We’ve made no secret over the years of our love for “The Amazing Race” over the years, as someone who has seen every episode of the American show along with a few other versions around the world. However, we admit at times during the past two seasons of the American version we were starting to tune out. The entire race felt stale, the challenges uninspired, the cast seemed almost like retread central in between contestants from other reality shows or former beauty queens that we had seen somewhere else.
Luckily for us, there is a little gem of a show called “The Amazing Race Australia” out there that the producers in America should be watching and learning from. Are there still some problems with this version of the show? Sure — not all of the legs are particularly fair when it comes to equalizers, and taxi drivers do still play a role in what goes down. However, the show makes so many improvements on what we have come to see in America that they are worth pointing out.
1. The Salvage Pass
This may have only happened in the first leg of the race, but it was an interesting twist that allowed for some strategy to come into play. The team who placed first on the leg is given two options — they can either have an hour extra head start on the next leg, or save the team in last place from elimination. Considering that flights can often equal out positioning anyway, the latter choice is actually the right one to make unless that team happens to be a gigantic threat — this makes you come across as nice, and it will keep people from gunning for you later.
2. The revamped U-Turn
If you are a complete jerk to everyone on your show, Australian players can make you pay for it. So far this season, there was one occasion where the players all voted on someone they would like to U-Turn during the leg, and they had to do both parts of the detour. This twist is problematic in some ways — and it’s also a little awkward to make a show about skill into a popularity contest — but can’t we at least appreciate the effort?
3. Casting real people
The closest thing the Australian show has to Z-listers on it are a pair of cheerleaders who double as flight attendants. Nobody on their show is someone who is a reality star or someone looking to further their time in the spotlight. They’re actually real people, and there are some interesting teams — goofy policemen, sisters who are schoolteachers, and a younger man and his older girlfriend are just three examples. There is less of the stereotypical “fighting couple,” much more in the way of comedy reminiscent to some of the American version’s early seasons.
So far this season, we have seen Paris, Dubai, and even Cuba — which is somewhere that the American show can’t really go. It simply feels as though we are seeing some cooler places. We understand that the American show has been to a ton of countries at this point, but we wouldn’t mind seeing some old destinations again — including Rome or some parts of Japan — if we saw some new and interesting challenges to go with it.
5. An attempt
What we mean by this is that at least the Australian show is trying to keep things exciting. They fly to new cities in the middle of legs, give you challenges that are actually difficult to complete, and they try to make you drive more to avoid some of the taxi-related problems.
If you are a diehard fan of the American show, we recommend strongly that you look “The Amazing Race Australia” up online for a bit of racing action to get you through the summer. It may be the best international adaptation of a reality show we’ve seen, and right now it is running so far ahead of the flagship series in America that Phil Keoghan can barely even see it in the distance.
Photo: Channel 7