Amazing Race Canada: Looking for Justin Bieber

Why do Canadian reality TV shows fail? Sonya Bell has a theory



With just two weeks until the Amazing Race Canada finale, you’d think our country’s collective adrenaline would be starting to rush — there’d be a dirty trick, a surprise alliance, or a cameo from Justin Bieber.

Instead, the eighth leg of the race is notable for what didn’t happen:

1. None of the teams was eliminated, again (there was no pit stop, so the race continues straight into next week).

2. None of the teams used a u-turn to slow another team (a chance that only arises twice in a season).

Let’s back it up. Here’s what did transpire during Monday night’s episode: The four remaining teams headed to Nova Scotia, where they raced down the south shore, stopping to haul lobster in one challenge and to identify German sausages in another. Pretty standard stuff.Then there was the BlackBerry Z10 challenge. The teams were instructed to use the shiny new device to locate one of the dressed-up scarecrows that are part of an annual festival. They had to build a replica and prove they’d succeeded by using the BlackBerry Z10 to photograph the two scarecrows side by side. (Clearly, the real challenge was for the producers to come up with a “natural” way to incorporate the smartphone.)The funniest thing about this shameless product placement is that the teams were not very good at building their matching scarecrows, and yet kept passing the challenge. Tim Jr. used the wrong shirt, for example. But when the judge looked at it on the Z10, she gave it the seal of approval. No one buys a BlackBerry for its camera quality.


Along with BlackBerry, the Amazing Race Canada boasts products and commercials courtesy of Interac Flash, Air Canada and Chevrolet — ideally these kinds of advertising dollars would buy the show the opportunity to do something really cool. They could fly the contestants to Turks and Caicos to advance that old Robert Borden dream of annexing the Caribbean islands.

But no. What Chevrolet did buy us in Nova Scotia was the opportunity to watch sisters Celina and Vanessa try to drive stick-shift in a standard Sonic. This was probably the most nail-biting part of the episode, but not in a good way – when the girls stalled on a busy Halifax street, they seemed to be in actual danger of causing a pile-up.

The episode’s climax should have been the much-hyped u-turn. Each team now has a one in four chance of taking home the top prize of a year of worldwide airline travel, a pair of Chevrolet Corvette Stingrays and $250,000. Why not seize the opportunity to get farther ahead?

Best friends Jet and Dave – not to mention viewers – were certain they would be “u-turned.” They’re a recurring first-place team, but had fallen to the back of the pack this episode. It was a golden opportunity to eliminate them from the race, and yet no one seized it.

“What nice Canadians,” Jet laughed, when he didn’t see his picture on the u-turn board. “I’m stunned. These people are foolish.”

It’s highly unlikely that a better opportunity to eliminate Jet and Dave will arise in the next two episodes. It seems possible Jody and Cory, who arrived at the u-turn first, assumed Tim Sr. and Tim Jr. would u-turn Jet and Dave, and so they didn’t have to do it themselves and carry the stigma. Jody said earlier that his preference is to “run a clean race.”But father-son duo Tim Sr. and Tim Jr. also opted not to exercise their u-turn rights, saying the two teams behind them were already having tough days.“We really didn’t get there feeling a whole lot of threat from anyone,” Tim Sr. said.This explanation makes zero sense when you consider Team TimTim last used a u-turn to slow a team that already had a two-hour penalty to make up. (Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod, who were then eliminated from the race.) At the time, it seemed clear the Tims had targeted Hal and Joanne because they were a threat in general and the chance to strike presented itself. Now, in the final stages of the race, they don’t want to worsen anyone else’s day.

Between the current first-place team aspiring to run “a clean race” and the so-called “ruthless” team shying away from upsetting a competitor, we may have a final answer on that age-old question: Why do so many Canadian reality TV attempts fail? It’s not the franchise, fellow citizens. It’s us.

Read Sonya Bell’s coverage of The Amazing Race Canada here.


Amazing Race Canada: Looking for Justin Bieber

  1. Is it still going on?

  2. if being Canadian gets me labeled as ‘nice’, it’s a burden I am willing to shoulder.We wonder why we have issues with bullying in all areas of our lives…just take a look at what we see as entertainment.

  3. If the Tims had used the U-turn again and eventually won, they would have received a lot of flak from viewers and would have had to live with the criticism. Passing on it gave them a chance to have people be happy for them if they won and that would be worth a lot! Using the U-turn wouldn’t have eliminated Jet and Dave this time anyway as it’s a continuous two-part episode. Watching Jet and Dave with the lobsters was hilarious! They do add the comic relief. Couldn’t believe the show put the contestants in danger with the stick shift cars. Halifax came off well this episode. It was funny the teams that couldn’t figure out the Bluenose clue “Must be a place to use 10 cents in this city somewhere!” comment from the sisters :).

  4. The real reason Canadian reality shows fail is they are one long commercial with a race or some dancing in the mix. The American versions feature racing or dancing interrupted by commercials. Get with it Canada and lose the full hour advertising.

  5. I like it. It’s better than that hyped-up, hypercompetitive American BS. That being said, I have no idea why the girls are still in the race.

    • I like it better than the US version too — but I don’t think it’s okay to be eliminated TWICE and still be in the game — maybe one reprieve, but just one second chance. If the team that was twice eliminated ends up winning, I don’t think it will be accepted as a clean win.

      And it just isn’t the same without Hal and JoAnne.

  6. I think the Amazing race Canada has been fantastic and wouldn’t miss an episode. In fact, have watched some episodes more than once. Hope it goes again next year. Nice to see Jody and Cory win a couple of legs of the race. Would also like to see the Tims win a leg, not necessarily the final one though.

  7. Define the term “fail”. It’s been the highest raked show of the week every single week so far.

  8. If you watch the American version, they have legs where they keep going. the last team doesn’t get eliminated. The American version has advertising through out as well. Teams drive and win Ford or Chevy products and the Travelocity Gnome gets dragged around for an episode too. Maybe if the teams knew that it was going to be a continuation leg they might have done the U-Turn different. As for stick driving, that happens every year on the American version, you would think if the girls had watched the American version, they would have learned to drive stick beforehand. My only real beef with the Canadian version is the misuse of the “mistake music” the little dis-chord that plays when a team makes a mistake. It gets used constantly at the wrong times. As for being “nice” didn’t Canada’s Sweetheart, Joanne McLeod get bleeped after the Doctors went past them in the U-Turn challenge at Mosaic Stadium? I loved that!These teams are competitive and they all want to win. ‘Nuff said.

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