NPR logo The Return of the Amazing Award-Winning Traveling Show


The Return of the Amazing Award-Winning Traveling Show

Question: Only four primetime shows have ever won five consecutive Emmy Awards for best show in the program class (that is: the award for Outstanding [Whatever Kind Of Show]).

One was Frasier, named Outstanding Comedy Series every year from 1994 to 1998. Two are The Late Show With David Letterman and The Daily Show, each of which was the Outstanding Variety, Music, Or Comedy Series five years in a row. Letterman won from 1998 through 2002, and The Daily Show has won every year since 2003, and will go for the six-peat on September 21.

What is the other? The answer, after the jump...

the new crop of Amazing Race contestants

This season on The Amazing Race: All these people will get very tired and will not take showers. CBS hide caption

toggle caption CBS

The other is CBS's The Amazing Race, which has won every award for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program since the category's birth in 2003.

It's shut out American Idol, Survivor, Dancing With The Stars, Project Runway, and — much to the constant fusty-faced grousing of notoriously poor sport Donald TrumpThe Apprentice.

Race, which has bitten its nails over renewals throughout much of its seven-year history, will go for its sixth consecutive trophy in a few weeks. A week after that, on September 28, its 13th season will arrive (by parachute, camel, and bicycle rickshaw!) and be swept into the embrace of its medium-sized but adoring cult.

Will it satisfy? Well, every season of every competition show rises and falls on casting, so the recent unveiling of the season's 11 teams over at CBS's site has wound fans up nicely.

The problem, of course, is that no matter how airtight your casting process — and how thorough your psychological testing — you can't really predict how people will behave once they're exposed to a few sleepless nights and the stink of a thousand bus stations.

For every team, there's what will happen if things go well, and then there's what will happen if they don't go well. Let's take a tour of the teams, and you'll see what I mean.

Anita and Arthur: Married honey farmers who could be combined into a convincing Photoshopped, tie-dyed Santa.
If it goes well: They spread love around the world and chat with friendly locals.
If it doesn't: They stop in each country to investigate the workings of the IMF.

Toni and Dallas: Mother and college-aged son.
If it goes well: She learns to let him stand on his own; he learns to appreciate her as a human being.
If it doesn't: They have a knock-down drag-out in a Bangkok train station over a piano recital she missed when he was 7.

Aja and Ty: Long-distance daters of the Huge/Tiny variety (big man; itty-bitty girlfriend).
If it goes well: They are made for each other, and they pause on the London Eye to discuss how lucky they feel.
If it doesn't: They turn out to be woefully mismatched, and they pause on the London Eye to try to hurl each other out of one of the sightseeing pods.

Andrew and Dan:
Like everyone, they are overexposed to Judd Apatow movies, and call themselves "Team Superbad."
If it goes well: They meet Katherine Heigl in the Los Angeles airport and do not complete the rest of the race.
If it doesn't: They learn that being socially awkward isn't the international chick magnet it's cracked up to be.

Nick and Starr:
Brother and sister from the Spangler family — he's an actor; she's a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.
If it goes well: They have fun and use their performing skills to launch their post-show careers.
If it doesn't: He notices halfway through the first episode that her name is "Starr Spangler," and he makes unrelenting national-anthem jokes for the rest of the season.

Terence and Sarah: Dating couple who pride themselves on bickering and being from New York.
If it goes well: They bolster the myth that New Yorkers are colorfully awful to each other, but in the end they always make up.
If it doesn't: Only one returns alive.

Ken and Tina: Former NFL player and his wife, separated and quite logically trying to repair their broken relationship by subjecting it to a month of sleep deprivation and extraordinary time pressure.
If it goes well: They stay together.
If it doesn't: They stay together.

Marisa and Brooke: Continuation of the show's surprising young-blondes-in-pink-sweatsuits tradition.
If it goes well: They turn out to be savvy and all too easy to underestimate.
If it doesn't: They peak here.

Kelly and Christy: The second team of fit young women in a single season (the show has never been won by two women, and producers clearly hope it will happen).
If it goes well: Their performance will justify their reference to themselves as "go-getters."
If it doesn't: Their performance will justify their reference to themselves as "impatient" and "temperamental."

Mark and Bill: Self-professed comic-book geeks, thrilled that this makes them cool, FINALLY.
If it goes well: They're fun for the whole family, cracking wise and bonding with locals over the way every country has its superheroes.
If it doesn't: Creaky stereotypes about geeks spending all their time in the basement turn out to be true, and both die of exposure outside Starbucks during the first airport layover.

Anthony and Stephanie: Bickering couple whose gimmick is that if they make it through the race, he will propose.
If it goes well: They figure out that anyone you don't want to propose to unless you WIN A GAME SHOW is not someone you actually want to marry just yet.
If it doesn't: They get engaged.



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The only thing that has troubled me about TAR over the past two seasons is what appears to be a tendency towards "stunt" casting (which shows like Big Brother, and The Apprentice, and The Bachelor seem to specialize in). You can almost see the powers that be scrambling for this season "blonde babes in pink" and "the lovable geeks." The first few seasons of TAR were notable, to me, for what appeared to be a strict rule of casting "regular" people (or at least people as regular as can be who would subject themselves to four weeks of voluntary sleep deprivation and interminable airport security lines for the chance at a million bucks). I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this season is a little more "normal" than the last two. As always, Ms. Holmes, your insights and opinions are invaluable and entertaining.

Sent by David Kendall | 6:54 PM | 8-25-2008

Its true that there seems to be a list of 'usual categories': two pretty blondes (check); long distance dating couple (check); bickering couple (check); separated and bickering couple getting back together (check); sibling team (check); older team (check); parent/child team (check); possible alpha female team (check). At least the 'alpha male' team has given way to more of a 'beta male' type team (or two).

Sent by Jean | 9:53 PM | 8-25-2008

What a rut the casters are in. Is this all they have to work with? I like seeing all the usual different demographic types, but seeing the same personality stereotypes (and couples destined to bicker) depresses me. "Pink ladies" and Southern "belles" again??? But given their desperation for female winners, it's surprising it isn't stacked even more in the women's favor. Wasn't there a season that had only one male team and 3 or 4 female ones?

Sent by Jason | 12:25 AM | 8-26-2008

if only starr spangler would marry eric bana

Sent by par3182 | 3:33 AM | 8-26-2008

The problem with this show is that it's merely a Bruckheimer-produced Travelocity ad. No thanks.

Sent by Goober | 10:04 AM | 8-26-2008

par3182, that was the funniest thing I've read in a long while. Here's hoping those two kids get together...

Hands down, one of the best shows on television. The ability to see far reaches of the world through the eyes of regular (as far as you can get in that category by reality TV standards) people who (for the most part) leave the experience with a better appreciation for their partner/teammate and the vast world around them.

It's a nail-biting adrenaline shot with some warm growth and redemption at the end--love it.

Sent by Mark | 10:18 AM | 8-26-2008

Can not wait. Glad I have a place to read Linda's musings on TAR. I was, however, disturbed to here Baron Munchausem or whoever the producer of this show say "High Definition is not really a priority for us." How out of touch could a TELEVISION producer be?
Light weight HD cameras are standard now (can you say SURVIVOR). The show most in need of the HD injection is being run by a man who doesn't see it's advantage. Yikes.

Sent by Bill Ritchotte | 10:47 AM | 8-26-2008

Funny - but this reality show has actually broadened my horizons . . .

on an earlier season, the racers were in China and one of the Roadblocks(?) was the location of the Terra Cotta Warriors. I was enthralled, mesmerized and never forgot it.

Much to my amazement, China has organized a traveling exhibit of 15 of those 7000 warriors coming to only 4 cities in the US and one of them is MINE.

I went to see these 2200+ year old figures today, heard the story and imagined the magnitude . . .

All because of an episode of Amazing Race.

Sent by Becki | 11:31 PM | 8-26-2008

"if only starr spangler would marry eric bana"

He's already married- to the daughter of the Chief Justice of Australia, interestingly enough.


Sent by Lib | 12:25 AM | 8-27-2008