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Courtesy of: ZAP2IT

'Amazing Race' Gets Back to Basics

Monday, January 30, 2006

09:19 AM PT

Although not one of the participants describes him- or herself as a model, actor or personal trainer, fans of "The Amazing Race" should feel comfortable that the show is getting back to its roots after last fall's family edition.

CBS on Monday (Jan. 30) unveiled the identities of the 11 teams competing in the ninth edition of the show, which premieres Tuesday, Feb. 28. CBS promises a much more globe-trotting competition this time -- which won't be tough considering the family race never left North America.

The teams will hit five continents this time around, with host Phil Keoghan meeting them in Moscow and the Middle East, among other exotic locales. As always, they'll be racing to claim a $1 million prize.

Among the competitors this time are two childhood friends from Staten Island, N.Y., neither of whom has traveled much; a pair of former junior-college track athletes; a couple that's been married 40 years; and a guy who has a fear of flying and hasn't been on a plane in eight years.

Here's a rundown of the teams:

Names: BJ Averell and Tyler MacNiven

Ages: 26, 25

Occupations: Online tutor, filmmaker

Hometowns: Los Angeles, San Francisco

Relationship: Best friends

Names: Scott Braginton-Smith and John Lowe

Ages: 41, 38

Occupations: Sales, wealth manager

Hometowns: West Harwich, Mass., Dorchester, Mass.

Relationship: Life-long friends

Names: Yolanda Brown-Moore and Ray Whitty

Ages: 27, 31

Occupations: Science teacher, attorney

Hometown: Chicago

Relationship: Dating

Names: Monica Cayce and Joseph Meadows

Ages: both 23

Occupations: Student, homebuilder

Hometowns: Fayetteville, Ark., Fort Smith, Ark.

Relationship: Dating

Names: Wanda Lopez-Rochford and Desiree Cifre

Ages: 44, 24

Occupations: Corporate trainer, writer

Hometowns: Smyrna, Ga., New York

Relationship: Mother and daughter

Names: Michelle and Lake Garner

Ages: 36, 37

Occupations: Homemaker, dentist

Hometown: Hattiesburg, Miss.

Relationship: Married

Names: Joni Glaze and Lisa Hinds

Ages: 44, 48

Occupations: Children's minister, Realtor/artist

Hometowns: Katy, Texas, Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.

Relationship: Sisters

Names: Barry and Fran Lazarus

Ages: 63, 61

Occupations: Retired physician, retired accountant

Hometown: Silverthorne, Colo.

Relationship: Married 40 years

Names: Jeremy Ryan and Eric Sanchez

Ages: 26, 27

Occupations: Valet, waiter

Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Relationship: Friends

Names: David Spiker and Lori Willems

Ages: 30, 25

Occupations: Musician, Pizza Hut manager

Hometown: Manhattan, Kan.

Relationship: Dating


Names: Dani Torchio and Danielle Turner

Ages: both 22

Occupations: Recent college graduates

Hometown: Staten Island, N.Y.

Relationship: Childhood friends


(If someone can get the CBS pics to post, Please do!!!)

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From: What's cancelled, What's returning

'Unit' Falls in Line with 'NCIS'

Wednesday, February 08, 2006 02:34 PM PT


CBS is hoping some of the success of its naval-cops drama "NCIS" will rub off on another show set in the military -- "The Unit."

The network says "The Unit," a drama about special-forces soldiers and their families from David Mamet ("Glengarry Glen Ross") and Shawn Ryan ("The Shield"), will premiere at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, March 7. Although it will face a formidable competitor in FOX's "House" in that time period, the new show will also get as its lead-in "NCIS," which has a compatible theme and an audience of better than 15 million viewers per week.

As a result of the move, "The Amazing Race" will be pushed back to 10 p.m. ET starting March 7, following a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28. "Love Monkey," which has struggled to attract an audience in the 10 p.m. slot, will give up its berth.

"The Unit" stars Dennis Haysbert ("24") as the leader of a special-forces team that handles complex missions around the world and Scott Foley ("Felicity") as its newest member. The show will also explore the effect the unit's work has on its members' families, with Audrey Marie Anderson ("Once and Again") playing Foley's wife, who's resistant to the strictures his work places on her, and Regina Taylor ("The Education of Max Bickford") as Haysbert's wife.

Also in the cast are Robert Patrick ("Walk the Line," "The X-Files"), Max Martini ("Harsh Realm"), Michael Irby ("Flightplan"), Demore Barnes and Abby Brammell.

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, ASK MATT

Question: What brain-dead person at CBS slotted The Amazing Race in a 10 pm/ET slot? It's one of the few obvious family shows. Seems like The Unit, at 9 pm/ET, and Race should be flipped, at the very least.

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, ASK MATT

Question: I have two unrelated questions, so I'll (try to) be brief: Seeing the promos for The Amazing Race 9 (are you as excited as I am?), I wonder if they have ever considered trying it with teams who don't know each other beforehand. I realize they're probably a little gun-shy about experimenting with format after the last race, but I think it might be fun to see strangers working together. My other question is about Scrubs: I read that there has never really been a truly successful sitcom set in a hospital. Leaving aside M*A*S*H (which is kind of a special case), I can't think of any. Can you? Could it be that Scrubs is a historical first?

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"Race 9" kicks off in Denver with hopes of revving up the international thrills missing last year

By Joanne Ostrow

Denver Post TV Critic


"Amazing Race 9" teams race to find their first clue in December at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. (CBS)

Phil Keoghan wears a makeup bib around his neck as he strolls the upper reaches of Red Rocks Amphitheatre. A stylist fusses with his perfect hair as vans carrying 11 teams approach the foothills outside of Denver for "Amazing Race 9."

It's a sunny December morning, and the 30-day shoot for the program's 13-week run is about to begin. Sporting a gray turtleneck sweater, black boots and jeans, Keoghan affects the studied-casual look.

The crew has spent a solid hour arranging 22 backpacks in a semicircle, rearranging them into a line, then at an angle, in front of the Visitor Center. A battalion of 25 cameras, including one mounted on the nose of a helicopter, stands by to document this start.

With the teams arranged before him on the steps of the renowned concert venue, Keoghan revs up the contestants. "In just a few minutes you'll be leaving on a race around the world," he says.

OK, so it's not Ike and the paratroopers on the eve of D-Day. But CBS's "Amazing Race" remains the thinking-person's reality TV show. Teams race around the world - bickering across 60,000 miles in 30 days - pursuing a $1 million prize. A Silverthorne couple is among the contestants drawing on offbeat skills to surmount oddball challenges.

The show begins a new globe-trotting season with a two-hour debut, Tuesday at 8 p.m CT. on KCNC-Channel 4. The show moves to what will be its regular 9 p.m CT. Tuesday slot on March 7. Fans hope "Amazing Race 9" will return to its former glory after last season's disappointing family edition.

As the taping begins, what impresses an onlooker most is the production's rehearsed spontaneity. Keoghan will give his "Are you ready?" speech seven times, the teams yelling excitedly on cue each time, before capturing a suitable take.

"Phil will make every time like the first time," director Evan Weinstein says admiringly.

Roundly booed for the mostly domestic travel last time, "Race" this season again embraces an international format with a cross-section of mostly unrelated couples.

"It's easier to critique than to create," Keoghan says in defense. "I admire CBS for trying the family version."


A CBS videographer captures a team embarking from DIA for "Amazing Race 9," which debuts at 8 p.m. Tuesday on Channel 4. A Silverthorne couple is among the contestants. (Post / Glenn Asakawa)

Executive producer Bertram van Munster explained the family edition this way: "CBS made the decision. Les (Moonves, CBS's boss) wanted to broaden the (demographics)."

Keoghan is just back from a month snowboarding in his native New Zealand. He also toured 10 cities in two weeks promoting his book, "No Opportunity Wasted." (He also wrote the preface to "52 Reasons to Have a Passport.") His daughter is now 9. "I'll retire when she's 16 and gets a Nike golf contract," he says jokingly.

Checking himself, he rephrases: "Our show has the world to choose from - you could do 100 shows and keep it fresh every time. I could be doing this as a senior citizen."

At 60,000 miles, this route is one of the series' longest. (You can circumnavigate the globe in just shy of 25,000 miles, and that's on the equatorial route.)

"It's like turning a battleship around," van Munster says of his 200-person staff. More than 2,000 personnel are involved worldwide.

Famously hands on, van Munster peers at a monitor to set a background shot. "I need to see Denver there," he shouts.

This round's contestants range in age from 22 to 62. Fran and Barry Lazarus, the senior couple, hail from Silverthorne. The retired adventure travelers have been married more than 40 years.

Van Munster confides the secret to the series' success: "The psycho-dynamics are more important than the travelogue."

And details count.

Crew, assistants and various hangers-on are told to squeeze under trees so as not to be visible in the aerial shot van Munster is directing. "Everything has to be exactly perfect," says the Dutchman, present from the first season and known for his obsessive attention to detail.

"One rule is, never break the fourth wall," he says, looking at the shot through a camera on his shoulder. Throughout the race, he says, the goal is to "keep production out of sight so the contestants don't know if they're in the right place."

Camera people assigned to each team trade war stories from previous seasons and shake hands, wishing each other safe travels. Van Munster's wife, Elise, travels ahead of the teams, testing the challenges and equipment. While he's in Colorado, she's in Sao Paolo, Brazil, the first destination.

"OK, helicopter, one minute away. Lock it horizontally," van Munster commands via cellphone. From the east, a chopper rises into view. "OK, helicopter, begin your run!" The contestants maintain their practiced focus on Keoghan. Keoghan looks straight ahead. The chopper zooms overhead, up the steps of Red Rocks, makes a U-turn and returns to grab the reverse view.

"We don't want a broken ankle before we start," van Munster says, watching the teams run up the steps to the top of Red Rocks.

They claim their backpacks, open the first set of directions and jump into waiting Mercedes 280s for the sprint to Denver International Airport. "Race" on.

Story editor David Brown frantically takes notes to help shape the narrative. Part of the casting process is interviewing the contenders and "anticipating character arcs," he says. "There's a lot of comedy this time."

Judging by a preview of the two-hour opener, the camerawork, casting and psychodrama are all up to standards.

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The Amazing Race

Whew! Two hours and 11 teams to discuss in my first crack at covering TAR

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The Amazing Race 9

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The Amazing Race

Tonight's episode was brought to you by Acme Climbing Ropes. Why else would they be rappelling down a building and climbing up a waterfall in the same day? Also, what's up with these mornings when everyone is assigned different start times but then the place doesn't open until after everyone gets there? It's a cheap way to squeeze some suspense out of another cab ride. I'm glad they got out of S

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The Watercooler

Amazing Race 9

If we did some sort of analysis of all the Races' results, which would turn out to be the biggest factor in determining winners and losers: uncooperative airline-ticket agents, taxi drivers' senses of direction or contestants' ability to read a map? In this leg of the race, it really looked like the former two would be the undoing of someone, between the cabdrivers who couldn't find the trolley park and the two separate Russian ticket agents who refused to issue tickets just seconds after another team had bought some. But things nearly evened out again at the Mercedes-Benz test track. Who else was disappointed that the racers themselves didn't have to drive on it? I guess even Jerry Bruckheimer doesn't have that kind of insurance. Interestingly, all teams trying to get a leg up by forming alliances or at least following each other actually hurt their chances. First, what were MoJo and Dave and Lori thinking, sharing a cab to the "psyching out" pit stop (as Dave called it)? Love Team Nerd, but I hope they had no illusions that they could beat the others in a foot race. And then Dani and Danielle had the sorely wrong impression that Wanda and Desi knew where they were going. Desi complaining about her mom's insistence on pronouncing all foreign words with a Spanish accent cracked me up

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Amazing Race 9

You could argue that Eric and Jeremy and B.J. and Tyler are having fun because they're winning, but I think they're actually winning because they're having fun. Doing silly things like walking onto the mat backwards, flirting with the locals and having wheelchair obstacle-course races makes them relaxed and more capable of making decisions and following directions. Meanwhile, if Lake would just stop ordering Michelle around and cursing about the other teams, they might stop making dumb mistakes. Fran is my new hero for telling Lake to "Please, step back" at the ticket counter. Maybe the agents in Munich also hated the nasty dentist, since they so readily told everyone but them about the faster connection to Palermo. And oh, how I cringed at everyone's butchering of those very simple, clear syllables: "Paller-mo," "Pamero," "Pallomino." I was afraid that Fran and Barry would make yet another really bad detour decision, but thankfully, only MoJo and Ray and Yolanda chose to wear themselves out with those heavy bells. Jeremy snuck in a zinger during the laundry challenge: "This is one of Phil's turtlenecks!" But I enjoyed B.J. and Tyler's more subtle reference to TAR's Season 5

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April 5, 2006: Nerds Rule! Or, a Fish Tale

Gee, do you think CBS is hoping for a new audience tonight? Judging by the recap of the entire season so far, it's either that or they thought their existing audience has had severe memory loss caused by having to wait an extra day for this new episode. Finally, they were off to a new city that, inexplicably, no one can pronounce (hint, everyone: There are no silent L's in Italian): Catania. And despite the fact that they've been to such obscure cities as "Moscow" and "Munich," Lake keeps sorrowfully (that's the emotion I'll generously contribute to his outbursts of "Dang it!") declaring that they're being directed to another "toyooown" in the middle of nowhere. Um, why are you even in this race if you hate traveling so much, Lake? And do people really let you near their teeth? What if they have foreign accents? (Don't even get me started on those tourist wallet/bondage straps he and Michelle wear.)

BJ and Tyler are fun, funny and, some would argue, funny looking, but I do wish they would turn it down a notch every once in a while

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Amazing Race 9

April 19, 2006: Your Momma Got a Pattern Going!

What do you know, Lake and Michelle are gone, and suddenly we notice they're not the only bickering couple in the race. Raise your hands, nonsingle people: Did Ray and Yolanda's nonsensical argument on the bridge seem familiar to you? Teasing and joking escalated to full-on fight with the kind of speed I wish they could muster up for the actual race. This is the first time they've been together for more than four days? Damn, looks like they're well on their way to being an old married couple. For happier memories, let's skip to the scene of B.J. and Tyler alone on the bus, doing spot-on imitations of their fallen racers.

Finally, they left the beaten European path for more exotic locales and, cross your fingers, more interesting china to break. Without Lake to grumble something offensive about the Middle East, everyone seemed to enjoy being somewhere so out there. Happily, this leg of the race offered many opportunities for them to bunch up and wait for gates to open or buses to leave. Loved the little standoff between the frats and the hippies about who would brave the river-crossing first. Of course, Ray and Yolanda, yet again, managed to get lost on their way to Sur. They might want to rethink their strategy (or follow excellent map-readers Fran and Barry) next time they blindly speed off. Then again, Fran and Barry have become kinda nasty in their refusal to help others. FYI, Bar, airport ticket counters aren't the best places to keep secrets about flight info.

The detour was a tough decision this time. The camels seemed rather tame and cooperative, especially since there were around 20 guys there to help. But who knew Oman didn't have clearly written street signs?

And now the saddest part of the night: Watching B.J.'s spirit crushed in the desert sand as he dug through every pile, and I think through some of them twice, to find their crazy buried lamb dish. Anyone else think that "shuwa" might taste a bit gritty? How disheartening to get there first and then watch as, one by one, all the other teams have better luck.

Thank you so much to the people who wrote in last week with all your guesses about when the nonelimination episodes would take place. As the hippies TTOWed their way up to the pit stop that Monica and her eyeliner had dubbed "Jamborine" Castle, I was a bit less anguished, assuming they'd be safe. If anyone can make it with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, it's B.J. and Tyler. That does mean no more hats, unfortunately.

Posted by: Sabrina Rojas Weiss 04/20/2006 12:56 PM

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, ASK MATT

Question: Hello Matt. I like your column and hope you will print this question. I have been a huge fan of Amazing Race since about a quarter into its second season (I believe that was the one with Danny and Oswald, still my favorite AR team of all time). I know the family edition was uneven, but I fear the events of the May 3 episode might prove to be the show's undoing. What Eric and Jeremy did, canceling the cabs of both B.J. and Tyler and Ray and Yolanda, was so over the line in terms of sportsmanship and deception that it left me thoroughly disgusted. Furthermore, Joseph and Monica are fast becoming one of the most loathsome teams ever on the show (although I don't think anyone can top Jonathan and Victoria). They were all too happy to look the other way at the Frat Boys' slimy tactics, and then they have the nerve to whine and complain when the Hippies yielded them?!! I have never seen the show get this nasty and unpleasant, even during the Rob and Amber season. I was so angry after the show, there was a part of me that didn't want to see the rest of the season, though I probably will. I still think it is the best reality show on TV and I would hate to see this sorry episode lead to its downfall. Am I overreacting? Or do you share similar feelings?

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Amazing Race 9

by Sabrina Rojas Weiss

May 10, 2006: Who's Up for a Game of Cricket?

So this is how things go in Thailand: The monkeys get a huge table full of elaborately carved and arranged fruit; the humans get deep-fried grasshoppers and crickets. I think that sounds about right.

Back to the start... RaYo and ErJer showed what compassion they could, donating an embarrasing pair of pants and a dirty pair of flip-flops to pantless, shoeless BJ. MoJo left a generous sneer. By the way, you should watch the video extras on CBS.com to see the hippies get into a little tiff over whose fault it was that BJ didn't have any shoes. Anyway, BJ and Tyler demonstrated that hippies are indeed the best beggars (seriously, have you been to San Francisco? It's an art over there), as they gathered cash in Darwin. Huge lack of judgment not going for the ticket reservation first. But somehow, their lady luck returned from her walkabout and got them a ticket on an earlier flight (though later, that lady must have had some jetlag and delayed the flight a bit).

I want to think that the people in the bus terminal in Bangkok intuited that misinforming MoJo about the bus times was the right thing to do. And the hippies' not having much cash worked to their advantage, since they didn't waste any time at a hotel.

It was about time we saw a good old-fashioned eating competition. Thankfully, what the professional eaters call a "reversal of fortune" didn't count against BJ and Tyler as they temporarily downed their bowls of traditional after-school snacks, so they fast-forwarded ahead, back to first place. I'm so glad RaYo and the frats took the unexpected route and chose gold-leafing instead of carrying clay pots. Mostly because that paved the way for another classic Monica meltdown. (So spinning classes don't help your balance and coordination?) Joseph was rather sweet and supportive this time, though; maybe they're not so bad in non-Race situations. But you've got to admit, they were fun to hate for just a couple of weeks.

Posted by Sabrina Rojas Weiss 05/11/2006 12:32 AM

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Amazing Race 9

by Sabrina Rojas Weiss

May 17, 2006: Mind Over Dumb Luck

Don't get me wrong, I love the Hippies. And I love Japan, though I've never been. But I really think BJ and Tyler got off on the wrong foot tonight and started to annoy even me with all their bragging about Tyler speaking Japanese. Yes, that helps you in real travel, but The Amazing Race is set up so that language barriers really don't matter too much. Navigation barriers are another story. Why are RaYo always the last ones off the plane? I wonder if they get lost inside the airport and stop to ask for directions.

Japan is so good at making me fall in love with it from afar! It was kind of adorable that all three teams seemed to think that Hachiko was the name of the guy who gave them their clue, not the name of the dog statue. I am really coveting those messenger bicycles the Hippies used. And call me a glutton for claustrophobia, but those capsule hotels look like fun. Fujikyu Highlands' roller coasters could probably eat Six Flags for lunch, too. Sadly, RaYo's car must have eaten their toll ticket for lunch. I get the feeling they're not quite as in love with the country as the Hippies right about now. Though once they were stripped of their money, RaYo did seem to enjoy themselves begging for yen from drunk businessmen in the wee hours of the morning.

BJ and Tyler's attempts at "dirty tricks" were pretty useless. I'm surprised the hotel concierge would actually lie for them and tell ErJer there was no Internet access. Then ErJer discovered the Internet's dirty secret: Sometimes you can still get a more accurate answer on the phone. Don't tell my boss I said that. Anyway, things evened out once again in the flight to Anchorage. No one discussed the shock of going from bustling Tokyo to desolate Alaska in a day, nor did they mention how everyone was equipped with down jackets and snowpants. Through all that ice-fishing and snowshoeing, Ray figured out what most TAR fans already had: It would all even out again in that last flight to Denver. Too bad RaYo had trouble getting out of the airport again. I wish CBS.com would show how that happens. To their credit, finding the clue in Golden did seem difficult, too.

So it was down to an edge-of-our-seats battle of wits and flag-waving between Eric and BJ. I'm ashamed to say, I had no idea what a Russian flag looks like, let alone a Thai one, so I can't fault the Frats. Finally, brains beat out dumb luck. And somehow I doubt BJ and Tyler will be using their dough to become beach bums, the way ErJer would have. Maybe they'll use some of it to buy a change of clothes and new silly hats!

Posted by Sabrina Rojas Weiss 05/18/2006 12:57 AM

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