When I covered Viva Laughlin for Entertainment Weekly’s fall TV preview, I knew it was going to suck, but it was beyond my wildest dreams that it would suck so much that it would get yanked after only two weeks, making room for my beloved Amazing Race. Sure, Viva left me with some scars: When I started watching theAmazing Race premiere, I had an irrational fear that the teams would burst into song. (Perhaps Lisa Stansfield’s ”All Around the World”? Hey, turns out a musical piece of crap writes itself!) But fortunately, it was the same old Race, complete with bickering beautiful people and mellow, dominant hippies. So let’s meet the 11 new teams, shall we?
Azaria and Hendekea This brother-and-sister team clearly has brains. How do I know? Because in their introductory segment, we saw them both staring at a beaker in a lab. What, there was no giant magnifying glass for them to look through, or eyeglasses with a piece of tape wrapped around them? And what was in that beaker, I wonder? A cure for cancer? A space-age energy concoction that will allow them to reserve plane tickets at twice the speed of the average human? Or Gatorade that some CBS production assistant got out of his own lunchbox after being ordered by Bertram van Munster to ”make those people look smart or something!” Whatever the chemical compound, they do seem like intelligent people, if a bit impatient. I’m having trouble gauging how they’ll cooperate during the race: At times they bickered, but then in the intro, we were treated to the sight of the two wrestling around on the floor, giggling happily. That could bode well, even if I’m completely put off by watching grown siblings play grab-ass.
Rachel and TK TK is a hippie, and like season 9 victors BJ and Tyler, he seems to be well served by that hippie cool, which has allowed him and his girlfriend to keep calm in the midst of chaos. Although perhaps labeling all hippies as potential winners is the wrong conclusion to reach: What if the real link is that BJ and TK both do well because they have two-initial names? The only way to solve this conundrum scientifically is if next season they pit a team of Wavy Gravy and Tommy Chong against T.R. Knight and the ghost of H.R. Haldeman and see who ends up the victor.
Shana and Jennifer When their first destination, Shannon, Ireland, was announced, one of the identical blondes (I’ll call them both Shanifer; you can’t expect me to tell them apart already — it took me two seasons to distinguish Dustin from Kandace) yelped, ”I’m Irish!” No, you’re synthetic. Look, we get it. You’re hot, and you’re going to win by flirting. Yawn. They put this plan into action right away, as Shanifer kissed the guy at the hitching post when they returned with their donkey. Why? He couldn’t get her ahead; he was just there to make sure the donkeys didn’t get away. Someone should explain to her that she only needs to bother flirting with people who can actually help them; they’re going to lag behind if she expends all her energy spending every flight trying to rub her ass up against all the stewardesses.
Ronald and Christina This father and daughter, who want to strengthen their distant relationship, are like a less grumpy Gus and Hera from season 6. Dad Ronald traveled a lot when Christina was young and is trying to make up for it. And trying hard: He kept talking about not wanting to disappoint her, which led to a tearful embrace at the mat. It was all very sweet, though it left me wondering just how distant a relationship it had been: They seemed to get along hunky-dorily throughout the race. Then I saw the preview for next week, where they start bickering about how he never listens to her. I guess it takes at least two countries to really get the past dredged up. At this rate, by the fifth episode things will have devolved so much that she’ll be renting a hotel room just so she has a door to slam after screaming, ”You don’t understand me at all! I hate you I hate you I hate you!” I hope whatever country they’re in sells Disney Princess pillows, all the better to bury her face in as she weeps about her dumb stupid dad who doesn’t understand anything.
Lorena and Jason Yet another team from L.A. (seven of the teams have at least one member from the area; is the show casting by just yelling out the production-office window, ”Anyone want to be on TV?”), they’re another hot, tempestuous couple. Apparently he doesn’t want to get married, they’re on the verge of breaking up, and she likes to sit in the backseat and fret that he’s not listening to her about directions. Their fraught relationship would be more interesting if they weren’t overshadowed by…
Nathan and Jennifer Now this is bickering! Their CBS.com bio says the dating couple ”couldn’t stand each other at first.” I’ve seen no evidence that that has changed. They’re trying to get past the fact that he cheated on her, but I think they’re also trying to get past the fact that they sometimes fantasize about spitting on the other one’s grave. Another interesting tip is that they both live in the world of superlatives: Everything is the worst [whatever] they’ve ever seen in their entire life! On the second day of the race, he proclaimed Jennifer to be ”the worst person at this in the entire world.” Jennifer labeled an early hike ”the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.” And their struggles over a stubborn donkey? ”The most miserable thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life.” Have they just lived incredibly easy lives up until now? Or do they just have no short-term memory at all, so they forget everything bad that’s happened to them immediately, and whatever happens next easily becomes the worst? I’d like to propose an experiment: Feed them both dog poop. Then, 20 minutes later, feed them a slightly melted ice cream cone and see if they declare it ”the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted!”
NEXT: The attack of the donkey