Amazing Race: Australia is one of several international versions of the Amazing Race, having debuted just last year. It's benefited from lessons learned by the producers of the US version (not to mention the South America, Asia & Israel editions), but the first year still felt like it had a few creases to iron out. As a seasoned fan of the Amazing Race, I appreciate how many of the program's contestants aren't prepared for what the Race involves, whereas by this time most Racers in the US version are so familiar with the premise that the producers have to keep shaking up their expectations.
What makes the Amazing Race worthwhile? Unlike some reality shows, it takes place in the real world, with the tasks the Racers perform being the only real manufactured aspect of the show. Racers make many of their own decisions on how they'll spend their money, where they'll sleep, what they'll eat, who they'll take directions from and so forth. Some teams make it appear easy as they seem to practically coast their way around the world; other teams visibly struggle as they face cultures and tasks far outside their comfort zone. The best aspects of the Amazing Race are seeing the participants push themselves past their limits, refusing to give up on challenges, overcoming seemingly superior adversaries, conquering personal fears and even enjoy each other's company and the experience of racing around the world (many teams have a lot of trouble grasping the latter aspects).
Amazing Race: Australia is hosted by Grant Bowler; strangely, he, like US host Phil Keoghan, is from New Zealand; whereas Phil's career has been mainly in the USA, Bowler's has been mainly in Australia. Bowler is an experienced reality show host, but I have to say I found him a little off on last year's show; he didn't seem to be at ease with his position as host, nor did he seem to build any rapport with the Racers. I'll be paying attention this season to see how he's improved, just as Phil changed between his first two Amazing Races.
This season's 11 teams are:
Shane & Andrew, police crime scene investigators in Melbourne. They count their relationship being "thick as thieves" and their abilities at "attention to detail" as major advantages on the Race. "When you take someone to the trenches, you take this bloke!" says Shane of Andrew; "And vice versa!" Andrew responds. Shane admits they're competitive, "But we wouldn't burn someone. Well... maybe..." They seem like they have a strong friendship and could be a lot of fun on the Race!
Michelle & Jo are twin sisters, born 34 seconds apart ("I'm the oldest!" says Michelle). Hailing from Sydney, they're blonde cheerleaders, but think they're more cunning than people might expect - they're also flight attendants so they've got a great grasp on travel, which is indeed a major bonus on the Race... not one which has ever led to any previous airline industry staff winning the Amazing Race, but an advantage all the same.
Tasmanians Sticky & Sam are flatmates. As you can see above, Sticky has no left arm, having been born without one. I think this is an Amazing Race - first Racer with one arm (although the US season 10 had a Racer with only one leg). Like many Racers who have a physical disability, Sticky speaks of his determination to prove himself. A clip of the duo shows off Sticky's ability at bowling a cricket ball, while Sam complains Sticky is always stealing girls from him. I tend to root for Racers with disabilities because they "get" that aspect of overcoming obstacles which I mentioned earlier; we'll soon see if Sticky & Sam are worth rooting for!
Self-described "on-again-off-again" couple James and Sarah have a nine year gap between their ages (Sarah is the elder, as you might've guessed). They live in Melbourne and have been dating for two years; Sarah seems to think she's a "cougar;" I can see how people might call her that, but I thought cougars were, like, 20 years older or more than their dates? Sarah does worry about them arguing on the Race, which is genuine concern every couple on the program should have; statistically, the Amazing Race has split up more couples than it's brought together.
Adam & Dane are cousins and the first aboriginal team on the Amazing Race! Hailing from Tweed Heads, they're a fun-loving pair; Adam claims their indigenous skills will help them on the Race and starts talking about their tracking powers. "We'll never get lost." says Dane with a smirk. Adam mocks Dane for being a touch vain and Dane jokingly admits he went on the Race because "I want to prove to Adam I can go a full 24 hours without looking in my reflection."
From Geraldton, Sue & Teresa are best friends and hair stylists; Teresa owns the hair salon while Sue is Teresa's employee. They admit people have dubbed them "hippes" and they do start talking about "karma." It seems like more Amazing Race contestants believe in karma than not (to say nothing of the fans)! They hope their "positive energy" will yield rewards on the Race. And if karma were real, it might.
Ross & Tarryn, another team from Melbourne, are father & daughter and both are athletes. Ross played in AFL football, a version of football I'm not familiar with. Tarryn is a basketball player. Tarryn is about to move away from home and is eager to prove her independence to her father. They have obvious credentials to deal with the physical demands of the Race, but so far as I know, no parent-offspring team has ever won the Amazing Race (at least in the US). I tend to like the parent-offspring teams, so I hope these two pan out.
Lucy & Emilia are sisters of Italian descent and both teach Italian in Sydney. Emilia claims Lucy has a stronger Italian accent than her; perhaps a native Australian could judge them, to me they both sound terribly Australian. This is the second female-female team comprised of sisters within the same Race!
Kym & Donna are an engaged couple from Brisbane and easily the coolest-looking team thus far. "We click together like two bits of Lego." says Kym, garnering the Lego vote in this household. They're the oldest team running this season and Donna notes "We've got enough friends, we're old. Don't need more friends. Always need more money." meaning they aren't afraid of offending their competition.
Joseph & Grace are a brother-sister team (so many family-related teams this season!) from (I think) Sydney. They were raised by a single mother and are currently living together; Joseph is becoming a successful bank employee. Grace admits he was "the man of the house" when they were growing up, but now she sees him as "Mr. Know-It-All" and she wants to tell him "what's right and what's wrong."
Finally, Paul & Steve, our final team from Melbourne. Paul is an accountant while Steve describes himself as "hands-on" (hence the orange vest), but they both work at the same company. "If anyone stands in my way my general attitude is 'step aside or get stepped on.'" says Paul, who comes off as very severe. Paul describes himself as competitive three times in a row (work, gym and dating). "We're here to win. If we believe burning a team gives us the best chance, then that's what we'll do." says Steve. So, we've got at least one team who are willing to be this season's villains.
Return tomorrow for my recap of episode 1!