''The Amazing Race'': Jonathan's non-evil twin
First, let's take care of some of your burning questions.
1. Performance of The Amazing Race. The series, which averages 11.7 million viewers, is enjoying some of its best ratings ever. It regularly wins its time period among the key demographics, including adults 18 to 49. It is the fourth most watched reality show on TV right now, behind Survivor (19.6 million viewers), Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (16.4 million), and The Apprentice (15.9 million). Why is this so impressive? Look how far Race has come. Around the third installment, this show was seriously on the bubble (that's TV speak for potential cancellation) because of its low ratings. Mercifully, beginning in 2003, the Eye moved the show to summers, where expectations weren't as high. There, Race enjoyed a huge resurgence among viewers not to mention some well-deserved love from Emmy herself. (The show has won twice, beating out Survivor.)
2. The issue of spoilers. Take it with a grain of salt, but the folks at CBS have never seen nor heard an accurate spoiler regarding Race eliminations. Granted, the show has yet to generate the kind of attention that Survivor does from those annoying spoiler types but that could change given its impressive ratings of late.
3. The issue of reality-show casting. Had an interesting conversation the other day with an NBC executive about how similar everybody seems to be on reality shows these days. He all but acknowledged the overabundance of models and actors disguised as regular Joes or ''baristas'' on all unscripted shows and actually blamed it on casting directors who seem to tap the same towns. That's when he started talking up the uniqueness of NBC's series The Biggest Loser (which airs just before Race): It features new, never-before-seen personalities! Well, yeah! The show's about obesity! When was the last time Mark Burnett put a 400-pound man on a deserted island? To which I say, why not? If Charla can consume what appears to be 200 pounds of fried ostrich eggs and haul a mammoth side of beef down a city street, why can't the next Ruben Studdard race around the world? We demand some big boys for the seventh and eighth editions of Race!
Okay, on with the show.
So I'm told that entrepreneur Jonathan hates the way he's being depicted on Race so far this season. (Anyone care? Really, anyone?) I'm sure those complaints will cease after last night's episode. Somewhere, he was loving that he looked like a really swell guy who doles out candy to kids and supports the African economy by paying some guy to show him around. And by God, he looked like a downright angel compared to that annoying Kendra, who spent her day grumbling about the disgusting ''jalopy'' she had to ride in and insulting a poor taxi driver who wanted another $10 on top of the $30 he was just paid. ''Its more than he makes in a year!'' whined Ms. Tolerant. Um, Kendra? You may choose to starve yourself, but this is a country that's literally dying to eat. Fork over some cash, already or you may supplant Jonathan as Race's latest insulting and intolerable ignoramus.
But Kendra and her model fiancé got theirs at the beginning of the episode, when they and three other couples believed some local Swedes and assumed their next stop a civic tower in Stockholm opened at 10 a.m. when in fact it opened three hours earlier. That allowed other teams, like the dueling exes Rebecca and Adam (who do dead-on imitations of wrestler Bolo), to make up time and fly to their next destination the African country of Senegal, where they'd have to take a taxi to a fishing village and either stack little fishies or catch them with a simple hook and line. By this time, Jonathan had scored that guide-translator and quickly learned that stacking was a helluva lot easier than fishing in the choppy sea which Grandpa Don soon learned too, because he spent most of the time hurling while wife Mary Jean handled the line. ''Once again the fickle finger of fate diddled us,'' said Don. Oh whatta nasty boy!
The episode's detour at a strange-looking red lake was nothing more than your requisite reality-show skin display. The comely Kris got her fair share of camera time because she stripped down to a jogging bra to wade in the lake and retrieve baskets of salt off the ground. ''She looks hot!'' said her long-distance boyfriend, Jon. Her hotness aside, this is actually the first time I really noticed those two primarily because they are having a good time and almost never argue like Rebecca and Adam. By the way, I've now got the M.O. on the typical Rebecca and Adam fight: Bicker bicker bicker. Her: ''You're bugging me.'' Him: ''You want me to [insert situationally appropriate suicide plan, like jumping in front of a train or jumping off a boat]?'' Her: ''Yes, please do so immediately.'' And so on and so on. Actually, I think Adam should threaten to have Rebecca as opposed to his mommy start cutting his toenails. That would scare her straight.
No surprise, Mr. and Mrs. Chipper (that would be Kris and Jon) made it first to the pit stop while Don and Mary Jean were dead last. But you knew what was going to happen one of those non-elimination episodes, which always seem to happen when you don't want them and don't happen when you do (poor Lena and Kristy!). But this time Mary Jean deserved the reprieve if only because she hauled all that salt out of blood lake and got her grown man to cry for the cameras. Now that calls for a standing ovation.
What do you think? Did Jon get a personality transplant? Should Adam and Kendra try to get one? And should the show eliminate non-elimination rounds?