The Amazing Race Canada: The show gets underway

First leg: Niagara Falls, Ont., to Kelowna, B.C.


Amazing Race Canada

The following sequence unfolds each and every time a Canadian broadcaster announces it will reproduce an American reality TV series: there’s buzz and build-up and vows to submit an application, followed by lameness and let-down and a national handwringing.

However. This time, there’s something new. Something never before seen in Canada or the U.S. It’s Hal Johnson, driving a jet ski full-throttle across Okanagan Lake, screaming, “Woooohoooo!” There is no American equivalent to the Body Break stars. CTV’s much-hyped The Amazing Race Canada premiered on Monday night, with several factors working against it. First: Canada consistently fails at the seemingly simple task of creating sensational reality television. Without any Kardashians to guide us, we just have a lot of room to grow, unplanned pregnancy–wise.

Second: CTV’s format restricts its version of the competition to within Canada’s borders. What has made the long-running Amazing Race franchise so addicting, so nail-biting, is the thrill of contestants flying to far-flung lands and the stress of them encountering cultural and linguistic barriers when they get there. The Amazing Race Canada, by contrast, will be set entirely in a country governed by Stephen Harper. In case it still isn’t clear how boring this makes things: the premiere episode was split between Niagara Falls, Ont., and Kelowna, B.C. The first challenge took place at the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory, which features “more than 2,000 exotic butterflies.” That’s exactly the kind of place you can skip when you have a passport and/or an American network’s budget.

As the nine teams drive their sedans towards that first challenge in a perfect line, no one so much as passing, you’ll wonder why you’re paying for cable at all.

Your reward comes when Joanne McLeod leaps off a narrow plank in the woods and calls out, “Until next time, keep fit and have fun!”

Hands down, CTV’s best decision was casting “married fitness icons” Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod on the show. Even the other contestants think so. While waiting around at Toronto’s Pearson airport, one of the other racers informs the duo, “My cousin has been you for Halloween many, many a year.”

Dream on, Balloon Boy.

The show actually suits the couple, too. The Amazing Race is much different from the type of reality TV that distresses your mom. Bob Barker could host this thing. It’s an actual competition, largely physical, that keeps contestants on the move every episode. When night falls, the cameras turn off and the contestants go to bed. There are no hot tub scenes. Not a bar fight to speak of.

Perhaps the other teams will come into their own. For now, it’s enough to know that the diverse casting choices include a pair of hippies from B.C. and a pair of cowboys from Alberta. (Mysteriously, there is no team from Atlantic Canada—perhaps they were all out fishing.)

Joanne wondered aloud to the cameras on Monday night’s episode if being Body Break stars would put a target on their backs. If Canadians can be that mean, it hasn’t surfaced yet—by the end of this first leg of the race, Hal and Joanne finished a proud third, having already agreed to an alliance with the other top teams.

Americans have their Kardashians. But they will never know what it means to watch Hal and Joanne cross that finish line together, reaffirming everything we learned in childhood. Those two can do anything. And so can you.


The Amazing Race Canada: The show gets underway

  1. I thought the show was great. On the downside it seemed like the commercials were every 5 minutes though and the host was kind of like a robot. Great show but cut down on the commercials CTV

  2. Yes, because everyone in Atlantic Canada goes fishing….

    I enjoyed the show and will watch every week.

    • Just like everyone in B.C. is a hippie and everyone in Alberta is a cowboy. Did you see what I was…no? Alas.

      • Sonya you made my day by engaging in the comments. Thanks for the article. I lasted only 5 minutes as blood alcohol level wasnt sufficient for viewing pleasure.

  3. Grow up McLeans, we don’t need a spoiled rich kids leading us from show to show. Have you ever watched the Amazing Race? Canada’s version is at least funny with something more than canned middle class white folks in taxi cabs.

  4. I love Canadians, they look great, sound strong full of humor and most endearing are humble not bragging dummies. I love the contestants,,, and a great way to highlight Canada’s fabulous land

  5. I like that the race is only in Canada. We have a huge, diverse country and plenty of things to see, do and challenge these people with. When they first announced on the show that it was across Canada only my first thought was “The American version should do this”. Why do they leave their own country and not just race across the USA?

    • they did a US only race version. Ratings sucked. They said they were glad they did it but they would never do it again.

    • Why can’t there be room for both series? Part of the challenge of the US TV show is that the contestants have to deal with all the different languages they face, and learn more about different cultures through the challenges — I like Canadians getting to know Canada, but I can live in a world where we travel around too.

  6. I agree with Bob. It was fun to watch but way too many commercials. Let’s see more of the show!

  7. I don’t see the point of the second express pass, it just one of the things that makes it all about alliances again and that destroys the competition of the race. Also the challenges were too short and processional, and no detour. The navigation and the penalities were really the only things that changed placings. The teams look like they will be ok, would have preferred the gay cowboys going first as they seem a bit boring. The host is a bit wooden, but he’ll probaby improve.

  8. I loved it! I didn’t get hooked on the American version at all but I’m hooked on this already! Play on!

  9. Watching for Hal and Joanne! Go Body Break!!!

  10. While I started to lose interest when they said butterfly conservatory, my interest peaked when they put clues in boxes. Want am earlier flight? That’s with the scariest creature. And Joanne delivering her signature line was awesome. I’m sure they were put up to saying it a few times, unfortunately that will (should) be the last

  11. Why are nearly all the contestants from Ontario? They can’t honestly say nobody signed up for this from other provinces.

    For ratings, this probably wasn’t a smart decision.

  12. “Don’t just think about it: Do it, do it. Do it!!”…
    …doesn’t apply to proven role models cursing. Children who swear don’t learn how to express themselves nor self-select pyscho-emotional traits. I boinked a girl who sweared like a sailor; her A.D.D. was a turn on (the challenge of holding her still). But when she swore, I heard: “#$%^ this relationship”, and “you #$%^ty loser”. Call me sensitive and old-fashioned. I remember a time before the eighties called Victorian England.

    • Ok – sensitive and old-fashioned. Almost everybody swears sometimes, especially in high stress situations. They are no different.

  13. SO WHAT !

  14. The fact that the show only takes place in Canada kind of killed my interest. I don’t mind a Canada focused Amazing Race, Canada is a beautiful country, but, culturally, it is almost the same coast to coast, a Canadian from Halifax would feel right at home in Vancouver. That’s the beauty of the American show, seeing all these different countries with different climates and different cultures.

    Also thought that the editing and production wasn’t up to par with the American version. And John Montgomery needs to be himself, I find he’s trying too hard to emulate Phil.

    As of right now, I doubt I’m going to be following the season, it’s just too uninteresting.

  15. i hope the show sinks. i was paid a measly 100 bucks to play a speaking role as the character providing access to clues. any lawyers out there?

  16. Would have watched it til I found out there were no teams from Atlantic Canada …and I know that none of my family was out fishing when teams were being picked. Too bad the producers weren’t more fair with picking teams, and I hope it negatively affects the ratings – I know none of my Atlantic Canada family are watching.

    • Does it matter exactly where the participants come from? if people from Atlantic Canada only watch if the participants are from those provinces, then good for the producers for not picking anyone from there!! So long as they are from Canada, who really cares which province or town or city they are from? Honestly, seems very childish not to watch if the players aren’t from your home town or province!! No-one from “my” province either, but everyone is from my country!! lol I’d rather the best were picked rather than only being picked because they are from a province that didn’t have anyone any better!

  17. I loved the show and am very disappointed that Sonya Bell is so ashamed of Canada
    that she can’t see that staying within our borders provides the same challenges
    as international travel. What really appalls me is her implication that the American Amazing Race is superior. I stopped watching the American Amazing Race
    many years ago because of the move from the race and tasks to encouraging
    unsportsmanlike behaviour, back stabbing, gossip, and every other negative
    behaviour people engage in.

    Sonya’s comment, ‘the thrill of contestants flying to far-flung lands and the stress of them encountering cultural and linguistic barriers when they get there’ is ignorant. Every city, town, location has its challenges and some have linguistic barriers. What I love about keeping this in Canada is the opportunity to see the uniqueness of each of the locations. Canada is big, beautiful and diverse, yet most Canadians never see their own province let alone the other provinces and territories. Yeah CTV!

    The best part, I can watch the show, form my own opinions, and choose not to read
    columns like this!

  18. I am totally digging this show, I watch online with no commercials, even better. If only that host would shave his scruff, I would absolutely be in heaven.

  19. Is the Amazing Race Canada fixed? After watching the episode in which Hal and Jan were eliminated , I don’t believe that the doctors did the football challenge in one attempt. Bull s….

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