Amazing Race Canada: Looking for Justin Bieber - Macleans.ca

Amazing Race Canada: Looking for Justin Bieber

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

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(CTV)

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.

(CTV)

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.