'The Amazing Race 16': five reasons to tune in
It's no small feat that "The Amazing Race" is set to launch its 16th season this weekend, likely thanks in part to the strength of its casting ("Big Brother" contestants notwithstanding), its far-flung locales and its eyebrow-raising host, Phil Keoghan.
All three elements return for the season premiere of "The Amazing Race," which airs Sunday night on CBS. Rather sadly, it's only a one-hour season opener this time around, but it's filled with so many jaw-dropping moments and gasp-inducing lines of dialogue that you'll want to cancel your Valentine's Day plans to stay home and watch. (Or, at the very least, set your DVR in advance.)
Still debating about whether or not to join Phil and friends for another race around the world? Here are five reasons why you must tune in on Sunday.Mapquest: Yes, it's sad but true that this cycle's batch of contestants seem to have either been sleeping through class or didn't bother to turn up at all. (Or the educational system is even worse off than we thought.) Twenty-year-old Caite Upton, best known as the former Miss South Carolina in the Miss Teen USA pageant, says that she wants to overcome the embarrassing flub she made during the 2007 pageant when she stated that "I believe that our, uh, education like such as, uh, South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as ... " (The response was to a question about maps.) Putting aside maps, she and her partner, fellow model Brent Horne, have trouble in the first leg simply reading and following the clues appropriately and fail to realize that they've made a major error on their first day. Meanwhile, former "Big Brother" contestants Jordan Lloyd and Jeff Schroeder have their own problems to contend with as Jordan seems to have never heard of the country Chile and repeatedly — to Jeff and even to airline counter personnel — refers to the South American country as "China." (Wow.)
Clueless contestants: It doesn't stop there. Brothers/cowboys Jet and Cord McCoy (yes, these are their real names) exchange money at LAX ... for Brazilian currency, believing it to be the "closest" to Chilean money. And one team — I'm not saying which one — mistakenly begin to paint the inside of someone's home when they fail to pay attention to their clue, much to the amusement of the professional construction workers and painters inside attempting to renovate this home.
Texas Hold'Em: I haven't been able to stop chuckling over the aforementioned cowboy brothers Jet and Cord. Despite their inability to select the proper currency for Chile, they have a true Texas cowboy approach to just about everything in life. Even when faced with setbacks, these two have an aw-shucks reaction that's infinitely as amusing as it is sweet. Even when climbing across cables 150 feet above Santiago, their gentlemanly nature can't help but shine through as they make small talk with fellow contestants. I'm curious to see if behind their dimpled exterior lies the beating hearts of true competitors.
Exotic locations: The first leg of this cycle takes the racers to such exotic locations as Valparaiso, Chile, and the oft-rumored-but-rarely-seen Los Angeles subway system, as teams must find their own way to LAX using public transportation, much to the shock and horror of several contestants, including Angelenos Carol Rosenfeld and Brandy Snow. While some opt for the flyaway from Union Station, others attempt to take the subway. In both cases, they are proof positive as to why Angelenos love their cars so darn much.
Iron-pumping granny: Yes, there is an actual triathalon-running, iron-pumping grandmother in the race this season. Meet 71-year-old Jody Kelly, who is racing with her granddaughter Shannon Foster. Among her goals, Jody lists, "Finish a half Ironman triathlon. Finish a full marathon. Publish another book. Motivate people to become active. Climb more Colorado mountains. Walk the Appalachian Trail. Go trekking in Norway. Bicycle through the Netherlands. Develop a TV show featuring elderly athletes." At a time when more and more people are leaning toward non-active lifestyles, Jody's grit and determination to outdo people 50 years younger is refreshing and inspirational. While I'd be surprised if this team lasts in the race more than a few legs, I have to say that I'm extremely impressed by her spirit and can-do attitude about tackling anything that the race throws her way. After all, she is the oldest person to ever participate in "The Amazing Race."
I don't want to spoil the rest of the fun season opener, but I hope that you'll join the latest batch of "TAR" contestants in painting the town red this Valentine's Day as these teams set off on yet another race around the world. See you at the Pit Stop.
-- Jace Lacob (Follow my musings on television, food, and more television on Twitter at @televisionary)
Photo: Jordan and Jeff, Jody and Shannon, and Dan prepare for the start of the race on "The Amazing Race." Credit: CBS/Sonja Flemming.