The TV Room: The Amazing Race Season 28, by David Bax
When will I learn not to doubt The Amazing Race? Even when they come up with ideas that sound like trainwrecks, such as the “blind date” season, where half of the teams had never met before the race began (I wrote about that one here), the results end up being thrilling and maybe even revelatory in ways the producers likely didn’t anticipate. Perhaps the fundamental premise of the show is so strong that it’s impossible to knock it over. Then again, there was that “family” season.
This year, all the contestants were social media stars (or paired up with social media stars), most of them YouTubers or Viners. Given that two of the show’s past dalliances with internet celebrity included Joey Graceffa, probably the most annoying contestant in Amazing Race history, I was terrified that this season would be filled with desperate attention hogs with more volume than talent or charisma. But the producers aimed high this time, giving us a surprisingly wide variety of online personalities and, in the process, making an argument for the validity of these new media (at least to those old and stodgy enough that an argument even needed to be made).
In fact, this season veered so far from my expectations of a full roster of hateful show-offs that it was, in fact, difficult to locate a single villain in the bunch. That’s not a complaint. The nature of the show offers more than enough adversity to every team week to week that bad guys aren’t really necessary, though it is satisfying to see them come close and then lose in the end, like Rob and Amber in season seven or Justin and Diana last year. This time around, the closest we got was Dana, who was often unnervingly mean to her fiancé, Matt, overreacting wildly to the slightest annoyance, such as him not being as hot and tired as she was while leading a camel through the desert. But even they pulled it together, finally winning the whole thing by running a nearly flawless final leg.
Tyler and Korey, on the other hand, who increasingly became the favorites to win, made so many stumbles in the last episode that they wouldn’t have been close even if Dana and Matt weren’t so on their game. In any case, it was good to see them make it to the end as they were the rare team who managed to balance the competitive needs of the race with the curious, awe-inspiring and fun nature of the show as a travelogue. Even when they were scheming to force Kurt and Brodie into elimination, they did so without being off-putting in their calculated ambition.
There was one sour note, or maybe just a bland one, and it didn’t even happen until the end of the last episode. It may be time for the now-standard “memory challenge” to stop being a part of the final leg. Having the teams reflect on and recollect the entirety of the race used to provide not only the dramatic tension of any good Race challenge but also allow the audience to enjoy the look back. For the last few seasons, though, with each team painstakingly writing down and memorizing every notable event, it’s become drily perfunctory. This time around, it was such a snooze that the producers barely even showed any of it.
Though perhaps a bit too innocuous to be one of the greats, season 28 was a good and enjoyable one. If nothing else, it’s proof of the show’s sturdiness and reliability. Just like I always do, I will eagerly await its return this Fall.