Editor's Note: This is a weekly guest post from the TV staff at Film.com. Check back here on Wednesdays for more Film.com stories about your favorite shows: Big Brother, The Amazing Race, Dancing with the Stars ,Survivor, American Idol and America's Next Top Model.
By Susan Young, Film.com
This week there was an odd déjà, been there moment during The Amazing Race
when I realized that we’ve seen some version of all these contestants before. Worse yet, none of the current crop are carving out a place of their own.
Every season you know you’ll get the squabbling siblings, bickering troubled couples and dithering pretty blondes, but this incarnation manages to snag almost every former stereotype from previous seasons.
And it isn’t a good thing.
Almost no one stands out of the crowd. For the past two weeks, I haven’t come up with a single Sawyer-esque nickname for any of the teams. Even the other teams are having trouble remembering the names of their competition. Short guys is about all one team could come up with to describe stuntmen brothers Mark and Michael. I can’t even tell a Cara from a Christie.
Other than the sign language between Margie and deaf son Luke, they’re just another link in a long line of Amazing Race
loving, supportive mom and son teams.
Although this is the first time in 10 seasons we’ve seen a father and son compete, Mel and Mike aren’t that dissimilar from grandpa Donald and grandson Nicolas, except Don was saltier and more entertaining. I’m pretty sure Mel and Mike won’t get tattoos just so they can do a Fast Forward in the race.
Like Ron, the abrasive dad to daughter Christina in The Amazing Race 12
, Mel struggled with a pulled groin muscle. But that’s where the similarities end. Ron made me want to reach through the set to throttle him. Mel is the epitome of meh.
Since country charmers David and Mary captured viewers during two stints on the show, both the regular and an all-star version, the producers thought we’d warm up to Steve and Linda. But those two looked downright scary right from the get-go. Linda kept weeping like a leaky hose, and I don’t think she could have stood much more stress. She acted like an abused wife, sobbing about how mad hubby Steve was going to be with her blunders.
When they got the boot on Sunday, it was a relief all the way around.
While Margie and Luke have emerged as my favorites right now, they are playing heavily on the deaf card. This isn’t the first time we’ve had a physically challenged person in the race. Charla’s size as a little person definitely put her at a disadvantage at almost every turn, from running to a caravan (“Run, Charla, run!”) to climbing into a burial pit. The race is about strength and endurance – and being able to power your way to the pit stop. Charla proved that being short-strided didn’t mean you couldn’t run a tough race. We’ll see if Luke can be as memorable.
As the herd gets thinned, I hope some real personalities emerge.
Yet, it’s the challenges and landscapes that have drawn us to this show even more than the personalities involved. With Survivor
, the show lives and dies with the cast members no matter how inventive the games. A good season requires interesting people.
On The Amazing Race
, you can often get by with beautiful locales and exciting road blocks.
The first week, we roared as they tried rolling big rounds of cheese down a hill. Really, how hard is it to roll a big old wheel down a hill? Of course, they only did that after trying to carry the 50-pound blocks on a wood board that looked like it came out of the Dark Ages. Crashing Americans down a steep Swiss hill proved priceless, especially to the Swiss people watching it all.
Perhaps the only one not amused was the guy who came out from his house to see a cheese ball smash his fence.
Then there was Sunday’s slapstick pie-toss into your partner’s face. Now if we could just remember the names of the pie tossers as vividly as we remember the goo running down their faces.
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