I’m going to admit it, I haven’t watched much of The Amazing Race or The Amazing Race Canada, aside from maybe a few minutes that I might have seen when I tuned in a bit early to watch something else or left the TV on a few minutes after a show I wanted to watch. I could never see the appeal of watching people run frantically from place to place to do random stuff. On top of that, I’m wary of reality TV competitions because then you have the reality TV attitude and the vapid reality TV smack talk that comes with it. However, with all the hype around The Amazing Race Canada, I thought I might as well check it out and put all that aside.
One of the first notable things about the show is how it knocks you over the head with product placements. In retrospect, it’s something I should’ve been wary of ahead of time. It’s Chevrolet this, Petro Canada that, Scotiabank this, American Express that, Air Canada this. If a logo from something else appears on screen and they’re not a sponsor, or worse a competing product, you bet they’ll go out of the way to blur the logo, even if you could clearly tell that the cab they’re driving around in is a Toyota, for example. Logo blurring is annoying, but many shows do it, so I shouldn’t really fault them for it. It’s the way The Amazing Race Canada pushes their sponsors that’s particularly aggravating.
If the product placement during the show wasn’t enough, you get to see the sponsor’s ads, specially made for the program, during the commercial breaks (which must cost a fortune), and then there are ads for the show’s sponsors that CTV puts up on screen during the show (like during the actual show, I’m not talking about the commercial breaks). The Amazing Race Canada is not so much a reality show, but a huge infomercial that somehow became a national spectacle. The ratings for this show were insane last season and I have no reason to expect that they won’t be this season.
So with the big ratings and it being a spectacle, it might be easy to think of the advertising aspect of the show to be like the Super Bowl on a smaller scale, but it’s worse because there are fewer sponsors, so you’ll hear about them over and over. Perhaps comparing it to the MMVAs would be more accurate, and that aired on fellow Bell Media station Much, as well as CTV. The MMVAs relentlessly bombarded you with sponsor tie-ins, so now it seems that Bell is going full throttle when it comes to pushing their sponsors in our face and it’s becoming a trend. Bell appears to go out of its way to develop a relationship with its advertisers and it looks as if it goes deep. CTV is even asking advertisers to put more effort in their Super Bowl ads.
It’s at that point you realize CTV’s focus isn’t really you, the typical person who tunes in, anymore. I doubt that they care about you that much as they’re number one by far in the country and they already have you hooked. (Like really, what are we going to do if we don’t want to put up with the ads/product placement, film our own Amazing Race and put it on YouTube?). Their main concern is now their advertisers and monetizing our eyeballs. This arguably isn’t a bad thing, as money is what keeps Bell healthy, so it can make more shows, but there might be a tipping point and they might be approaching it with The Amazing Race Canada.
It shills Chevys, Petro Canada gas, Air Canada flights and Scotiabank American Express cards at every opportunity it can, to the point it becomes annoying and a turn off. Perhaps worst of all, why do they need to sell out so aggressively when they already own a staggering number of TV channels as well as radio stations, and they’re arguably charging much more than they need to for their phone, internet and TV service? Bell seems to have a lot of money at hand, but it’s a mystery to me why they do some things such as firing a bunch of people in Toronto the other day with all the other sources of income they have, especially with this show in their roster, which is explicitly, unabashedly a cash cow.
The easy thing to say is they’re greedy, I hope that isn’t true. I spoke with someone who knows a lot about the media yesterday, and now that has me thinking Canadian media organizations operate like this partly because Canadians have an appetite for American style programming, but we’re a tenth of the population of the US, so it’s harder to monetize that programming with that small population to sustain it. That might be the reason Bell owns so much yet still has to cut corners by reairing the same shows over multiple channels.
Anyway, back to The Amazing Race Canada…if there’s anything to get back to. I’m going to skip going over the contestants because, honestly, reality show contestants are unfortunately disposable for the most part. You’re boiled down to a caricature opposed to a real person and you might be famous for a year, but that’s it. At least this show gives us a minute or so to give a backstory of the teams, not all reality shows are like that. On The Amazing Race Canada this season you have butchers (They’re French!), a gay couple (They’ll make sure you’ll never forget it either!), a lesbian couple (They’re interracial too—suck it, bigots!), a mother/son team (Think Norma/Norman from Bates Motel before things got weird!), two besties who happen to be Muslim (Of course they had to ask the butchers if they do halal meat!) and more, like whatever. The contestants just run around and drive around Canada, doing ridiculous things (jumping out of planes, becoming waiters), for God knows what reason besides the show told them to and there’s some prize at the end. If they mess up (or even throw up), the cameras are there to catch that and broadcast it into our living rooms for our amusement.
The Amazing Race is frantic, but I’m sure that’s not news for most people. There’s the shaky camera and awkward close ups. The show also jumps from team to team, even back and forth from events because different teams may have arrived at events at different times. Some events may get tedious seeing them after three, four or five times with the only difference is that they’re done by different teams. I’m talking about the waiter/butler/menu reading from memory thing, in the second season premiere. Heck, The Amazing Race could even be downright dull and anything should seem exciting to me. The most “Amazing Race” like moment I had this year was going to Wendy’s all over downtown Toronto just to get a baked potato. Despite some of the tedious elements of the show, you can manage to get suckered into the hype. It’s easy to lose track of time and before you know it, the hour is done.
By now, you probably know what you’re getting with The Amazing Race and if you don’t, you can probably make up your mind within 15 minutes if it’s a show for you. Personally, I find it a bit dull, yes, even with throwing people out of planes, you can still be dull. It’s just gimmick after gimmick, but compared to a lot of the other reality TV schlock, this is definitely one of the better shows if you can look past all the damn product placement, which isn’t likely. Oh yeah, make sure to buy a Chevrolet, fill it up with Petro Canada gas by using your Scotiabank American Express card, so you can take it to your Air Canada flight…now where’s my money?
Episode Reviewed: What’s It Take To Get a Cup of Tea?
The Amazing Race Canada airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CTV
Featured image: The Amazing Race Canada title card (screenshot via ctv.ca)
(Note: Fixed link glitch on July 22)