Around the world in an en­ter­tain­ing daze

The Amaz­ing Race 9.30pm, Seven

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

ONE of the most fas­ci­nat­ing things about re­al­ity television is the pithy way in which peo­ple are re­duced to traits. It’s prob­a­bly a hang­over from day­time talk shows in the late 1980s and early ’ 90s, when the likes of Phil Dono­hue and Sally Jessy Raphael had guests who would be summed up in a some­times hi­lar­i­ous on- screen cap­tion, such as ‘‘ Doesn’t know her boyfriend wants to be­come a duck’’.

The ex­cel­lent 2003 re­al­ity spoof The Joe Schmo Show had great fun mock­ing re­al­ity show stereo­types, with char­ac­ters who were named in the cred­its as ‘‘ the smarmy host’’, ‘‘ the gay guy’’, ‘‘ the vet­eran’’ and ‘‘ the rich bitch’’, but that has not de­terred the emer­gence of th­ese char­ac­ters in show af­ter show.

It’s kind of fun to spec­u­late what char­ac­ter you’d be af­ter you elim­i­nate the ob­vi­ous ‘‘ per­son who would never, ever be on a re­al­ity show un­der any cir­cum­stance’’, be­cause it’s not as if the ‘‘ per­son who is not as clever as they think they are’’ sus­pects that’s the way they’re go­ing to turn out in the fi­nal edit.

When it comes to th­ese char­ac­ter­i­sa­tions, it’s hard to go past The Amaz­ing Race, the re­al­ity show in which teams of two peo­ple in a pre­ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ship com­pete in a se­ries of chal­lenges in a race that takes them across the globe. Part of the rea­son is that, per­haps even more than Sur­vivor , The Amaz­ing Race is a re­al­ity show that casts its net pretty wide in­stead of just se­lect­ing a bunch of six- packs and boob jobs.

So in its 12th sea­son we have dat­ing goths Kynt and Vyxsin, mar­ried les­bian min­is­ters Kate and Pat and grand­son and grand­fa­ther Ni­co­las and Don­ald.

As well as a more di­verse cast­ing pool, what makes The Amaz­ing Race unique is that it re­lies very lit­tle on the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the cou­ples or teams for its en­ter­tain­ment value. Sure, trav­el­ling with some­one gets tense at the best of times ( my hus­band and I once spent sev­eral hours of a 12- hour train ride not talk­ing to each other over the pur­chase of an un­toasted blue­berry bagel), so do­ing it with time con­straints makes for squab­bles aplenty.

And, yes, it’s end­lessly funny see­ing how clue­less some Amer­i­cans can be about other cul­tures.

But what sells the show is the travelogue — we get some great shots of Am­s­ter­dam in this episode — and the race. We all know how tricky lin­ing up travel ar­range­ments can be, and how miss­ing a bus can cre­ate con­sid­er­able drama, which is why the show still works seven years af­ter its de­but. It also means it’s one of the few re­al­ity shows that’s ab­sorb­ing to watch even if you are not a reg­u­lar viewer, be­cause you can fol­low what’s go­ing on.

Not that it’s free of in­ter­per­sonal drama. It’s heart­break­ing watch­ing pompous Ron­ald con­stantly be­lit­tling his mostly stoic daugh­ter Christina. Per­haps be­ing on the show has forced him to re­alise who he is, an­nounc­ing sadly at the end of the episode: ‘‘ I’ve be­come the Archie Bunker of the home.’’ Here’s hop­ing that with aware­ness comes change.

Ker­rie Mur­phy

Be­yond the re­al­ity stereo­types: Goths Kynt and Vyxsin in The Amaz­ing Race

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