DVD Review: The Amazing Race - The Seventh Season
by Rachel Jaffe
Published: December 20, 2005
In September, Paramount released Season One of The Amazing Race. This was an entirely logical move. While The Amazing Race was a critical success from the get-go, it took several seasons (and an Emmy win) to start building a wider audience. Those who tuned in grew to love watching teams of two travel around the world, competing in various challenges and hoping to avoid elimination by not being the last to arrive at each leg of the race. But many fans had never even seen the first season of this exciting show.
So naturally, the second season to be released by Paramount is ... Season Seven? It sounds strange, but there's a method to the madness. Season Seven was very popular -- its finale had the highest ratings of any episode of The Amazing Race. The events of the season were quite dramatic, including a car crash, a head injury, and major changes of fortune in the final episode. The cast of characters were true characters, with everything from rednecks to a former POW to a dating gay couple. And of course there was the most striking casting of all -- Rob and Amber of Survivor fame. While previous stunt casting of Allison from Big Brother fizzled, Amber and Rob were tough competitors. Love them (as some did) or hate them (as more did, including several of the racers), they provided plenty of fodder around the watercooler, and even more incentive to watch this DVD set for the first time or as a repeat.
Credit Rob's ability to think outside the box, credit host Phil Keoghan's arched eyebrows as he introduces tasks and greets contestants at the end of each leg of the race, or credit the producers' growing expertise in devising diabolical situations and exotic locales in which to insert contestants, but Season 7 was an exciting entry to the annals of Reality TV history, beating the excellent Project Runway to win its third Emmy and providing hours of entertainment on this DVD set.
As with Season One, Season Seven provides bonus footage in the form of "side trips" (deleted scenes) and "mat chats" (extended interviews at the end of each leg). These can be accessed by hitting "enter" when a yellow icon shows on the screen. I'm very surprised that Paramount continued with that format, because I find it quite annoying. Waiting for the icon is distracting, and I don't like having to watch an episode with my remote in my hand; plus, the "side trips" aren't particularly well integrated into the episodes. I think it would have been better to have simply been able to play the additional footage separately from the episodes. However, I did look forward to seeing the "mat chats" in each episode.
Episode One, as well as half of the two-hour Episode Five, has commentary by brothers Brian and Greg and Gay Couple Lynn and Alex. While tending to be more familiar and less informative than I prefer in commentaries, and even though Lynn and Alex have incredibly annoying laughs, I have to admit to being convulsed by their goofy banter by the end of their second hour of commentary. Rob and Amber and married couple Uchenna and Joyce provide commentary for the other half of Episode Five, as well as for the finale. Despite tension on the race, the four of them conduct civil commentary, although occasionally old feuds rise to the surface. At one point Amber expressed her surprise that more teams didn't recruit locals to help them, and Joyce and Uchenna had to explain that it was harder for the other teams to find people to help them without having Rob and Amber's global fame from Survivor.
The DVD set also contains a 25-minute featurette entitled "Reliving the Race," which contains footage from the season and reflections from creators Bertram Van Munster and Elise Doganieri, host Phil Keoghan, and contestants Rob and Amber, Greg and Brian, Lynn and Alex, and Joyce and Uchenna. The interviews are conducted separately, and are quite candid.