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September 2009

Why Does 'Amazing Race' Keep Winning the Emmy?

Date: 9/23/2009
Source: LA Times / The Envelope

Amazing race jon stewart
There's a cruel double standard applied to the repeat Emmy victories by "The Amazing Race" and "The Daily Show" — both of which have swept their categories (best reality program, best variety series, respectively) seven times in a row. When "Race" prevailed, amazingly again (it's never lost this category in the seven years of its existence), there was grumbling back in the press room. No one suggested it didn't deserve to win. The harrumphing was all about, "Oh, it won again? Isn't enough enough?" "Survivor" host Jeff Probst even had thelousy manners to say, "Maybe 'Amazing Race' should do what Oprah did and pull itself out of competition." Moments later "Amazing" producer Bert Van Munster was asked by reporters if he'd do just that. He replied, "I'm going to discuss it with my committee here, but it's unlikely." Jon Stewart Daily Show However, when "The Daily Show" won again, none of the journalists seemed to mind, and nobody mentioned the Oprah option. Why? The answer's obvious. Journalists think Jon Stewart is cool, so no one has the guts to suggest — out loud — that he should bow out. Daring to utter such a thing would risk instant ambush, flogging and crucifixion by peers. But if the basis for complaining about repeat victories is monotonous repetition, then both shows should be held to the same standard, shouldn't they? If you wish to argue that "The Daily Show" deserves to win and "Amazing Race" doesn't (and no one I know has made that argument publicly), then consider this: A good case can be made that "The Daily Show" didn't deserve to win this year. It beat a nominee that was universally acclaimed to be one of the most relevant, important and brilliant programs of the past TV year: "Saturday Night Live" not only had a superb season, creatively speaking, but its riffs on U.S. presidential politics starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were the water-cooler talk of the nation. Did "The Daily Show" really deserve to beat that? Of course not. So how did it happen? There are quirks of human nature that can be routinely observed as factors behind who wins Emmys. Let's start with Stewart's category: best variety series. Programs with multiple hosts seldom win Emmys. We see that all the time at the Daytime Emmys, where just a few weeks ago, for the first time in this TV award's history, a show with multiple hosts ("The View") finally won best talk show. That same voting bias hurts "Saturday Night Live." The show hasn't won this category since 1993 and that may be one of the reasons. Showbiz awards are all about hugs. When voters look over a ballot, they're more inclined to want to wrap their arms around one person than lots of people. But there are four solo people emceeing the other four nominees in this category. One of them is just too mean. Even as much as he's liked and admired, no one, let's be honest, wants to hug Bill Maher. In fact, he's Emmy's biggest loser, with 22 defeats, no wins. David Letterman has always been a bit mean, but he's warmed up through the years. He used to win here frequently, but he's been pushed aside ever since Stewart emerged as the new Letterman, the new cool dude with snarky 'tude sitting behind a desk on TV.
Oh, yeah, Stephen Colbert is also in this category and behind a desk, but as brilliant as his show is (clearly superior to the excellent "Daily Show," methinks), he's just too silly, so voters don't take him seriously in this program category. However, he did beat "The Daily Show" for variety writing last year, so he's a threat. Now to explain the mystery of "Amazing Race." It's no head-scratcher, really, not when you consider how Emmy voting works. A winner is decided by a few dozen academy members viewing a sample episode submitted by each nominee as an example of their best work. "American Idol" may be TV's most popular show, but that's a drawback in this case. Everybody knows how the singing contest ends, so there is no suspense when judges evaluate an episode from one random point in the TV season. In fact, it may seem quite boring — just a lot of amateurs crooning pop tunes and being subjected to ridicule by Simon Cowell. Compare that to a typical episode of "The Amazing Race," which is always exciting — packed with adrenaline pace, fierce and quirky human interaction plus exotic locations. Many judges haven't seen the whole season, so they're delighted to discover it, and that only enhances their appreciation. In the great big picture of TV things, it's rather appropriate that the Emmy should keep returning to an old friend. Seven years ago CBS was close to cancellling "Amazing Race," but it got a stay of execution after beating "Survivor" and "American Idol." Now "Race" has outrun that old threat, but keeps on reaping Emmys, as if to prove those early victories weren't flukes. "Amazing Race" joins other great TV shows saved by winning Emmys, including "Hill Street Blues," "Cheers" and "All in the Family." There is, let's admit it, something amazing about that, thus making "Race's" kinship with Emmy a good thing. I think it should remain in the Emmy race for many years-- and continue to win as long as it deserves the honor. Just because some grouchy TV critics are bored by the repetition is no reason for "Race" tohit the brakes. But maybe it's time for "The Daily Show" toquit thederby, considering it just won when it didn't deserve to. Let's pose the same question to Stewart that was posed to Van Munste: Don't you think it's time to pull an Oprah and withdraw from competition?


The Amazing Race Introduces Contestant with Asperger's Syndrome

Date: 9/23/2009

he last season of The Amazing Race featured the show’s first deaf player, who made it all the way to the final leg. Among this season’s teams will be one with a contestant who has Asperger’s syndrome. Zev Glassenberg, 26, will journey Zev and Justinthrough eight countries in 21 days for a chance at $1 million — a challenge Glassenberg is looking forward to. “It’s one of my favorite shows and I thought it would be a really, really cool experience,” he tells “It’s basically a scavenger hunt around the world and I like to do scavenger hunts, so why not do one around the world?” His partner will be his longtime friend Justin Kanew, 30, who he says will be there to help him with the aspects of travel that might prove most trying for him. Aspergers, an autism-spectrum disorder, is a condition in which people have extreme difficulties understanding or participating in social interactions. “He’s one of my very, very good friends,” Glassenberg said. “We met at a sports camp in Massachusetts in 2003 where we taught football together. We’re pretty much alike. He’s a little bit older than I am but we both have the same common interests — sports and hanging out and just having a good time.” Glassenberg says he’d wanted to apply for the show for the last seven seasons and does not think having Asperger’s syndrome should hurt his chances at the $1 million prize. “I’ve had [Asperger's] since I was 11. It really doesn’t mean much to my life,” he says. “It’s just something I do and I guess I live with it. I don’t really spend too much of my life on that — it’s just something that’s there.” Although he admits the social aspects of traveling the world on a reality show competition are “little overwhelming,” the same could be said for any of the teams. “I thought we had as good a shot as anybody to win the race,” Glassenberg says. “I just wanted to go and be myself and do my thing.” The Amazing Race premieres Sept. 27 on CBS. –Michael Y. Park


Meet the Teams on New Season "The Amazing Race"

Date: 9/23/2009
Source: Associated Press

One team will have a leg up on the competition in the upcoming season of "The Amazing Race."Two of the Harlem Globetrotters are among the 12 teams starring in the 15th edition of the CBS reality show, which premieres Sept. 27. Nathaniel "The Big Easy" Lofton, 28, from New Orleans, and Herbert "Flight Time" Lang, 32, from Brinkley, Ark., believe their experience will help them dominate this season's course, which spans eight countries in 21 days."I've been to about 65 countries around the world," said Lang. "I definitely think that gives us a little bit of an advantage when we're traveling to different countries, as far as knowing how to interact with different cultures, managing our money and communicating with taxi drivers and whoever else we need to help us get from Point A to Point B."Justin Kanew, 30, and Zev Glassenberg, 26, best friends from Los Angeles who met while working as camp counselors at Camp Greylock in Becket, Mass., are more excited about the journey than the possibility of winning the show's $1 million grand prize. Glassenberg has Asperger's syndrome, a milder form of autism."I don't think the fact that I have Asperger's will hinder me," Glassenberg said. "I do tend to think outside of the box, so it might help us. It'll be weird going into these social situations around the world. I might not take it all in right away, but I know I'm racing, so I'll probably get past it really fast."Other teams include Maria Ho, 26, and Tiffany Michelle, 25, who are professional poker players."It's obviously different from competition at the poker table," said Ho, who came in 11th place at this year's World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. "It's outdoorsy. This is physical and mental, but we will definitely be applying whatever skills we have as gamers to this competition and push ourselves in different ways that we're not used to doing."Among the teams who are romantically linked: a feisty engaged couple from Boston; grade-school sweethearts from San Diego; a dating couple from San Francisco who met online; married yoga instructors from Encino, Calif.; dating aspiring country singers; and a former Miss America and her husband."They are now suddenly putting their relationship under a microscope," said host Phil Keoghan. "I personally wouldn't want to do that, but teams do, and audiences love to watch it, and there are a number of teams on this season that are coming to the race to test their relationship, and it sounds like some of them might get quite testy in the process."For the first time, one team will be booted at the start of the trek, and racers will have to tackle the Switchback, a new twist that sends teams back to one of the series' most challenging "roadblocks." Executive producer Bertram van Munster said the racers will set off from the Los Angeles River, then first head to Tokyo to complete several zany tasks."Have you ever seen Japanese tourists following a tour guide with a little flag?" said van Munster. "Well, our contestants are going to be the tour leaders. Each team is going to have to run a group of 20 tourists through the center of Tokyo as fast as they can. Whoever brings their entire tour group to the Pit Stop first will be the number one team." CBS is a division of CBS Corp.


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Why Does 'Amazing Race' Keep Winning the Emmy?
The Amazing Race Introduces Contestant with Asperger's Syndrome
Meet the Teams on New Season "The Amazing Race"

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