Season 17 of The Amazing Race begins on Sunday, September 26, and normally you would say if it’s not broke -well you know the drill. But after a seven-year Emmy Award winning streak was ceremoniously broken this year by a not so upstart Top Chef, you might think a change or two would not be out of the question, and a change or two is exactly what this new season has — nothing major - the successful formula that got them all those awards is still there, but a change or two nonetheless.
The first thing you notice when you look over this year’s crop of racers is that there appear to be more athletic two women teams — you’ve got two women doctors, Nat and Kat, who run marathons, a beach volleyball team, Rachel and Katie, and two shopping channel TV hosts, Brook and Claire, at least one of whom can take more than a pie in the face for the team. Check out the clip on the show’s website if you haven’t seen the great watermelon shot yet. There’s even a mother and daughter team, Andie and Jenna, who may have trouble with stick shift, but can run with the pack unlike the grandmother/granddaughter team from last year.
When it comes to the older crowd, they don’t seem to have gone back to that older model where there was a lovable senior citizen couple doing their best to keep up the young dudes and “dudesses.” Besides Andie, the mother half of the mother/daughter team (and she’s far from decrepit), there’s a father/son team, Michael and Kevin, and a father/daughter team, Gary and Mallory. Michael is the oldest of the contestants at 58, and Gary comes in second at 53. Andie, who is connecting with the daughter she gave away for adoption, is ten years younger than Gary. There is an older all-male team: friends, Ron, a director and choreographer, and Tony, a graduate student. They are also in their forties. None of the other contestants come close.
There are no married couples in the group, although one of the young men intends to propose to his partner during the race; that is, of course, provided they’re still speaking to one another. There’s a tattooed biker duo, Vicki and Nick, who could use a dictionary, an atlas, an encyclopedia, and a call to a friend. Jill and Thomas and Stephanie and Chad are pretty much your standard twenty something couples. The young all-male team consists of two Ivy League grads, Jonathan and Conner, a cappella singers promising to serenade their way to victory.
So, while there has been some tinkering with the cast, it is after all only tinkering. There is a more substantial change, but I’ll leave it to Phil to reveal it at the beginning of the first episode. In the end, everything that made this show a winner for sixteen seasons is still intact. You still have the contestants running happily all over the world. They still get lost in foreign countries. They get stuck in traffic. They have car troubles. They snap at each other, and they shout encouragement. They still find themselves struggling their way through stunts, sometimes silly, sometimes frightening, sometimes difficult, and usually frustrating. There are still the visits to world landmarks, both modern and ancient. There is still the promise of exotic lands and people, and there is still the absolutely beautiful cinematography.