CBS’ The Amazing Race hasn’t been averse to unique casting for its teams in the past. This season The Amazing Race did more of its more ambitious casting gimmicks. All of the teams were romantically matched. The first half of the cast were in established relationships and the other half met each other for the first time on The Amazing Race. This hasn’t paid off much in terms of a ratings surge, though it did get me to check back in with the reality series. Has this casting stunt paid off creatively though? The answer to that question is a bit more complicated.
Failed Romantic Experiment
There’s no denying that as a matchmaking service The Amazing Race has failed miserably. Of all the blind date couples only one pair is confirmed to have a romantic attraction to one another. Jeff and Jackie are the only blind date couple who actually seem to be a couple on a blind date and they’ve since been eliminated race. Laura and Tyler, another of the blind date couples, seem to enjoy each others company and have become one of the most formidable competitors in the race. There’s nothing to suggest their relationship isn’t platonic.
I’m at a loss to explain how the producers went about pairing the couples. It can’t be after interviewing each contestant individually and uncovering what their preferences are in a potential partner. It appears the producers of The Amazing Race decided to pair couples based on similarities, such as occupation or geographical location, rather than any romantic preferences.
This was no more apparent than when it came the one gay blind date couple of Kurt and Bergen. Bergen and Kurt looked like one of those strange couples that look like siblings, except there was no attraction between them. They were immediately unattracted to each other and told the camera this several times. A mistake and a frankly embarrassing situation from the start.
Incompatibility Doesn’t Always Equate to Conflict
The pairing has been so botched it would be fair to assume that The Amazing Race wanted their couples to be incompatible. There is real drama to be mined from people who don’t like each other but are forced to travel across the world together. For the most part this type of drama hasn’t happened. There is very little conflict between the blind date couples. They aren’t fighting with each other, they are just forcing themselves into a companionable relationship and trying to get to the finish line. It’s not fun to watch — it’s just uncomfortable.
Most of the blind date couples have been eliminated but those left with real incompatibility are rarely seen. Jelani and Jenny are one such couple. They are referred to by other racers but there is rarely anytime spent with just them alone with the camera. The reason is obvious. People tolerating each other for a potential financial reward is not interesting television.
The Hayley and Blair Factor
But then there’s Hayley and Blair and they kind make up for the lack of fireworks. From the very start Blair and Hayley have not gotten along. Rather than just agree to disagree and keep their efforts focused on the competition like other blind date couples, these two can’t seem to let their differences work. OK that’s unfair, Hayley can’t seem to let things go. Blair doesn’t make things better, he just ignores. A tactic which only goads Hayley into a more argumentative mood.
Hayley and Blair tap into a voyeuristic desire to see people in conflict. Everyone, no matter how much they deny it, enjoy seeing couples fight (from a distance). It’s one of life’s little pleasures to see a couple launch into a tirade in public as long as you aren’t roped into it. Hayley and Blair are never going to bring us into their arguments. We can watch from a very safe distance as they bicker across the world on our TV screen.
This could obviously get repetitive but The Amazing Race hasn’t overwhelmed us with footage of their spats. They even show other teams commenting on their severe incompatibility in humorous ways. Laura and Tyler even refer to them as “The Bickersons.”
Hayley and Blair occasionally get along or at the very least stop sniping at each other. These moments are equally rewarding proving that they’re real people not just “characters” on reality TV. They eventually find a way to return their usual rhythm and it’s a pattern that hasn’t gotten tiring yet.
It’s Nothing but a Gimmick
This season of The Amazing Race is not going to go down on history. It’s not terrible either. They took a big swing but they didn’t completely whiff. It’s more like they only managed to get to first rather than hit it out of the park. It probably won’t be attempted again unless there is some serious revamping to the matchmaking process. Even then, it’s not likely. This season will be forgotten like all other seasons with other stranger but unsuccessful casting gimmicks.
The Amazing Race airs on Fridays at 8pm on CBS.
(Images Courtesy of CBS)