By Annie Barrett
Updated October 09, 2006 at 12:00 PM EDT

Near the end of last night’s Amazing Race, Sprint did one of those annoying text-your-vote contests, and here was the prompt: ”The boats were challenging, but which team was even more challenged by an irritating partner?”

Ha! I love how those wily cross-promoters just know that viewers are more likely to respond to a negative character judgment than something pleasant, like ”Which pair exhibits exemplary teamwork?” or ”Best ass? You decide!”’ Nobody watches the show to see people thrive. It’s better when they almost drown in the misery of their own ill-chosen company. Or the water.

addCredit(“Rob and Kimberly: Robert Voets/CBS”)

Rob and Kimberly (pictured) should obviously win Most Irritating.They’re the new Jonathan and Victoria in that neither of them is thatinsufferably horrible as an individual, but together they make you wantto throw your Sprint phones, bottles of Excedrin, and Travelocitygnomes at the screen.

Then again, the irritation factor is one of the reasons we watch Racein the first place. For me, one of the biggest draws of the show isthat I can leave it on in the background while doing more importantthings like playing Text Twist or shoveling in snacks — glancing uponly when the racers a) wear revealing clothing or b) fight. No matterwhat kind of day I’ve had, I’m 100% of the time more pleased withmyself after listening to these random, feuding couples duke it out. ”At least I’m not like Rob and Kimberly,” I think with self-satisfiedsmugness, ”and I get to eat this Pop Tart!”

Do reality TV’s ”problem couples” give you PopWatchers a similarthrill, or am I totally sick? And does anyone actually vote in theseridiculous contests?