The Amazing Race 8: Preview

On Tuesday night, The Amazing Race returns to CBS for its eighth season. And for the first time, teams will consist of families of four instead of pairs. The producers cast teams that represent a cross-section of American families. But, of course, there were also certain reality show niches each family was picked to fill. Here’s an introduction to the families–and the roles they’re meant to play:

Hailing from Shreveport, Lousiana, the Rogers family is the show’s control group. Denny, 46, is married to Renee, 42. They’re joined by their kids, Brittney, 22, and Brock, 19. They appear to be an average, middle-class family. The kids seem like relatively well-adjusted young adults who get along with their parents. There may be little potential for fireworks here.

Blow ups are more likely in a foursome of siblings, especially in the Godlewski family. This team is made of four blond sisters who range in age from 26-42 and tend to cry a lot. Being raised in Des Plaines, Illinois, these girls have developed strong Chicago accents, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t refer to them as Team Ditka from now on.

The other all-sibling team is the terrifying Linz family from Cincinnati, Ohio. Megan and her brothers, Nick, Alex, and Tommy all have matching orange shirts and blindingly white teeth; they’re good looking enough to make most of us instantly hate them. They’re physically fit with tons of confidence and an average age of 21.5. If they lose, then they must be cursed or really, really stupid.

The Linz family is one of the season’s three Alpha Families. These families are intense, fit, well-oiled machines. Alpha Families live for challenges where they can not only excel, but can effectively crush the competition.

The Schroders are the season’s second such family. Mark and Char (who looks like Cher) work out a lot and like to take their two kids, Stassi and Hunter, on cool vacations. Stassi, 17, is totally poised and confident in front of the camera. Fortunately, Hunter is a sullen 15-year-old who makes this bunch of overachievers seem a bit more human and less Stepford-family. They’re from New Orleans, and it’ll be interesting to see how they’re edited after Hurricane Katrina.

The third Alpha Family is the Gaghans from Glastonbury, Connecticut. They’re the cute family with the adorable little girl, Carissa, who falls asleep in the car in the TAR commercial. Carissa says she wants to do the show so she’ll be popular. She’s one savvy 9-year-old. Carissa’s parents, Bill and Tammy, run marathons. Carissa and her 12-year-old brother, Billy, aren’t nearly so athletic; they only participate in 5K events. What pre-teen can’t at least do a half-marathon?

At least one of the teams has to be sentimental favorites, and that looks to be the Weavers from Ormond Beach, Florida. 46-year-old Linda has had a hard time parenting her three teens since her husband’s death two years ago. She’s bringing her son and two daughters on the race, so that they can get a fresh start and grow closer to one another.

The show also needs funny teams. The Paolos are from New York City and follow a tradition of humorous teams from NYC. Tony immigrated to the U.S. as a kid and works as a garbage man. His two sons give him a hard time for mangling English. Mix in a mother who’s just happy to get out of the house for a few weeks, and let laughter ensue.

Wally Bransen of Park Ridge, Illinois, brought his three daughters on the show so that he could crack jokes about how they wouldn’t be spending this much time with him unless there was a chance to win $1 million. Having been raised in the Chicago suburbs, I can tell you that this is typical dad-humor of the region. Count on Wally to also joke about how the girls kidnapped him from the Old Folks Home for this, or that the girls are lucky they got their looks from their mother.

Tony Aiello, who kind of sounds like Ernie’s platonic friend Bert, but with a Boston accent, somehow tricked or bullied his three sons-in-law into running the race with him. The guys will all be on their best behavior while Tony half-teases them about not being good enough for his daughters. And while they’ve already identified each teammate’s strongest skills, there’s no way Tony’s letting any of those guys drive, navigate, or hold the money. And props to the old man for figuring out a way to keep these guys from having sex with his daughters for six weeks.

Lastly, there’s this season’s black family, the Black family. They seem like a great family; they all participate in Tae Kwon Do together (the kids are actually more advanced than the adults) and really care about each other. But it’s going to be impossible to mention them without doing all sorts of “Who’s on first?” qualifying. It doesn’t help when Reggie, the dad, says in their pre-show interview, “America, watch out for the Black family!” C’mon, that’s totally hilarious. I’ll go out on a limb and guess that Reggie did that on purpose.