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Time for an Amazing Race Makeover

Obviously, I’m a fan of The Amazing Race. This website got its name from one of the funniest meltdowns in the history of the show:

But that clip of Colin & Christie is from Season 5. I’d argue that the show never fully recovered its original appeal after the disastrous Family Edition (Season 8). I’m sticking with the current season (16), but I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to, and I know I’ll forget most of the teams once the season ends.

Despite new locations and challenges every week, the show has become predictable. After inevitably getting lumped together on the same flight, leads evaporate and teams execute their Roadblocks and Detours week after week.

The new elements added over the seasons, like U-Turns and Speed Bumps, haven’t improved the show. If anything, the U-Turn typically hastens the exit of strong or controversial teams, making the race less competitive and the show less interesting for viewers.

The show’s casting formula doesn’t help. Casting easily labeled pairs — "The Brothers," "The Gay Couple," "The Mother-Daughter Team" — surely forces producers to reject some compelling teams each season because their role has already been filled by another team.

It’s time to give The Amazing Race a facelift. First, the casting process has to change. I don’t care if the season is made up of nothing but teams of siblings or friends who are dating on-and-off; I just want to watch the best teams. Qualities like humor and competitiveness should trump filling certain demographic niches.

To that end, I propose winnowing down the number of teams. Instead of casting eleven teams, cast eight teams but make every other leg a non-elimination leg, which would still allow for twelve episodes per season. Even on a known non-elimination leg, teams will race hard for the time advantage of finishing in first place and the associated prizes. Drama needn’t be sacrificed.

The biggest improvement the show could make would be to get rid of the tasks and transportation issues that seem to level the playing field every leg. Whether its arriving at a challenge location hours before it opens or boarding the one-and-only flight available with the rest of the teams, these equalizers remove any advantage for the team that finished the previous leg in first place. Rarely is a team able to leap ahead by making a bold move in an airport (or fall out of contention like Charla & Mirna did in Season 5), so why not skip the airports all together?

These equalizers exist to make it easier for the production crews to organize tasks and get cameras and equipment where they need to be. The stress of losing a lead or having to sleep in a car is minor given all of the other sources of stress teams are subject to. It has nothing to do with making the leg more interesting for viewers.

To eliminate these equalizers and ease the strain on the production staff, I wish that all long-distance travel between locations would take place off-camera. For example: after Leg #1 ends in Lisbon, the teams rest up and board the same flight to Moscow where Production Team 2 is waiting for them. Meanwhile, Production Team 1 flies to Tokyo to set up Leg #3.

Instead of teams starting the next leg 12 hours after they finished the previous leg, start each leg at a set time (7 a.m. perhaps). Give the teams a time advantage based on how far ahead of the last place team each pair finished, kind of like the staggered start used in the Tour de France.

Whether the time advantage is cumulative or based on a percentage of how much quicker each team finished doesn’t really matter. But each leg should be designed so that it can be finished same day, avoiding boring downtime as teams wait for someplace that’s closed to open up.

This redesigned format might make it hard to send teams on a true round-the-world journey, but who cares? The show only mentions that aspect in the first and last episodes; Phil Keoghan doesn’t hold up a map every week showing the teams’ trans-global progress since from the start map. The whole season could be filmed in Europe or Africa and it wouldn’t matter, so long as the locations are novel and the teams are interesting.

Without some changes, I don’t know how much longer I can stick with the show. I’ve stopped watching additional online content and reading interviews with the eliminated teams because I just don’t care about any of them. I don’t even watch the commercials now that I have a DVR. If I’m going to watch The Amazing Race, I want to do so because it deserves my attention, not just out of a sense of nostalgia for the great show it used to be.

Ox Notes: March 4, 2010

The subject of today’s Ox Notes is Ox Notes itself. After today, Ox Notes is shifting from regular posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays to more sporadic postings so that I can focus on other projects.

I’ll still post here at My Ox Is Broken when the mood strikes and as news crops up closer to the premiere of Dancing with the Stars 10. I mean, is there any chance the celebs make it through preseason rehearsals without a serious injury?

In the meantime, follow me on Twitter (, where I’ll still be posting frequently. (Even if you have no desire to post, it’s worth getting a Twitter account these days, just to read what others are writing!) I also write weekly Bollywood movie reviews for Access Bollywood (

Here are a few sites I recommend for entertainment news:

  • Pure DwtS — an excellent catalog of Dancing with the Stars news and commentary
  • People — the best of the celebrity mags, especially their TV Watch blog
  • EW — good for general TV news and home of Jeff Probst’s Survivor blog, updated on Friday mornings
  • Reality Blurred — a great site for reality TV news
  • The Watcher — my favorite TV critic

Thanks for all of your comments and contributions during Ox Notes’ three-year run. Talk to you soon!

Dancing with the Stars 10 Cast Announcement

At last, the cast of Dancing with the Stars 10 has been revealed. Kudos to those of you who stuck with last night’s Bachelor finale until the last 15 minutes of the show, when Tom Bergeron and Melissa Rycroft finally announced the names of the celebrity cast members. Here’s the list:

Buzz Aldrin & Ashly Delgrosso

Pamela Anderson & Damien Whitewood

Erin Andrews & Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Shannen Doherty & Mark Ballas

Kate Gosselin & Tony Dovolani

Evan Lysacek & Anna Trebunskaya

Niecy Nash & Louis Van Amstel

Chad Ochocinco & Cheryl Burke

Jake Pavelka & Chelsie Hightower

Nicole Scherzinger & Derek Hough

Aiden Turner & Edyta Sliwinska

Overall, this is one of the strongest casts DwtS has had in years, at least in terms of name recognition. Aiden Turner is the least recognizable celeb, but he’s a young, hunky English soap actor: red meat for the older, female DwtS demographic.

The two most cynical castings are Kate Gosselin and Jake Pavelka. Bachelor Jake is blatant ABC cross-promotion. Kate is currently one of the most reliable headline generators. From her perspective, DwtS is a much safer bet than trying to launch her own talk show or product line. Plus, it gives producers a chance to see her when she’s not swamped by toddlers.

This is Evan Lysacek’s trophy to lose, right? Olympians usually do well on DwtS — figure skaters and gymnasts in particular — and he won a freaking gold medal in figure skating two weeks ago! I’m not sure about Anna’s freestyle choreography skills, thought, and that’s the routine that ultimately decides the winner. If he was paired with Cheryl or Chelsie, I’d say victory was an absolute lock. But Evan’s got enough relevant experience to make his input valuable.

As for the rest of the field, the three "sexy" couples — Aiden & Edyta, Nicole & Derek and Erin & Maks — could put up a fight. Then there are the wild cards like Jake & Chelsie, Ochocinco & Cheryl and Shannen & Mark who could be surprisingly entertaining.

I’m going to take Kate out of the running because she’s paired with Tony, the pro partner equivalent of mirrorball kryptonite. Buzz is out because he’s 80 (welcome back, Ashly!). Pam’s out because she’s with the new guy, Damien. And Niecy’s out because she’s a comedian, the profession that fares worst on DwtS. Still, I’m glad they included a funny woman this season, and I hope she sticks around a while.

Here’s part one of Kate Gosselin’s appearance on last night’s episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live:

What do you think of the new cast?

Ox Notes: February 25, 2010

Am I the only one surprised by the relative dearth of information about the Dancing with the Stars 10 cast? There has only been a handful of rumors, even though the announcement in only a few days away. Usually celebs are falling all over themselves to spill the beans.

One rumor that seems to be gaining traction regards Kate Gosselin. It makes sense for her to appear on DwtS because 1) she’s co-hosted The View and has an existing relationship with ABC, and 2) she’s not doing anything else (besides parenting eight kids, of course).

EW notes that gold medalist Evan Lysacek has expressed a desire to compete on DwtS, but I doubt it will be this season. After all, he needs to keep his schedule free for Evan Lysacek Day here in Naperville.

By the way, kudos to Evgeni Plushenko for awarding himself the platinum medal after finishing second to Lysacek. I’m going to start campaigning for Naperville to hold a Evgeni Plushenko Day, too.

NBC reports that 174 million people have watched the Winter Olympics during its first 12 days.

Apparently, Melissa Rycroft hasn’t secured the DwtS co-host gig after all, despite revealing the contestants during this Monday’s Bachelor finale. Mel B did a screen-test for the job yesterday.

TV Guide wants to know who you think should be the new DwtS co-host.

I’m setting my DVR now for Kathy Griffin’s guest spot on Law & Order: SVU this coming Wednesday.

I’m also setting my DVR for Johnny Depp’s appearance on 48 Hours Mystery on Saturday. Depp will speak on behalf of the "West Memphis Three", three men convicted of murder when they were teenagers despite an abundance of evidence pointing to their innocence.

On March 15, HGTV debuts the show Home Rules about a life coach who helps struggling families. Thus continues HGTV’s slow metamorphosis from informative how-to channel into a family freakshow network like TLC. I assume that series on room makeovers for child beauty queens and women who didn’t know they were pregnant are already in development.

Cast your vote in E!’s March Madness-style bracket poll of TV’s Top Couples. Riker & Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation for the win!

Ox Notes: February 23, 2010

With less than one week until the cast of Dancing with the Stars 10 is announced, details about the new season emerge. Pro dancers Lacey Schwimmer and Jonathan Roberts announced via Twitter that they won’t participate this season. Pure DwtS posted a summary of which twelve pros seem likely to compete in DwtS 10.

Pure DwtS also noted that the new cast members will be announced during Monday, March 1’s Bachelor finale by Tom Bergeron and Melissa Rycroft. Does that mean Melissa’s officially the new co-host?

DwtS pro Derek Hough got himself involved in the ongoing drama between British singer Cheryl Cole and her allegedly philandering husband, footballer Ashley Cole.

I’m loving Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, especially since I’m rooting for the Villains. People and EW interviewed the latest booted cast member, Stephenie LaGrossa. EW, as always, features great episode recaps and Jeff Probst’s blog.

One thing I’m not loving is NBC’s Olympic coverage. Besides the universally despised tape delay the network insists on using, even in the DVR era, I’m most disappointed in the network’s Web coverage of events.

The event I’ve been most looking forward to — the men’s 4x10k cross-country relay — takes place tomorrow at 1:15 CST, and it’s not airing on any network. U.S. men’s hockey, which normally airs on USA or MSNBC, is the Wednesday afternoon feature on NBC. Instead of airing the cross-country relay in the open timeslot, USA is airing a marathon of NCIS reruns.

Here’s the really dumb thing. NBC’s Olympic website is only streaming curling and hockey live, two events that already get live coverage on the main network or on cable. Why not use the website to broadcast events that won’t be aired on TV? I’d even be willing to pay a small amount ($.99, a la iTunes) to watch a live stream of some of the cross-country relay.

Instead of making money off of me and other fans of sports in which the U.S. isn’t competitive, either directly or via ad exposure, NBC forces fans to seek out international live streams on the Internet (bring on the Tim Horton’s ads, Canadian Olympic coverage!).

NBC’s Olympic broadcast contract runs out after 2012. I’m hopeful that a new network will embrace current technology and profit from making the Olympics more accessible to viewers.

Ox Notes: February 11, 2010

The two-hour premiere of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains begins tonight at 8 ET on CBS. Reality Blurred and TV Guide interviewed the participants, and EW posted behind-the-scenes video shot on location.

A new name has surfaced in the race to fill Samantha Harris’ empty co-host spot on Dancing with the Stars: E! News correspondent Ashlan Gorse. I haven’t seen her in action, but she’s cute and she won’t upstage Tom Bergeron, so she might be the right choice.

Deadliest Catch captain Phil Harris died on Tuesday after suffering a stroke on January 29. He was 53. The show’s sixth season finished filming last month, and Capt. Phil will feature in the new season when it begins in April.

Top Chef Masters announced the participants for Season 2, which debuts April 7 on Bravo. I’m pulling for Chicago’s Rick Tramonto.

Lost‘s Daniel Dae Kim and Three Rivers‘ Alex O’Loughlin will star in the upcoming remake of Hawaii Five-0. Can the handsome Aussie complete the trifecta, starring in three failed CBS dramas in a row?

You’re going to want to bookmark this list of Hollywood character actors, complete with photos. Every time you watch a movie or TV show and are inspired to shout, "Hey! It’s That Guy," you’ll be able to look up his name.

My favorite That Guy is Clancy Brown, the man responsible for my most beloved film scene of all time (don’t ask me why, ’cause I’m not sure):

Ox Notes: February 9, 2010

Two bits of unsettling Dancing with the Stars news. First, DwtS pros Cheryl Burke, Anna Trebunskaya, Chelsie Hightower and Edyta Sliwinska posed in bikinis alongside some of their former celebrity partners for the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. There’s something creepy about these videos from the photo shoot, where the bikini-clad women pose suggestively with their partners — who are clad in regular clothes — while a fan blows on them.

I’m also disturbed by the rumored final two candidates to take over Samantha Harris’ co-hosting duties: Nancy O’Dell and Marie Osmond. Nancy O’Dell is a fine choice, with years of hosting experience and the right amount of empathy for the contestants.

Marie Osmond, however, strikes me as a terrible choice. While she might appeal to the average DwtS audience member — a woman in her mid-fifties — that’s not the demographic advertisers are most interested in. Following DwtS, Marie pursued hosting her own daytime talk show, which makes me wonder if she’d be willing to cede the spotlight to the contestants and to the real star of the show, Tom Bergeron.

Karina Smirnoff’s dream dance partner is John Stamos.

Following the Super Bowl, CBS’s Undercover Boss scored the largest audience ever for a reality show premiere: 38.6 million viewers. If its second episode, which follows the debut of The Amazing Race on Sunday, garners even 30% of that number, I’ll be impressed.

Speaking of TAR, TV Guide interviewed contestants and Big Brother vets Jeff & Jordan.

Survivor fans can breathe a sigh of relief: Jeff Probst has agreed to host Season 21 & 22. People and EW have the scoop.

Ox Notes: February 4, 2010

Pamela Anderson has reportedly signed on for Dancing with the Stars 10. I wonder what kind of dance style best suits the Baywatch theme song?

Melissa Rycroft has joined Entertainment Tonight as a special correspondent, effectively nixing her chances of filling Samantha Harris’ shoes as DwtS co-host.

The retrospective Surviving Survivor airs tonight on CBS at 8 ET. Reality Blurred will live blog during the show. I’ll be watching Vampire Diaries.

Starting February 18, my fellow PS3 owners and I can watch The Tester on the Playstation Network. The Hal Sparks-hosted competitive reality show puts gamers through a series of challenges as they compete for $5000 and a job as a professional game tester (which isn’t as glamorous a gig as it sounds).

I’m getting excited for Sunday’s "big game": Puppy Bowl VI on Animal Planet! Beginning at 3 p.m. ET, the show — which features puppies playing on a miniature football field — repeats every two hours until the wee hours of the morning. The official Puppy Bowl site is borked, but you can view the Starting Lineup here.

Zap2It interviewed the Puppy Bowl referee, Andrew Schechter.

If you don’t intend to watch the actual Super Bowl but are still interested in the commercials, cable network Spike will post all of the commercials online at almost immediately after they air on CBS. Thank you, Spike!

Ox Notes: February 2, 2010

If you want to learn who’s on Dancing with the Stars 10, you’re going to have to sit through an episode of The Bachelor to do it. ABC will reveal the identities of the DwtS 10 cast members at intervals during the March 1 Bachelor finale. I think I’ll skip the dating show and wait until the cast list is posted at the ABC’s DwtS website.

The first believable DwtS 10 cast rumor comes courtesy of former MMA fighter and actor Jason Chambers. He’s not a household name, but he’s young and hunky, so I’ll be surprised if he’s not in the cast.

Olympic diving champ Greg Louganis is campaigning for a spot on DwtS 10.

The first half of the Lost final season premiere — which airs tonight on ABC at 9 ET — is available online, but fans aren’t watching it. They don’t want to be spoiled.

Reality Blurred is posting preseason interviews with the Survivor 20 cast members.

In sad news, Phil Harris, captain of the Cornelia Marie on The Deadliest Catch, is in the hospital recovering from a stroke. Discovery promises to update fans on Phil’s condition here.

If you’re not sick of the Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien Tonight Show feud, check out this fascinating dissection of Jay’s interview on Oprah last week. It’s long, but it contains a lot evidence to indicate that Jay was being, um, less than truthful.

Masterpiece Classic aired the final episodes of Jane Austen’s Emma on Sunday night. If you missed it, you can watch the mini-series online here. It’s worth it.

I’m looking forward to Masterpiece Classic‘s March 28 feature, Sharpe’s Challenge, because of its major WTF factor. The co-star playing opposite Sean Bean’s Richard Sharpe is none other than Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi.