The Amazing Race Australia
The Amazing Race Australia ticks all the boxes. Even Phil Keoghan would be hooked on this version.
Some Spoilers: There are times when you look at Aussie adaptations of international shows and you feel like apologising.
Iron Chef Australia, Survivor Australia, the first series of The X Factor -you know who you are.
The Amazing Race Australia puts them all to shame. Phil Keoghan would be hooked on this version.
From understanding the format, to casting host and contestants, to not skimping on the production costs, this ticks all the boxes.
We open hovering over the city of Melbourne, which host Grant Bowler tells us is considered the sporting capital of Australia. Then we see Bowler: on the roof of the MCG. Heading towards him is a posse of 11 choppers with the teams that are about to compete. Big statement.
On the MCG’s hallowed turf Bowler, who has previously impressed as a host on The Mole when not acting on True Blood, Lost, Ugly Betty and voicing Border Security, explains the basics of the contest to the teams. You get the feeling it’s more for those at home who haven’t watched the US series rather than the contestants.
This lot are already dressed in attire that fastracks us to their personalities: farmers, Big W ladies, Muslims, models, surfers. They know this show like the back of their hand. Video profiles are full of amusing statements (“Running doesn’t really come into our lives!”) and work hard to set up relationships. Even the Aussie upward inflection is ripped straight out of Fountain Lakes and planted into the Race.
The Aussie race includes an Express Pass, which will assist a team to skip upcoming challenges. The grand prize, isn’t the $1M that gives Phil Keoghan his menacing power, but $250,000. It feels a little disappointing but in truth it is more than what is offered on MasterChef Australia. Seven must be kicking itself a bloke on Minute to Win It walked off with $500,000 just for bouncing two ping pong balls into two glasses. Hardly seems equitable.
The first Roadblock takes place at the MCG (“I’m so knackered!” yells one bloke) before teams speed off in cars bound for Melbourne airport. Some teams struggle with the local traffic, the farmers seem pretty overwhelmed by the frenzy of the city. Another team looks at a tram stop and asks “is that a road?” Yet another team will struggle with the airport car park and we’re not even out of the country. This will be fun.
The first destination is Bali. Teams hit the ground running, grabbing taxis to their first port of call. Just like US teams, the Aussies are already showing a lack of international manners and speaking in condescending tones. In a desperate plea to endear themselves to their driver, one team even tells him, “Big Australian kiss. You take Australian princesses.” Seriously.
Searching for a clue in a Balinese fishing village sees Aussies “runnin’ around like headless chooks.” Another moment sees them participate in a local custom that looks aggressive but has cultural meaning. One bloke takes it pretty personally. “You’re pussies!” he barks.
As with each TAR Detour, there are two choices of challenges that are locally influenced. One is physical, the other draws upon an ability to improvise. The Aussies aren’t very good at them either, with the locals giggling at their hapless mastering of some pretty everyday tasks. Another challenge will test their mental skills.
Throughout the extended premiere episode the production values on the show are excellent. There are aerial shots, underwater shots, shots inside vehicles, shots in front and behind teams racing, and shots from behind airline counters. The soundtrack, undoubtedly sourced from the US edition, helps highlight the tension. There are even those annoying re-caps after commercial breaks.
Teams crumble under the conditions, already at odds with the climate, language, their physical limits and inability to communicate. Simple mistakes cost some dearly. Relationships that are already at breaking point seem doomed. This is where The Amazing Race works so well, when its casting, competition and travel elements collude so perfectly under a ticking clock. Some teams look ripe fomisbecoming perfect Reality villains.
ActiveTV, who have already produced The Amazing Race Asia, clearly know this show well.
Bowler is more relaxed than Keoghan, but we are a long way from the revolving door of Seven hosts who would have brought baggage on this journey.
Buy a ticket and strap yourself in. You’re gonna love The Amazing Race Australia.
The Amazing Race Australia starts soon on Seven.