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''Amazing Race 2'' kicks off with a great cast

”Amazing Race 2” kicks off with a great cast. The March 11 debut brings back the fast pace, great scenery, and nutty competitors, including two grandmas and a separated couple

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The Amazing Race
The Amazing Race: Tony Esparza/CBS

When it debuted last September, ”The Amazing Race” was supposed to be CBS’ next big reality cash cow. But things didn’t quite turn out that way. It started slow and then was off the air for several weeks in the wake of Sept. 11. The touch-and-go schedule prohibited ”Race” from ever gaining any serious ratings momentum. That said, those who DID find it were treated to last year’s most exciting reality adventure. The fast-paced editing, breathtaking scenery, and almost perfect casting made for truly pulse-racing programming.

So you can image my delight when CBS announced ”Race 2.” Now, if the short history of reality TV has taught us anything, it’s that sequel installments never live up to the promise of the original (”Big Brother” being the notable exception, of course). It’s like trying to recapture the excitement and surprise of a first kiss. No matter how much slobbering you may subject yourself to, it just doesn’t happen.

Keeping all that in mind — and really, how can you get that image of messy wet kisses out of your head — ”Amazing Race 2” (which kicks out Monday, March 11 at 10 p.m. on CBS) is about as satisfyingly close to the original as one could hope. The production is once again scenic and skillfully edited, putting viewers right in the middle of the action. And the casting — which was the highlight last time — is for the most part solid, with teams already at each others’ throats just miles into the journey. So let’s take a look at some of the more noteworthy — both good and bad — squads that will be racing around the world for a cool million bucks.

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