Paramount Home Video presents
The Amazing Race: The First Season (2001)
"It's the most daring competition ever attempted. Eleven two-person teams, bound by friendship, love, or family, will race around the world."- Phil Keoghan (host)
Stars: Phil Keoghan, Paul Belessi, Amie Barsky, Bill Bartek, Joe Baldassare, Drew Feinberg, Kevin O'Connor, Rob Frisbee, Brennan Swain, Emily Hoyt, Nancy Hoyt, Frank Mesa, Margarita Mesa
Other Stars: David Groark, Margaretta Groark, Matt Robar, Ana Robar, Kim Smith, Leslie Kellner, Patricia Pierce, Brenda Mehta
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 09h:35m:15s
Release Date: 2005-09-27
DVD ReviewWhen the reality television craze hit its peak in 2001, numerous Survivor imitators appeared in hopes of garnering a huge audience. Network executives approved many terrible shows, which helped to spawn a justifiable reality backlash. One series that stood apart from the pretenders was The Amazing Race—a clever competition that sent its participants to every corner of the globe. The early ratings were fairly low, but each successive season it built a larger, more devoted audience. A significant portion of viewers had never viewed the earlier years, especially the original season. This long-awaited DVD release of the show's first race offers plenty of classic moments and solid groundwork for the consistently successful series.
For readers unfamiliar with The Amazing Race, the basic structure is fairly simple. Eleven two-person teams begin in the United States and follow a series of clues that take them to a wide array of destinations worldwide. Eventually, their progress will take them in a complete circle around the planet and back to their home country. The race is separated into a series of legs, usually lasting for a day or two, that conclude at a pit stop for resting and socializing with the other teams. During most segments, the last team to arrive at the pit stop is eliminated. Several legs do not remove a team, but this fact is not revealed until they reach the end. The final three teams will race to the finish line for the ultimate one-million-dollar prize.
Much of the players' success is determined by their ability to catch a taxi, choose the right flights, and handle the nominal funds wisely. Teams may not bring their personal money and must rely on the small amounts provided at the beginning of each leg. In addition to finding a specific city and site, they must compete in a series of detours and roadblocks that will test additional skills. The detours allow teams to choose between a quicker (and more difficult) task and a longer (and easier) choice. For example, while traversing up a mountain, teams may choose to climb up a steep, dangerous mountain or hike up a slow, steady hill to acquire a clue. The roadblocks are tasks that only one team member may perform, and they must choose before the action is clear. This activity could be a scary walk among adult tigers, a confusing drive in a very small car, or a search for a sword inside an ancient Colosseum. Difficulties with even one detour or roadblock can quickly eliminate even the most capable team.
Recent converts to the series will notice some considerable differences between the original version and the newest race. It's especially surprising to see a final mat at the end of each leg without host Phil Keoghan. He does appear for the last team, which removes some suspense for the arriving players. Additionally, the contestants seem to expect the non-elimination rounds and barely react to that news. The most telling variation is the overall atmosphere, which feels more laid-back and less energetic. Phil's descriptions of the route markers, detours, and road blocks are slower and less polished, an expected element of an inaugural season. One positive aspect of this slower pace is a closer focus on personalities, as we see more interaction between the teams. The sites explored on this race include Paris, Tunis, Rome, Agra, and Beijing.
The entertaining teams include a diverse group of people from a wide range of age, cultural, and occupational segments. One of the odder duos in series history is Bill and Joe, self-titled "Team Guido," who will do pretty much anything to slow down the other teams. One moment at the airport still stands as possibly the most audacious ploy ever attempted. Their attitude alienates most of the other teams, who try to act in sportsmanlike fashion. There are other exceptions, though. Young teachers Kim and Leslie go out of their way to antagonize another team and even try to steal their cab. Strange moments occur frequently for dating couple Lenny and Karyn, who appear to be complete opposites. His quiet, enigmatic participation makes things difficult, and her loud, frustrated demeanor also causes some problems. My personal favorites were New York fraternity brothers Kevin and Drew, who bickered constantly but treated everyone fairly, and the lovable mother-daughter team of Nancy and Emily, who bonded while proving their skills.
One of the Amazing Race's strongest attributes is its completely unpredictable nature, as teams compete in real-life environments. In Paris, one team's conflict with a cab driver over prices plays a role in their elimination. Sexism in India makes it especially difficult for the female players to even purchase train tickets. Foreign cultures of this type always offer a few harrowing (and enlightening) moments for the Americans, and this season is no exception. In addition, tiring circumstances can wear down even the most genial figures to their breaking point, which offers some gripping dramatic moments. The rough times and unbelievable tasks give people the chance to surprise themselves and perform remarkable feats. An early episode includes a frightening bungee jump down a mountain that induces scares for many players. These impressive tasks combine with wonderful personal moments to make this an unforgettable series.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The Amazing Race: The First Season utilizes a solid full-frame transfer that improves significantly over its original television airing. The colors are definitely brighter and sharper than the current airing on GSN. There are limitations to the source material, mostly shot by cameramen racing to keep up with the contestants. However, this presentation offers an enjoyable experience and retains the excitement of the race around the world.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: This collection offers an acceptable 2.0-channel Dolby audio transfer that presents the sounds and energetic music of the race with considerable power. However, the dialogue is especially quiet and sometimes difficult to comprehend. This problem does not occur consistently and varies depending on the speaking volume of the participant. I'm guessing that the problems originate with the contestantsí microphones on the source material. It fails to ruin the show's overall effectiveness, but does create a minor issue that should be noted.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Subtitles/Captions in English
1 Deleted Scenes
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by Karyn and Lenny/Drew and Kevin on The Race Begins and Triumph and Loss; Rob/Brennan and Bill/Joe (Team Guido) on Whatever It Takes to Win and Race to the Finish (Part 2)
Packaging: Box Set
- "Side Trips": 90 minutes of additional footage
Reliving the Race offers an enjoyable 20-minute look at the highlights of the race. The four commentary participants discuss their experiences, along with host Phil Keoghan and executive producers Elise Doganieri and Bertram Van Munster. Creating and Coordinating is a nine-minute featurette that provides the series' origins and the creator's recollections of its generation. The executive producers followed the path that would eventually be taken by the players and coordinated with local authorities to craft the complex trip. There's also a Lost Roadblock from the first episode that involved the teams cooking an ostrich egg and eating it, which is a gargantuan task. Doganieri and Van Munster offer a brief overview to this deleted scene, which was probably removed due to time constraints.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsThe Amazing Race is currently beginning its eighth season with a new family edition, and the CBS series will return for a more standard ninth year. Its remarkable success is due largely to its ingenious concept and countless riveting participants. The first season offers a slightly rougher version, but it remains an entertaining classic. Its highlights showcase the scenery, conflicts, and triumphs that make this show the best of its kind on television.
Dan Heaton 2005-09-26