Now that's reality TV.
"Race" already receives much deserved kudos, but a few more won't hurt. With Fox running "American Idol" promos relentlessly, it's a reminder of how some shows can overstay their welcome and oversaturate the market with bland Barry Manilow covers and even blander talent competition copycats. "Race" stands alone as an original. The show refreshingly allows viewers to get caught up in the competition, the scenery and the challenges – the former always intense, the latter constantly changing and providing a bit of education and inspiration along the way.
Most important, attempts by contestants to mug for the camera are limited, mainly because there's too much going on while scurrying for flights or navigating the frustrating backroads of foreign countries. At any point, there's the feeling that everything could fall apart with one wrong turn or plane delay. Even publicity hounds Rob and Amber (of "Survivor" fame) couldn't overtake the show with their well-crafted reality personas a few seasons back. As Romber later found out, you can't out-think the game or out-scheme opponents. It's about focus, luck and taking care of your own business (though the occasional act of sabotage - say, letting the air our of someone's tires - would be kind of fun, no?)
If you haven’t watched any of "Race" this season, next Sunday is the best time to jump in. The most annoying tandem on the show - Shana and Jennifer, a.k.a., the Botox Blondes - got the axe last night. They were polarizing for the very reasons that make most rich, cosmetically enhanced socialites the target of public derision. They're pampered, snotty and look like fetuses. Oh, and last week they also totally screwed over Lorena and Jason, the requisite nice couple on "Race."
Who I'm rooting for: Of the six teams remaining, current first-place holders TK and Rachel are the most laid back. They seem to get what the "Race" is about and they're having fun completing each task. It's easy to root for a team that shows respect for the game and each other. Outside of reminding everyone how incredibly goth they are at every turn, Kynt and Vyxsin (dude, they're SOOOOO goth) are strong players and appreciate the newfound cultural awareness they've received. Vyxsin (or was it Kynt? Who's the female, again? They both wear pink ...) even cried while looking at the smiling faces of impoverished African youth trying to help her.
Two teams (Ron and Christina/Nathan and Jennifer) are the most entertaining to watch. Personalities only take over the show when teammates bicker - and these volatile duos care little about exposing their ugly sides while being filmed. Even if you end up feeling sorry for his daughter, Totalitarian Ron is still pretty likable - old people can be kind of crotchety when they're forced to miss "Matlock" - while Nathan and Jennifer are the classic good-looking couple that can't stand each other, but remain united by their hotness. Their lack of civil communication might have something to do with Nathan cheating on Jennifer back in the day. But hey, they're probably great at posing for cute MySpace slideshows!
Rounding out the crew, brother/sister Azaria and Hendekia are intelligent and athletic, but as anyone with siblings can attest, will likely get on each other's last nerve as the season wears on. That could cost them. And finally there's the Wisconsin connection. Grandpa Donald is from Elkhorn and doesn't mind taking off his clothes when he's about to jump in a mud pit. Despite that valor, he needs to be more aggressive with his grandson, Nicolas, who let's face it, is kind of a goof. (Sunday's ticket fiasco was inexcusable.)
C'mon Donald! Start putting that Wisconsin wisdom to use. Do it for Elkhorn!
-- Thomas Rozwadowski, firstname.lastname@example.org