Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Amazing Race 14: Surprisingly Offensive

Mike & Mel are just plain cute and are maybe the only reasons while I'll still be watching.

I anxiously awaited the season premier of the latest Amazing Race, knowing that writer/director/actor Mike White and his gay dad, Mel, were going to be competing. I looked forward to the clever road blocks and exotic locations. I couldn't wait to see the host, Phil Keoghan, do that eyebrow raise at dramatic moments. The music. The stress. The sweat and 50lb runaway cheese wheels. Everything. But then, Sunday's episode happened and before I knew what was happening something awful occurred - blatant redneck exploitation.

Now I say redneck because I believe that is exactly what the Amazing Race would like us to be calling Linda and Steve. But, Linda and Steve are a lovely couple and clearly love each other very much. Steve described his wife as having "lived a hard life". They both look a bit aged beyond their years and Linda might possibly be missing a few teeth. None of this matters on the race however and they could have won just like any other team, save for one factor - Linda cannot run and she can barely walk at a brisk pace. Watching them attempt just 2 legs of this race around the world was painful, but not because they ultimately failed, but because they were led to believe that they had a shot in the first place.

Linda and Steve. Please note, contestants choose their own team outfits.

The Amazing Race often shied away from the common ratings grabs of reality TV - the love interests, the fights, the midgets - they were all there to an extent but always overshadowed by the race itself and giving the viewer a vicarious sense of accomplishment. This season they've already thrown Linda and Steve to the wolves, mercilessly and without reason. Even reality TV watchers don't want to see nice older ladies cry after getting lost on a mountain. That's not sport, it's just mean. Then there's the mother/son team of Margie and Luke - Luke is deaf, and it's mentioned about every 12 minutes in the 2 episodes that have aired so far. Everyone on the race is so impressed by what he's able to do and so supportive of his participation in the race, you'd think he was suffering from some chronic and debilitating disease but still pushing himself despite his lack of a right foot, 4 fingers and half an eye down a picaresque Austrian mountainside only to collapse at the clue box. He's deaf, people. Move on.

So this season some of the excitement has been replaced with mild disgust as once again TV has taken the broad stroke and gone for spectacle instead of the pure form of sportsmanship that is the true essence of The Amazing Race. Is nothing sacred?

Click here to watch Linda and Steve talk about their exciting yet brief experience on The Amazing Race 14. Please excuse their appearance as they are covered in pie.