The Amazing Race

3 April 2010 · 11 comments

If you wonder why I haven’t been writing much around here, it’s not because of my personal-finance blog, and it’s not because I’ve been spending time promoting my book. Yes, I’ve been doing these things — and I’ve even begun to exercise again — but the real time-suck in my life lately is The Amazing Race.

Kris and I aren’t really fans of reality shows. Yes, we watch The Biggest Loser, but that’s because it’s about fitness, and because the first season we watched featured Tara Costa, who, quite frankly, kicked ass. We loved watching her outcompete the other contestants every single week. The Biggest Loser is actually pretty lousy television, for the most part. It’s excruciating how the show repeats stuff over and over and over again. (And I hate how they always show contestants doing stuff while there’s a voice-over describing exactly what’s going on — as if we cannot see.)

Anyhow, around Christmas, I read a rave review of The Amazing Race in some mainstream publication like Newsweek or The New York Times. The article mentioned something that piqued my interest: Since the Emmy Award for reality show was instituted, no show other than The Amazing Race has ever won it.

Now, I concede that “best reality show” isn’t exactly high praise. Still, I decided to take a look. I found some clips on YouTube and was intrigued, so I bought a season from iTunes. I watched the first three episodes and thought, “Wow! I love this.”

When Kris got home from work that cold December day, I suggested that she watch the show with me. “I don’t want to watch it,” she said. “It’s going to be lame.”

Fine. I continued to watch the show myself. Eventually, she watched part of an episode with me. When the show was over, she asked sheepishly, “Can we watch the first episode of the season?” And so we did. And we haven’t stopped watching since.

Note: For those of you unfamiliar with the premise, here’s how The Amazing Race works. Around a dozen teams of two gather at the starting line in a major U.S. city. Each team is composed of members with an existing relationship: best friends, sisters, “dating long-distance”, and so on. (There are certain “stock” couples every season, such as the gay couple, the Christian couple, the geeky couple, the black couple, the models, and the loudmouths.) Teams are given clues to find their next destination, which could be anywhere in the world. They have to figure out where they’re going, booking their own travel. Along the way, teams have to stop to perform certain challenges, such as bungie jumping or building a bicycle or eating raw octopus. At the end of (nearly) every leg, the last-place team is eliminated. At the end of about a dozen legs, the final team wins a million dollars.

We watched the three seasons that we could buy from iTunes (seasons 13, 14, and 15) between Christmas and New Year. Then we used Netflix to get seasons 1 and 8 (the only seasons available on DVD).

“I want to watch more,” Kris said when we’d finished.

“There isn’t anymore,” I said. “Only those five seasons are available to purchase. If we want the rest, we’ll have to get them illegally.”

First up, we asked Chris G. if he could check for bootleg copies of the other seasons as he traveled through southeast Asia in February. He checked, but couldn’t find them. Meanwhile, Kris and I watched seasons 13, 14, and 15 again.

“I want to watch more,” Kris said when we’d finished.

I sighed. “You know, there’s a guy online selling all fifteen seasons on DVD, but it’s surely not legal,” I said.

“Is there a legal way to buy the other seasons?” Kris asked.

“No,” I said.

“Then we don’t have any other choice. Buy them.”

And so I paid $150 to get all fifteen seasons on DVD. For the past two weeks, our evenings and weekends have been spent watching our favorite teams (and less-than-favorite teams) race across the world. We’ve watched seasons 2, 3, 4, and 5, and are now on season 6. (Man, Jonathan needs to put a cork in it. We’re hoping he and Victoria get eliminated soon. He’s an ass.)

So, that my friends, is why there hasn’t been much to read about here during the month of March. It’s not because of the book. It’s not because of the other blogs. It’s because of The Amazing Race.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Matt 3 April 2010 at 07:05

Agree 100% on The Amazing Race. I started watching it at the very beginning (while on a co-op job and not at school), lost track while finishing college, then picked it back up once I was out in the real world. It’s the only reality show I watch. My wife signed-on to the show about the same way yours did. Didn’t realize it’s so difficult to obtain previous seasons on DVD, though.

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2 Lara 3 April 2010 at 07:31

I usually read your finance blog, but when I saw this link I had to read it. This is the first season I have watched the Amazing Race and I am addicted. It is the only TV show I watch and in the past I’ve found most reality shows horrible. With the Amazing Race, it is painful waiting a full week to see what happens next. Several friends and I email each other back and forth on Mondays comparing our favorite parts (We’re currently all fans of the cowboys and are hoping they can pull it off this week). Plus, along with watching everyone’s triumphs and goofs, I love seeing all the fabulous places. Don’t you just want to hop on a plane and go to the Seychelles or Valparaiso, Chile?
Thanks for letting me know about the episodes on i-tunes. I was wondering what I was going to do in 5 weeks when the show ends. Unfortunately, at $150 and having a husband whose income is dependent upon the respect of property rights, I doubt I’ll be able to get those bootleg copies. I’m like Kris, though; I want more.

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3 Lucy 3 April 2010 at 10:02

I’ve been lurking on your GRS blog for a couple of months but had to chime in here because I became similarly obsessed with The Amazing Race but my obsession started back in season 5. I even remember clearly when it started – I was flipping channels and suddenly came across a beautiful shot of the Sphinx in Egypt. I stopped to admire it and then along came racers to do the task where they had to climb down into a shaft to get a puzzle and then solve it to direct them to the next task. I thought it was so cool that they combined clever tasks with traveling to great locations and was hooked from there!

I found a couple of sites with forums about the show and started posting there. That’s how I found out about a big season finale viewing party called TARCon that is held in New York. It’s run by fans but current season racers (as well as a few from past seasons) often come by after the show is over. It’s a blast – imagine watching The Amazing Race with a couple hundred people in a bar, all rooting for their favorite teams or booing their least favorite teams the same way that people do at a sports bar! I’ve been going since season 9, though I missed the last one. It’s a lot of fun and I’ve made some great friends by going. The next TARCon hasn’t officially been announced yet but, if you’re interested in going, look for the announcement to come probably in the next couple of weeks on The Amazing Race “General Gabbery” forum on televisionwithoutpity.com. It will probably be on May 9. You can also search that forum for the threads on the previous TARCons.

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4 Erica Douglass 3 April 2010 at 12:01

I am proud to say that Chris Guillebeau first watched The Amazing Race at my house! I couldn’t believe he’d never seen it. But he’s too work-focused to really get into a TV show, I think. He was typing out a blog post the whole time I was watching.

I’ve enjoyed that show since the first season many years ago, and I think I’ve seen pretty much every episode. BTW, you should learn to use BitTorrent. All the old seasons are available. ;)

-Erica

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5 Cari 3 April 2010 at 22:11

Welcome to The Amazing Race! I have been watching this show since the very beginning, and I actually go through withdrawals after it ends LOL! I have always wanted to participate in it, but I get air sick and couldn’t handle all the flying that they do.

I was psyched one year when they had the final leg of the race in Dallas. I laughed when they all got caught in rush hour traffic – very typical here.

I agree that most reality TV isn’t worth watching, but I make a few exceptions, and this is one of them. Sunday nights just isn’t the same without Phil and crew.

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6 becky 5 April 2010 at 00:18

I didn’t have TV when I lived back in the States, but I had a friend who insisted that I watch the show. She would tape every episode and then give them to me. She did this for 3-4 seasons before I finally moved to China. (Now in China I watch it on tudou.com (the site is in Chinese but all you have to do is put “Amazing Race” on the top search bar. It’s like chinese youtube.).

I used to be a reporter and I had to go to a lot of night meetings. I’d watch the episode my friend taped before going to the meeting and I was often so frantic after watching an episode-in a good way-that I would fly to my “pit stop” which was a meeting hall in a small New England town. I’d get there 5 minutes earlier then I would on non-amazing race nights. That show sure gets your adrenaline pumping! :)

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7 Ted Hessing 5 April 2010 at 08:07

@JD – my wife and her friends love it. I can’t sit still long enough in front of the TV to watch, but I did get the board game. Sadly, it only gave mixed results. Less fun that the old-school ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.’ One day soon (when our vacationing is more than weddings) I’ll convince her to compete – either on the show or here: http://www.competitours.com/

@Erica – that’s it. I’m subscribing. You know all the cool toys to play with. BTW, got up and going on Skype and will try out your last recommendation this next weekend!

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8 Krista 7 April 2010 at 13:31

JD–are you sure you don’t like the Biggest Loser just because you like to see your name in the opening credits? :) I chuckle every time.

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9 Claudia Gates 12 April 2010 at 16:10

I have watched every episode of every season of the Amazing Race. I love the show, but can’t watch it late at night, because I get so excited, that I can’t go to sleep afterward. Now I treadmill while I watch the taped show on Monday afternoon. I get so interested in the race, that I forget that I’m exercising!

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10 Edward Colunga 15 April 2010 at 16:20

Wife and I have watched it from the start. Like Matt it’s the only television I watch. Gives you a chance to see and become familiar with countries around the world. Seeing some of the foods and customs are really cool. Some of the foods I’ve told my wife “hey that looks good”, then some I’ve said Whoa!

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11 anne 10 May 2010 at 13:10

I love the amaizing race.. I started watching it resently and already watched seasons 14, 15 and 16. I would really want to buy seasons 1 to 15 but I dont know were :S

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