Amazing Race 20 Preview: A surprisingly “mature” cast, by reality standards

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Amazing Race 20 Preview
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on CBS
Premieres on February 19

After barely surviving its early days, The Amazing Race is entering its 20th season. This is a remarkable feat for what began as a low-key antidote to other reality series. The formula has been tinkered with over the years (sometimes to its detriment), but the basic structure remains the same. Eleven teams of two journey around the world and compete for one million dollars. New Zealander Phil Keoghan has hosted since the beginning, and he provides a friendly presence to explain the tasks and greet the teams. It’s an effective set-up for tense drama and great entertainment with the right cast. Each season’s success or failure may come down to chance, but interesting players is the key factor.

After stumbling with the mediocre “Unfinished Business” season last spring, The Amazing Race rebounded nicely in the fall. The finish wasn’t inspiring, but the likable teams led to an enjoyable race. This season will cover more than 40,000 miles, which should offer chances for great entertainment. The CBS promos spotlight the skydiving, which will take place in Argentina and likely inspire tear-filled breakdowns. They’ve released more information, but the show works better as a surprise. There will certainly be tricky Road Blocks, Detours, and other challenges to baffle this group. The clues have reverted back to the harder messages from the earlier years, which is refreshing. The trend towards a lot of “go here” clues was making for duller television.

This season, the big news is the casting of Brendon and Rachel, a well-known couple who met on Big Brother. She won the show’s all-star season this past summer. The teams also include an MLS player, a professional golfer, clowns, and two guys from the Jersey Shore (the place, not the show). This season is also government-heavy and provides us with border patrol agents, drug enforcement agents, and an Iraq War veteran. There will be no messing around this season! Another interesting fact is that no participants are over the age of 45. It’s not a bunch of twenty-something models, however. Instead, the cast mostly includes athletic adults in their late-20s and 30s with well-defined careers. Calling this group “mature” might be a stretch, but it’s definitely an intriguing move. Here’s a brief look at each team involved in The Amazing Race’s 20th season:

Dave and Rachel – This married couple from Madison, Wisconsin are most notable because he’s an army officer who served in Iraq. Their video hints at tension in their marriage that may come out during the race, but they seem like a friendly, yet pretty dull couple.

Mark and Bopper – Judging by the interview, these 40ish guys from Kentucky could be a favorite. They have a down-to-earth approach and make no qualms about playing to win the money for their families. It sounds like they’ll do anything to win and won’t get involved in the silly moral quandaries that can plague self-righteous racers.

Nary and Jamie – These federal agents are involved in drug enforcement, so they’ll take little guff from other competitors. They seem likable and could be a force, assuming they don’t try to bust anyone for possession in shady areas of other countries. They might not be thrilling, but these agents have a serious shot to win.

Brendon and RachelThe Amazing Race hasn’t had much luck with casting reality TV stars. With the exception of Survivor’s Rob and Amber, the others have struggled to do well, most recently Ethan and Jenna last season. Brendon and Rachel are the third Big Brother team to compete, and they seem destined for a meltdown. It might be great TV, but they also could be really annoying.

Joey and Danny – These New York guys have the potential to be awesomely ridiculous. The video clips show them at the gym, and they’re really pushing the Jersey Shore angle. Joey is a supplement company owner who claims to be like Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Danny is a nightclub promoter who compares himself to Rocky Balboa. It’s hard to say if they’ll do well, but they should be good TV.

Misa and Maiya – The youngest team on the race, these sisters are cute but feel a little too proud of themselves. Maiya is a professional golfer who believes her time spent hustling guys on the golf course should help out on the race. This may be a stretch.

Dave and Cherie – Bring on the clowns! These “Ambassadors of Laughter” should be a fun team, despite their lack of confidence in their chances. Clowns Jon and Al in season four were a fan favorite, so Dave and Cherie have big shoes to fill.

Elliot and Andrew – These 28-year-old twins are the male heartthrobs of this season; Elliot is a musician, and Andrew is an MLS soccer player. After hearing all of the NFL references from Marcus last time, I’m getting ready for some soccer metaphors this time. Give that team a red card! We’re down to penalty kicks! This is extra time!

Kerri and Stacey – Nicknamed “Double Trouble”, this program coordinator and basketball wife could be entertaining or way over the top. The Gulfport, Mississippi cousins will definitely bring some manic energy and have the type of close relationship that could keep them around for a while.

Vanessa and Ralph – These attractive dating divorcees are the most likely team to fit into the painful “bickering couple” category. Ralph refers to her as “Hurricane Vanessa” in the online bio, so that’s not a good sign.

Art and J.J. – These border patrol agents feel similar to detectives Louie and Michael from season 16, who became a force midway through that race. They seem focused on winning and likely won’t get taken down by the killer fatigue that affects many teams.


First team eliminated: Dave and Cherie (sadly)
Most annoying team: Ralph and Vanessa
Sleeper team: Art and J.J.
Winners: Nary and Jamie

Dan Heaton

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