‘Amazing Race’ Cast: Has This Season’s Twist Helped Or Hurt The Show? [Opinion]

The long-time reality competition series The Amazing Race has no doubt made its mark in television history over the course of 29 seasons. Having won more Emmy awards than any other reality competition show on the air, fans have returned year after year to see eleven teams of two travel the globe for a shot at $1 million. This season, it seems as though far fewer fans have returned to watch the new twist play out.

Instead of casting eleven teams of two with pre-existing relationships, producers cast twenty-two single players who were paired up with each other at the starting line, essentially meaning that they had to travel the world and play the stressful game with a complete stranger. While it makes for great drama, it doesn’t necessarily make for a great evolution of the show.

Fans like myself love watching the dynamic of long-time best friends or married couples tackle the intense challenges of the race. The stressful competition truly tests the relationships in a way that no other show on television does and only the greatest of relationships survive the tough pressure of the show. The way this new twist is designed, there is no relationship to test, basically just two strangers who fight with each other more often than not, and with no history with each other to fall back on, what’s the point of watching?

The greatness of the show was seeing the backstories of the competitors’ relationship and how it related to whatever task or country they were embarking on that leg. Season 29 has resorted to petty, shallow and, frankly boring, bonds that are not all that compelling to watch.

For example, the pairing of Brooke and Scott consists of bickering and frequent yelling at each other. As a result, they’ve placed in the middle of the pack in each leg of the race so far, never placing higher than 4th. While this doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t go far or even win, it’s quite predictable that a bickering pair that literally just met a few days prior will not be all that successful on the race. If it had been another season where there was a pre-existing relationship, sometimes the bickering will show the couple that they aren’t meant for each other, or it will strengthen the bond that much more. Here, I don’t foresee a situation where they will stay connected after the race. Maybe they will date short-term, or perhaps they will remain friends, but it pales in comparison to actual authentic relationships that have remained after the show in previous seasons.

The show is currently in its 29th season, which premiered in March.
'The Amazing Race' has won the 'Outstanding Reality-Competition Program' Emmy Award ten times, out of 14 nominations. [Image by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images].

Clearly, I’m not along on this line of thinking. Since the season’s premiere, the show has struggled in the ratings. Premiering on a new night (Thursday) has not helped the series. According to TVByTheNumbers, the latest episode on April 27 had only 3.8 million viewers and a 0.7 18-49 demo rating. This is a far cry from the glory days of the show, which used to receive about 10 million viewers per season. The show has been struggling in the ratings for the past few seasons, so it isn’t just the current twist that’s to blame.

It could be partially due to the fact that TV ratings in the U.S. have been down across the board in recent years. Even smash hits like The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family have seen series-low ratings in the past few months, according to TVByTheNumbers. As fewer and fewer people disconnect from cable plans, of course ratings will be down. However, it took CBS nearly a year to premiere the new season of the race. Usually, two editions air in the television season, one in the fall and another in the spring. This year, there was no fall season aired because there was no room on the CBS schedule for it. When some of their new fall series tanked, the show was scheduled for a March premiere (which seemed like a last resort by the network).

It remains to be seen if the show’s slipping ratings will result in the cancellation of the show, but if it is renewed, it will likely be banished to Friday nights (as it was a few seasons ago).

This isn’t the first time the show had a complete strangers twist, either. Season 26 seemed like the Bachelor, half the couples were paired up at the starting line (coined the “Blind Date”) while the other half were couples who were already dating at the start of the race. Much like this season, that race wasn’t super compelling television which is why the return of that type of twist is quite shocking.

Maybe an All-star edition for the show’s 30th season will bring back some loyal fans, even though there have already been two full-out All-Star races in the past.

Having been nominated for the Outstanding Reality-Competition Program Emmy award an astounding 14 times (with the most recent win being in 2014) and winning 10 of those times, there is still something to be said for the show and it can still turn things around and return to its glory. But if its awards and fan base were to start drying up, there is an inevitable cancellation in the show’s future.

I’m open to more Amazing Race in the future, but on two conditions: they do away with the current twist that isn’t what the greatest seasons of the show are made of, and if they go back to casting real types of people instead of young models and actors looking for their big break after the race’s end.

What are your thoughts on the evolution of the show? Will you continue watching the show? Would you watch season 30 if it was an All-star cast? Sound off in the comments section below!

[Featured image by Jason Merritt/ Getty Images].