''The Amazing Race'': Handicapping the new teams
If three weeks wasn't enough time to forget last season's win by Freddy and Kendra oddly, the bad taste it put in my mouth tasted vaguely of deep-dish pizza then this two-hour premiere certainly did it. I barely remembered my own name after this bloated excursion: I like to get to know the players as much as the next guy, but did we need this extended megamix of them racing to the airport and sitting on buses? That said, let's meet the teams!
Debbie and Bianca Best buddies who seem so intent on pretending that they're lesbians that even the cast of The L Word wants them to cut the crap. (Was their entwined roller-skating dance an hommage to a '70s porn movie?) Debbie's hissy fit around the llamas hinted that their lovers act might come complete with self-defeating lovers' quarrels, but Bianca's grasp of Spanish made them a major force, and they came in first. (And thankfully, the producers finally changed the prize: The winners got $10,000 each instead of the usual plane tickets. Who would want that, considering the racers probably have bedsores from all the time they spend sitting in a plane seat.) But you have to wonder how well they'll fare when not in a Spanish-speaking country. Put 'em in France, and all they can do is French-kiss each other.)
Megan and Heidi It's three partnerships in one: They're roommates who look like sisters and act like dips---s. One of them (who can tell them apart? and really, does it matter?) said that people will underestimate them because they are ''blond, thin, and ditzy,'' but I maintain that that is a perfectly accurate level at which to estimate them. Weren't they the team that instantly began digging at the 7:40 ticket pile without even checking to see if there was an earlier one? Granted, the teams that followed their lead without checking are nearly as dumb, but there's a big distinction between being a sheep and being a moron.
Lynn and Alex Apparently the producers were worried that viewers might have missed them being identified as a ''gay couple,'' so this sassy duo was introduced delivering an extended metaphor about how they have sharp claws but don't want to break their nails. Like every gay Amazing Race couple so far, they have a great attitude and soar through the stress with humor, never snapping at each other. Compare this with the heterosexual couples who scream at each other year after year. Explain to me again how it's the homosexuals who are ruining marriage's good name.
Brian and Greg One brother is an actor-bartender; the other's a bouncer. And somewhere, two parents are wondering why they bothered sending these two pants-yanking yahoos to college. They seem intent on rubbing up against the hot Megan and Heidi, which would make for one of the least threatening alliances ever, but at least it means they'll have a larger brainstorming pool when they're all trying to figure out how to fold a map. Other than that, I have no real opinion on these fun-loving chowderheads, except that every time they come on screen, the odd scent of burning hay seems to waft out of my TV set.
Meredith and Gretchen They're the annual old-person sacrificial lambs. Isn't it so sweet how these teams always come on bragging that age and wisdom will always trump youth and inexperience? And then 15 minutes later they're always wandering around their rental car, wondering where you turn the crank while everyone else speeds off. (Although, getting into the zip line harness, Gretchen said, ''This is what the kids call a wedgie!'' Perhaps she's cutting-edge after all! Now help me out: What do the kids mean when they say ''the cat's pajamas''?) Gretchen did her best to spread international good cheer by bumping into a Peruvian woman and smashing all her eggs. ''Sorry, ma'am, but I'm trying to win a million bucks, you know how that is. What? Those eggs are your only livelihood and thanks to me your family won't eat for a week? Here's five Peruvobucks that seems like a fair percentage of a million dollars. Adios!''
Uchenna and Joyce Oh, great. They hit us with the sad tale about how their marriage is on the rocks because they can't have a baby, in vitro has failed twice, and they've both lost their jobs from ''several major corporations.'' (Although the use of the word ''several'' did suggest that perhaps the problem was deeper than just unfortunate downsizing. When someone says he's been in several car accidents, you don't think he's just unlucky; you think he's a bad driver.) Regardless, when they were done telling their story, you wanted to root for them. And then they proved extremely mediocre players. They only nabbed the 7:00 tickets because three other teams proved idiotic before Uchenna and Joyce had a chance to. Why introduce us to their story, only to have us suspect they're bound to let us down again?
Ron and Kelly He was a POW in the Iraq war, she was a beauty queen. It made you want to root for this all-American team that is, until Kelly described them as the ''all-American team.'' Anyone that convinced of their own patriotic superiority makes me a bit nervous. That said, Ron mentioned that if he won, he would donate the money to help disabled veterans. So he's battling it out with Uchenna for moral superiority, but moral superiority don't eat 12 pounds of caviar, my friends. And at the rate they're going, only staying in the game because they could beat two fat guys in a footrace, the troops might need someone else in their corner.
Ray and Deana Apparently the boys over at the Amazing Race labs have been busy cross-pollinating Lori and Bolo with Jonathan and Victoria. This couple has all the 'roid-bulging intensity of the wrestlers and the brow- and wife-beating unpleasantness of the Botox lovers. Why don't the producers just air a rerun of The Burning Bed and be done with it?
Rob and Amber Sure, you want to hate the Survivor champs. But say what you will, Rob can back up his cockiness. And just the fact that he and Amber remain calm and work as teammates makes them far more forgivable recycled reality stars than Big Brother's Allison. That said, having these two champs around doesn't make it a fair fight, since they can always find some Survivor-fan tourist to eagerly help them out. And that's what happened in Peru, when an unidentified guy practically begged to help and they came in a comfortable third place. The only chance the other teams have is if they're in some third-world country and happen to bump into Lex. He'd help anyone else in a heartbeat.
Patrick and Susan This mother and her son would be a cute team if Patrick didn't have such a wild hair across his ass about Rob and Amber. He clearly was a huge Survivor watcher and has placed way too much of his life's worth on taking the champs down. He assured Debbie and Bianca that Rob was dumb as a rock, which anyone who watched Survivor: All-Stars knows is patently untrue. Just keep underestimating him, Patrick: We all saw how well that worked for Richard Hatch.
Ryan and Chuck I was suspicious of them at first, because I so vehemently disagreed with their major premise, that people abroad would help them because they looked like teddy bears. Teddy bears? Sure, if you mean the kind of plushie where you pull a string in the back and it yells, ''I'm gonna make you squeal like a pig. Squeal like a pig!'' But these South Carolina hillbillies proved to be wilier than they looked. Unfortunately, they were also just as slow as they looked, and they came in last. But they didn't leave without giving each other a tearful toast, so touching that it made me weep like a pig . . . sorry, weep like a baby.
What do you think? Who looks like likely winners? Who looks dead in the water? Do Rob and Amber have an unfair celebrity advantage? (And isn't one million-dollar prize per lifetime enough?)