Tuesday, 21 September 2004

The Amazing Race 5, Episode 12

Manila (Philippines) - El Nido - (Philippines) - Lagen Island (Philippines) - El Nido (Philippines) - Manila (Philippines) - Calgary, Alberta (Canada) - Lookout Mountain, Alberta (Canada) - [Banff, Alberta (Canada)] - Canada Olympic Park, Alberta (Canada) - Fort Worth, Texas (USA) - Dallas, Texas (USA)

Those who saw the photos of The Amazing Race that I posted last week are probably wondering what happened to the teams' visit to Banff, Alberta (Canada), and the tepee-building challenge: neither appeared in the broadcast of the final episode of this season of the around-the-world travel reality-TV show

Permits for the filming in downtown Banff and at the tepee-building site in the Bow Falls parking lot nearby were taken out by "World Race Productions", which exists solely to produce "The Amazing Race". And there was no "roadblock" (a task that only one team member may perform) shown in the 13th and final leg of the race, unlike all the other legs.

So I suspect that the tepee-building was in fact the final "roadblock", but was edited out either to make time for more exciting footage (the teams were only a few minutes apart at the tepee site, but it took them all about the same amount of time; all they were seen to do in downtown Banff was to go into a shop to pick up a clue) or because I had "spoiled" it. My photos thus remain as the only public record of this part of the race.

This might have been a decoy clue pickup and challenge filmed by the actual cast members, but from what I know about when it was photographed, and other spottings of the race, it's hard to construct a plausible schedule that would have given the racers time at the right time of day to have done it. It's also possible that it was a decoy filmed with stunt doubles, but that seems even less likely, given the close-ups of the racers.

So far as I know, this was the first season in which so many of the destinations visited by the race -- including the Philippines, Alberta, and probably Dubai -- were selected as a result of lobbying by destination marketing companies and government tourism promotion offices. Tourism promoters in Banff may be disappointed that their cameo role in the race wound up on the cutting-room floor, but they don't need the television show to sell the attractiveness of the region.

Banff and environs are already attracting exactly the sort of people who would be attracted to "The Amazing Race". Andrew Hempstead, author of the definitive Moon Handbooks to the region (earlier in this episode, Colin was cursing himself, "If only we had a guidebook!") and the WesternCanadaTravel.com Web site, says:

The type of traveller to Banff has changed over the last few years. More and more visitors are coming to the region looking for adventure rather than simply to say they've been to Banff. Hiking, white-water rafting, and horseback riding are favorite activities, which savvy travellers explore well beyond the park, heading into the back-country of Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park and the Lake O'Hara region.

Canadian tourism and visitorship has also benefited from the undervalued Canadian dollar, and from the US-VISIT program and other "Homeland Security" measures that have made the USA less officially welcoming (most ordinary Americans still welcome foreigners -- really we do!) and more difficult and expensive for foreign citizens to visit. Tourists from abroad interested in North America are choosing friendly, more affordable Canada instead of the USA. Students and academics are choosing to study, teach, and do research in Canada instead of the USA. Businesses and other organizations are holding meetings and conventions in Canada instead of the USA, especially if they involve participants from countries, or of ethnicities, disfavored by the USA government.

Also likely to be disappointed with the final broadcast are the TV show's sponsors at American Airlines (IATA code "AA"). It appears that, along with product placements and advertisements read by the host of the show during each episode, AA was also responsible for the race ending in their primary hub, Dallas-Ft. Worth. AA may have hoped to promote the area as a tourist destination, not just a place to change planes, but the primary impression left with viewers was of how bad the traffic is.

Since AA has the most flights to DFW, the odds were that the best flight for the racers (for whom price of airline tickets is no object) would be on AA. Presumably, what AA wanted was scenes of racers saying, "I really want to get on American Airlines, because they have the best schedule." Instead, what they got was repeated scenes of racers desperately trying to get off AA, first because the most direct AA flight was two hours late, and then because United Airlines (UA) chanced to have a flight from its hub in Denver to DFW arriving slightly before the next AA flight. The one team that got on the UA flight got enough of a lead from that alone to carry them through to victory over the other two teams who flew AA. Having the final decisive factor in the race be which team didn't choose the sponsoring airline is about what AA deserved, I think. It's also a good lesson that, when flying to or from a major airlines' hub airport that it dominates, it's often preferable to avoid that locally-dominant airline, if only to preserve at least some competition and choice.

The Amazing Race 6 has already been filmed. Broadcasts were to start this week or next on Saturday nights on CBS in the USA, but the success of the show (it has won the Emmy award for "reality-competition" show the last two years running, and ratings are increasing even in the USA) has prompted CBS to hold the show back for a later start date, probably on a weeknight. I'll let you know as soon as the starting date and time for the new season are confirmed.

Applications have supposedly closed for The Amazing Race 7 , to be filmed starting in late 2004. Keep your eyes peeled for race flags, and watch for pairs of people running through airports along with camera crews (if you get pictures of the racers or the race, please send them to me; I can publish them with or without identifying you, as you choose), if you are travelling during October-December.

If you missed the official application deadline for the next season, but want to participate (and if you are a citizen of the USA -- the producers still haven't changed their rule that, "No Canadians or other 'foreigners' need apply"), I'd send in an application anyway: many of the cast members in previous seasons of the race have been selected outside the publicly-announced applications and auditions, and some applications have been held over from one season to another.

Of course, you could always do it yourself, as I'll be talking about in my presentation Wednesday night at the National Geographic Society on A 21st-Century World Tour . As Kim said immediately after she and Chip won The Amazing Race 5 , "I just can't imagine, if anyone gets a chance: take the time out and just travel!"

I'll continue to keep up with other news in my blog. For those of you reading this in my e-mail newsletter , until next season, "Bon voyage".

[Addendum, 30 September 2004: As several commenters have pointed out, photos of the tepee-building challenge and the visits to stores in downdown Banff (during which, apparently, the racers picked up the matching winter hats and other apparel) show up in the gallery of photos of the race on the CBS Web site. And Southern California blogger Franklin Avenue reports that he interviewed co-producer Bertram Van Munster, who further confirmed that the Banff segment of the race had been "left... on the cutting room floor".]

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 21 September 2004, 22:53 (10:53 PM) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Interestingly, the CBS website photo album also has photos of the teepee building and shop in Banff. However, there is no mention of this event in the episode story on their website.

Posted by: Sami, 22 September 2004, 11:34 (11:34 AM)

I am trying to download the app for TAR but for some reason can't open it. Any tips?

Thanks,
Crystalyn

Posted by: Crystalyn, 22 September 2004, 14:31 ( 2:31 PM)

Thanks so much for posting your thoughts about the Amazing Race. Has been a pleasure reading them. I look forward to your updates on the upcoming season.

The tepee thing left me baffled, I had thought the photos were fakes. But I guess I was wrong; the producers don't show us everything. Of course, that would make for a good feature on the DVD!

By the way, if you did not know, Evangelina "Luli" Arroyo was the person with Phil when the contestants checked in at the pit stop at the Coconut Palace. Luli is the daughter of Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. I wonder if Luli herself has done a lot of lobbying. ;-) I didn't know this when I first watched it, but she did look familiar.

--Chris

Posted by: Christopher Sundita, 22 September 2004, 16:14 ( 4:14 PM)

The tepee-building was an actual roadblock; the most likely reason they edited it out was because it didn't make for interesting television.

They also edited out a roadblock in Dubai -- that was the episode where they spent so much screen time on Colin at the police station at Kilimanjaro airport.

Your hypothesis that they dropped the tepee-building because you spoiled it? Uh, don't flatter yourself.

Also it makes no sense that it was some kind of decoy. The whole idea of a decoy challenge is to get *incorrect* information into the spoiler flow. So a decoy challenge would have been in some city nowhere near where the racers actually did travel, or it would have involved racers eliminated earlier. (For example, if they wanted to stage a decoy challenge, they would probably have used the twins and the cousins in North America, to generate false spoilers that those two teams had made the final three.)

There is great discussion of all aspects of this show in the forums at televisionwithoutpity.com.

Posted by: Jack, 25 September 2004, 16:01 ( 4:01 PM)
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