Okay, you can bet I was disappointed to not have my fix of Amazing Race tonight. Particularly after enjoying Martha’s recap of last week. I missed the show because I was having my white knuckle drive back from Kentucky. Tonight, I was all set to take notes on who said what and did what for my own recap, but no. Amazing Race was not on. Instead, there was a two-hour Survivor: China. While I watched Survivor, a show I have never seen before, I thought about what makes Amazing Race such an interesting show–and why Survivor gets on my nerves.
Sure there are parts of Amazing Race that are staged, such as hoisting furniture through windows in Amsterdam and milking camels in Burkina Faso, but the activities are mostly the type of activities people in those countries really do. Not all people in those countries, but the people whose jobs are to milk camels, like this woman in Niger (next to Burkina Faso) or hoist furniture, like the photo below. The Amazing Race is one of movement with varying backdrops. Segments don’t have to be created to be more entertaining, as anyone who travels knows. Entertainment and craziness can happen as soon as one steps off an airplane in another country and culture, particularly if you are traveling without a lot of direction.
The Amazing Race feels natural to me. Perhaps this is because there is not an endless amount of time–or at least footage of people who blather on about each other and their inner thoughts. Heavens, does everyone who ends up on a reality TV show watch the same video on how to talk on a reality TV show? I hope it’s not catching.
Can you imagine what it would be like if we all talked with each other in the same tones of voice with the music notes highlighting tension?
In Amazing Race we get Jennifer screeching at Nathan; Ronald acting like an admiring and disgruntled dad towards daughter Christina; and Nicholas shaking his head at his grandfather’s antics. Then there’s Vyxsin and Kynt who were characters from the get go, and are still characters, but are shown as being people just like anyone else as time goes on. TK and Rachel, also still in the race, seem like if you ran into them in their regular lives, they’d be–well, regular.
People on the Amazing Race are on the move, trying to buy tickets, working on being polite and understood. People don’t have time to work on their personas while they are traveling thousands of miles at a time.
The other thing about Amazing Race that is done well is that there’s a decent look at the countries where the contestants travel. There is a sense of place that if you actually went to one of these countries you’d have some idea of what you might see. In Survivor: China, you could have staged the show in Hawaii, put up a few Buddha statues and a fake temple and the show could be the same. For example, when told to enjoy their last night in China, there were the last three contestants lying in their bamboo lean -to blabbing on and on with each other. What kind of enjoyment is that? What actually lets them know that they are in China? Did someone say, “Welcome to China?” Where are the Chinese people? The Chinese American contestant doesn’t count.
Then when they woke up there was breakfast in front of a small Buddha statue looking like an offering to the ancestors. This is co-opting culture in my opinion. The element of culture is there without any explanation of what it means.
Instead the last three squealed at discovering pancake batter and got busy with a frying pan and the fire. Watching them cook pancakes on a fire made me think of that WoodGas Camp Stove I reviewed. A WoodGas Camp Stove would come in handy on Survivor. In Amazing Race there is always, as far as I remember, an explanation of cultural traits as part of every activity. While browsing through photos of past episodes of Survivor: China I did see some elements of Chinese culture like when there was an archery contest using an ancient Chinese cross-bow.
Also, with all that torch carrying and recapping of what has happened from days ago to just last minute, on Survivor it’s like a non-stop tiki torch party–and a soap opera. With soap operas all you really need to do is watch once in awhile to stay abreast of happenings since the people will talk about what they did several episodes ago for several episodes. Seriously, I used to watch Days of Our Lives years ago. I happened to catch part of a show last week and knew what was happening right away. I spent little time catching up–five minutes tops. Kayla and Patch are back on. And Sammy and Lucas are still having problems, although Will is grown. Like a soap opera, the contestants also wear outfits they wouldn’t wear elsewhere. How many ways can you fashion an outfit out of a piece of cloth that says Survivor: China on it? Don’t get me started on cultural sensitivity and dress. At least in Amazing Race a factor isn’t how one might look in a bathing suit. Remember Don, Nathan’s grandpa?
If you miss one episode of the Amazing Race you can miss an entire country and not see events like Nathan’s dad stripping down to his underwear while pole vaulting over a ditch. You wouldn’t know that the Internet can often come in handy while locating the best airline ticket options, but you should go directly to the Air France office if you’re in Ouagadougou. Also, if you have a hernia, don’t let that stop you from traveling. Ronald has a hernia and he walks on stilts.
As I browsed through the various episodes of Survivor: China to see what I missed, I did see that some folks made it to the Great Wall while those back at camp ate Asian pears. That’s authentic.
If you ever do make it to Jiangxi province where Survivor: China was filmed, it is filled with historical sites, lakes and mountains. It’s also the porcelain capital of the country. Porcelain has been made here for 1,800 years. Oh, so that must be why in this particular episode of the final four the contestants had to stack various porcelain dishes. No one said this is why they were stacking them to see who could stack them best in order to win a spot on the Tribal Council–another co-opting of culture. Tribal councils do exist. I’m not sure this what they look like. If so, where do they get their tiki torches? Walmart? Oh, well. I ended up switching Survivor: China off once I found out who won. Todd. He’s the guy taking a drink. For some reason, I thought he’d win when I first tuned in. I just couldn’t listen to anymore talking about who did what and why for 45 more minutes. Anyway, Survivor Micronesia is next. It looks like Survivor: China considering that the torches were in full blaze in the teaser. And, I have to say, from the small bit I saw, it still looks kind of like Hawaii. I guess Hawaii: Survivor 16 might sound kind of dull, but consider this. Amazing Race 12 still has a ring to it.
I did see that Amazing Race is back on next Sunday. Hooray!!! It’s been okay dabbling in Survivor, but I’d much rather watch people like TK and Rachel looking like I have when I’ve traveled. Their photo reminds me what it’s like to sleep on the deck of a ferry from Greece to Italy back in the day when I was traveling with a boyfriend who, come to think of it, looked a lot like TK. I bet these two went to sleep without talking about the endless minutia of the day. I know we did.
Our ferry ride was after hoofing it from the island Skopolos to Athens via another ferry that left at night . There were two train rides also involved–the one to Athens and the one from Athens. We barely made the connections and almost missed the ferry. That would have made us miss our train ride in Italy and added a couple extra days to our trip. It felt so great to lie down.