There was a time when The Amazing Race was considered the elite of the reality TV world.
Reality TV remains a genre viewed with a lot of skepticism. Some shows have eked out respectable reputations, but a lot are viewed as low rent. The Amazing Race always bucked that trend. It had a sheen of class and intelligence not common among its peers. Or for that matter, a lot of scripted TV.
But despite a devoted fan base and an impressive Emmy haul (15 wins to date), The Amazing Race struggled for the kind of ratings and buzz enjoyed by CBS siblings Survivor and Big Brother. For a long time, the show was fine with being “above the fray.” It did its thing. Ratings were mostly good. Any changes made to the format seemed like the normal tinkering that occurs on any long-term series wanting to keep things fresh.
In recent years, The Amazing Race has increasingly embraced the kind of showy gimmicks employed by lesser programs. They’ve embraced stunt casting (TV personalities, pro athletes, alums from Survivor and Big Brother). They’ve done All-Star seasons. Last year, they tried out a “blind date” concept that blatantly ignored the show’s bedrock premise of teams consisting of two people with an existing relationship.
While the show’s current season is still unspooling, The Amazing Race has already announced the teams for its next go-round. All of the teams are populated by internet celebrities. Mostly people who get a lot of traffic on YouTube and Vine. CBS is calling them “influencers.”
It feels like a rather crass attempt to pander to a social media crowd that’s not especially interested in The Amazing Race. The show’s demographic has skewed increasingly older over the years, especially after it relocated to Friday nights in Fall 2014. Will stacking the cast with social media notables really bring younger viewers to the veteran show?
It feels unlikely. The Amazing Race is on the downward slope of its lifespan. It’s still entertaining a lot of the time, but if ever there was a point where it was “can’t miss” that’s long past. It’s effective Friday night programming. It’s low cost and has enough devoted fans left to deliver a not embarrassing audience on a night where a lot of viewers are otherwise engaged. It’s not hip, fresh or trendy.
Casting internet celebrities is not going to bring an avalanche of younger viewers to The Amazing Race. The online fans that have made these people well-known in certain circles are less likely to be watching television (especially not “live” television). It’s hard seeing ADD YouTube addicts spending an entire hour watching highly-gamed and -edited adventure footage when they have a plethora of short, raw, DYI action videos at their disposal.
Time will tell, of course. But this move can’t help but feel like a banana peel in front of an open grave for The Amazing Race.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on November 12, 2015.