding out hope that TAR27 will be much better. Even more for the sake of the show’s future.
My FINAL Subjective Team Rankings
If I could split the teams and rank by person, I would. But for this final ranking, I won’t.
Either way, Blair & Hayley are my favorite team from this season. Really the only good thing to have come from the dumb twist. Their “relationship” during the Race was amazing and fun to watch. If all the other couples were as interesting and hilariously fun as them, then we’d have a completely different season. Hayley’s “You never listen to me” was a fascinating narrative to follow. As was their evolving relationship from mutual annoyance to mutual understanding. While it did seem like they wanted to strangle each other at times, it was evident towards the end of the Race that they grew accustomed to each other and were able to adapt to each other well. They could’ve easily won the million had it not been for Hayley’s mistake. And as much as I don’t like the twist, I would not mind Hayley & Blair return on TAR: Redemption.
Jelani & Jenny were my pre-Race favorites and I was excited to see them dominate the first 2 Legs. I was happy to see them start bickering too to show that they weren’t invincible. But they definitely got less fun as they settled into cruise control and kinda lost their way. The fire that was there in the beginning was gone by the end of the Race. I definitely love Jenny though. But as a team, they wasted some great potential.
And now we get to the other teams who are so interchangeable.
These rankings basically hold up from the first episode. CJ & Libby and Jeff & Lyda could’ve been interesting teams to watch moving forward. CJ & Libby seemed much more fun and outgoing than most other couples while Jeff & Lyda could’ve been the “older” team to counter all the young teams.
I definitely felt for Bergen. Not because he didn’t find love, but because of getting eliminated thanks to Kurt‘s lack of drive and determination in that final Leg. There was a danger of TAR overplaying Harley & Jonathan and the NKOTB stuff, but thankfully they didn’t. Instead, they were just another bland couple.
I like Mike & Rochelle and they showed flashes of excellent Racing. But overall, they didn’t step it up when they needed to.
Now the couples who were the most interchangeable. Matt & Ashley had some interestingly fun quick meltdowns, but not enough to really leave a lasting impression. Aly & Steve were absolutely boring most of the Race until their meltdown in Namibia when we saw some interesting dynamics that were absent previous and could’ve been great to watch if we saw more. Jeff & Jackie were just a typical couple you’d see on any other TAR season. And finally Tyler & Laura, the cocky, overconfident jock and head cheerleader who love selfies and you just can’t bring yourself to root for.
15. TAR18: UB
(regardless of winner)
18. TAR11: AS
|GROUP of TEAMS
5. TAR11: AS
|MY ALL-TIME TEAMS
1. Ronald & Christina (TAR12/18)
1. Teri & Ian (TAR3/AS)
1. Charla & Mirna (TAR5/AS)
4. Kris & Jon (TAR6)
4. Kelly & Jon (TAR4)
6. Linda & Karen (TAR5)
6. Ken & Gerard (TAR3)
6. Brendon & Rachel (TAR20/TAR24)
9. John Vito & Jill (TAR3/AS)
10. David & Margaretta (TAR1)
11. Meredith & Gretchen (TAR7)
12. Brian & Ericka (TAR15)
13. The Linz Family (TAR8)
14. Max & Katie (TAR22)
15. Ernie & Cindy (TAR19)
16. Nat & Kat (TAR17)
17. Brook & Claire (TAR17)
18. Erwin & Godwin (TAR10)
19. Natalie & Nadiya (TAR21/24)
20. Trey & Lexi (TAR21)
21. Pam & Winnie (TAR22)
22. Tim & Te Jay (TAR25)
23. Amy & Maya (TAR25)
|NON TOP 3 TEAMS THAT
SHOULD HAVE GONE FURTHER
1. Ron & Christina (TAR18)
2. Teri & Ian (TARAS)
3. John Vito & Jill (TAR3)
4. The Gaghan Family (TAR8)
5. Linda & Karen (TAR5)
6. Bopper & Mark (TAR20)
7. Meredith & Gretchen (TAR7)
8. Charla & Mirna (TAR5)
9. Natalie & Nadiya (TAR24)
10. Natalie & Nadiya (TAR21)
11. The Paolo Family (TAR8)
12. Pam & Winnie (TAR22)
13. Gary & Mallory (TAR17)
14. Joseph & Monica (TAR9)
15. Kym & Alli (TAR25)
16. Bill & Cathi (TAR19)
17. Tim & Te Jay (TAR25)
18. Jim & Marsha (TAR5)
19. Steve & Allie (TAR16)
20. Hoskote & Naina (TAR23)
21. Mark & Mallory (TAR24)
FINAL 3 TEAM (NON-WINNERS)
1. Brook & Claire (TAR17)
1. Kris & Jon (TAR6)
1. Teri & Ian (TAR3)
1. Charla & Mirna (TARAS)
1. Ronald & Christina (TAR12)
6. Ken & Gerard (TAR3)
6. Brendon & Rachel (TAR24)
6. Kelly & Jon (TAR4)
6. Dustin & Kandice (TARAS)
10. Gary & Mallory (TAR18)
11. Max & Katie (TAR22)
12. Jaymes & James (TAR21)
13. Brian & Ericka (TAR15)
14. Eric & Jeremy (TAR9)
15. Brendon & Rachel (TAR20)
16. Nicolas & Donald (TAR12)
17. Frank & Margarita (TAR1)
18. Trey & Lexi (TAR21)
19. Ken & Tina (TAR13)
20. Hayley & Blair (TAR26)
21. Jenny & Jelani (TAR26)