A few weeks ago, CBS surprisingly announced The Amazing Race 32 would premiere at the end of May.
Surprising because the dearth of content on the broadcast networks’ shelves due to COVID-19 throwing production cycles into disarray pointed to TAR32 getting called up from the reserves to fill a vacant slot in the Fall. Especially as Survivor‘s production doesn’t look anywhere close to getting started anytime soon.
So, CBS reversed course and yanked TAR32 off their summer schedule for a premiere date to be determined.
Surely, plugging in The Amazing Race 32 into Survivor‘s Wednesday 8pm slot in the Fall is the obvious move. Particularly as networks prepare to present their Fall line-ups to advertisers so they can get their precious moneys secured.
A fully produced Amazing Race season (an established title) ready to go is certainly much more attractive to advertisers than saying “We might have Show X ready to go in the Fall… or not.”
But distressed Amazing Race fans need not whine and wail about the delay of a season that was filmed more than a year and a half ago. Now is certainly a good time to binge on the most classic Amazing Race seasons of all time. After all, there’s 31 other seasons to choose from. (But, let’s be real, probably only half are worthy of a rewatch.)
For new fans that may not have seen earlier seasons or for any person or family looking for something to fill their quarantine days and nights with, I present the SIX essential Amazing Race seasons to watch or rewatch while waiting for the 11 new teams of season 32.
Listed in the order you should watch them:
The Amazing Race 3
If you only had to watch ONE season of The Amazing Race, this is the season. THE season that absolutely has everything that makes The Amazing Race such an incredible and iconic series. For longtime fans, every hilarious, frustrating and dramatic moment is just as affecting now as it was when you first watched it. For new fans or anyone seeing it for the first time, this is the perfect season to serve as your introduction to the series.
An excellent cast of personalities, season-long rivalries, romance, hilarious hijinks, iconic tasks and locations. There’s a reason this was the season that launched The Amazing Race‘s Emmy dominance.
This is the perfect season for the uninitiated to get a feel for what The Amazing Race is all about. And for longtime fans, it’s a reminder of how truly amazing the Race used to be.
The Amazing Race 5
Perhaps just as equally essential is Season 5. And for many of the same reasons as Season 3.
This is a truly classic season of big personalities and fierce competition. Each Leg more competitive and fiery than the last. With some stunning locations and memorable tasks, The Amazing Race 5 is another season that would serve as a great introduction for new viewers.
This is The Amazing Race at its prime. When all the elements and qualities that make for an entertaining hour of television every week came together. If you can only watch two seasons of The Amazing Race, it should be Seasons 3 and 5.
The Amazing Race 25
It’s 2020. So the standard definition realness of Seasons 3 and 5 may be so foreign to contemporary viewers. But for any Amazing Race fan, the huge contrast between a Season 3 or 5 and this high definition 25th season should be a fascinating experience.
The Amazing Race finally shifted to high definition cameras during Season 18. But the only HD season on my Essential Six is Season 25. It is unfortunate to admit that The Amazing Race slowly became less amazing as the years went by. And that was definitely true when the series entered its HD Era.
The things that made seasons like TAR3 and TAR5 into timeless classics disappeared for many years. Production, logistic and budgetary concerns also simplified the Race and poor casting decisions failed to carry the rest of the load.
It’s certainly interesting to compare Seasons 3 and 5 to most of the HD seasons which are so vastly different. But Season 25, against all odds, managed to capture the magic of The Amazing Race‘s prime. Despite having less resources at its disposal, Season 25 featured the best casting in years paired with a more interesting route and creative, fresh tasks and challenges. Most of which were not present in seasons prior and seasons to come after.
The comparison between Seasons 3 and 5 and Season 25 would be reason enough to watch this next. But Season 25 showed that even today’s contemporary Amazing Race could still be magical when done right.
The Amazing Race 1
From the best HD Era season, let’s go back to how it all began. The very first season of The Amazing Race is definitely essential viewing as a fan of the series, but also in a unique historical perspective.
As the first season, there’s obviously a bit of trial and error. The series was still finding its footing and figuring out the right formula both on the race course and in its episodes. The difference in terms of production and format between Season 1 and any other season, frankly, is stark.
But Season 1 was filmed before September 11th. This was a time where travel and the world were vastly different from travel and the world we know today. For that reason alone, Season 1 is a fascinating watch.
The Amazing Race 17 and 12
Season 17, in particular, features perhaps the most viral moment of the entire franchise:
But that’s definitely not the only reason to watch the season.
When judging a season of The Amazing Race, you want to look for a season that has all the ingredients needed for a fun, enjoyable experience: A great and engaging cast, exciting and memorable tasks, beautiful and surprising locations.
Both Seasons 17 and 12 (in that order) have all those qualities.
They both show that even if a season doesn’t reach the gold standard heights of a Season 3 or 5, The Amazing Race can still be the most exciting, fun, family-friendly show on television.
If you need more, may I suggest (in random order): Season 8, Season 11, Season 2, Season 4, Season 10, Season 6. And for anyone preferring the HD seasons: Season 19, Season 27, Season 21 or Season 20.
But I definitely recommend finishing up all the standard definition (Seasons 1-17) seasons before attempting the rest of the HD seasons.
Where to Watch The Amazing Race?
Amazon: Seasons 1-29 (included with Prime membership), Seasons 30 & 31 (available for purchase)
Amazon DVDs: Seasons 1-31
Hulu: Seasons 1-29 (included with subscription)
Google Play: All Seasons (for purchase)
iTunes: Seasons 13-31 (for purchase)
Vudu: Seasons 13-31 (for purchase)
YouTube: Seasons 25-31 (for purchase)