TV Recap

Running Out of Steam

On ''The Amazing Race,'' in a slow episode of geysers and hot-air balloons, a production error leads to another non-elimination

The Amazing Race | GEYSER SO-SO The Linzes didn't seem too impressed by Old Faithful
Image credit: The Linz family: Robert Voets
GEYSER SO-SO The Linzes didn't seem too impressed by Old Faithful

''The Amazing Race'': The producers mess up

The November 29th episode of The Amazing Race was the first time I've felt jealous of the family-edition contestants. It was during the Old Faithful ''challenge,'' in which the teams had to wait to see the famous geyser erupt. Oh, how I envied them: They may have sat there bored, but they knew that at the very worst, after 92 minutes they would see something interesting. As a viewer of the show, I sit bored every week, and I have no such guarantee.

Last night's episode was so dull I thought I was watching a parody of the family edition. Let's start with the opening challenge: inflating a balloon so the teams could go for a ride. This part of the show was literally full of hot air. Plus, there was no skill to it. They simply sat with the balloon experts until it was full, and then they went for a predetermined jaunt. And for a sheer lack of adrenaline, what goes more slowly than a balloon? What happens next week — the teams race against each other on those chairs that take old people up stairs?

The rest of the episode was just an extended road trip, interrupted by short bursts of envelope grabbing, railroad-track banging, and horse riding. The producers tried overdoing the pulse-pounding soundtrack to add some tension, but it didn't make the goings-on any less lifeless. My dentist could pipe the theme music from Mission: Impossible into his offices, but it would still just be a balding guy scraping the enamel off my teeth.

At the end of the hour, when I was thinking, ''Well, at the very least, one of these teams will get the boot,'' Phil said the leg of the race wasn't over yet, and it would be continued next week. Is Phil just daring us to delete our TiVo season passes? I really think they don't want anybody to watch. That theory will be confirmed if next week is one hour straight of the teams riding Big Wheels around and around a cul-de-sac.

One thing did gnaw at me, though. The fact that this was the second straight week where a team fell behind because of a production error made me wonder if these last two non-elimination rounds were planned that way. Did they cancel a booting to keep it fair for the inadvertent lollygaggers? The Linzes fell from first to fourth through no fault of their own (their cameraman apparently drained their car battery charging his equipment), and they got no credit for the time lost. If they ended up getting eliminated for that, it would have been a legal disaster, so perhaps the producers decided they had to keep the race going until the Linzes had time to catch up. When the same production screw-up happened to the Godlewskis last week, the episode also ended up as a non-elimination round, which really made no sense: Why would the producers use one of only two yields on an inconsequential leg?

Conspiracy theory aside, the episode was just more of the same. Everybody demonized the Weavers, who in turn demonized everybody; the Linz boys amused themselves with masturbation double entendres and jokes about balls; the Bransen girls attempted to drop-kick their gloomy dad out of his permanent self-loathing funk; and the Godlewskis came ever closer to tearing sis Christine apart as if she were an unpopular kid in Lord of the Flies. I feel bad for that scapegoat sister, but at least if they actually tear her limb from limb, it'll break the monotony. It's no geyser, but it'll have to do.

What do you think? Do you think the producers will ever do another family edition? Are they messing around with the rules to cover their own mistakes? Are you ready to drop out of the race?

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Originally posted Nov 30, 2005