the amaaaaaaaaaaaaazing race!
May 21, 2010 9:53 AM   Subscribe

i've become hooked on "the amazing race". how can i become the best possible candidate to kick ass on this televised RACE AROUND THE WORLD?

so after only one episode of the (7th season- all i could find on netflix) amazing race i am totally hooked, line and sinker.

other people's reactions to the amazing race: omg, what a fun show, but it looks so stressful, i'm glad that's not me.
my reaction to the amazing race: OMG HOW CAN THAT BE ME I WANT TO DO IT TOO

so it seems like an ideal 'amazing race' contestant needs resourcefulness, luck, calm under duress, an ability to communicate with locals who speak a language that you don't, sense of direction, and the ability to run like a maniac with a huge backpack. what else? what else do i need to become an amazing race winner? be able to fight a bear? swim great distances? drive stick shift? even off the wall things, like create total drama (a friend who i told i wanted to do this show someday with another friend of ours told me we'd never get in due to the fact that we never fight so there wouldn't be any fun tv drama).

what skills and qualities would make me an ideal person to win the amazing race?

(i waffled for awhile whether to put this in 'health and fitness' or 'media and arts' and eventually settled on the latter)
posted by raw sugar to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
To get on the show: an interesting personality or schtick, good looks, etc.

To win the show: Fast runner, resourcefulness, cunning and most of all luck. It can't hurt to speak a large number of languages but I think the ability to communicate with people non-verbally would be enough.

Because I've traveled to a lot of interesting out of the way countries people are always telling me that I should be on The Amazing Race. I try to explain that the show isn't at all about being a good traveler. Now if they made you figure out how to get from Addis Ababa to Nairobi alone by land via public transport with only AMEX traveler's checks, not having a shower for a week it would be a more realistic traveler's show in my opinion. Maybe not so exciting though! Your real hurdle is getting cast and make no mistake, its just like other reality shows where you have to stick out to get past even the first round of submissions.
posted by Bunglegirl at 10:00 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love the show as well, and it seems to me that beyond simple physical stamina you should take copious notes, have a good attention to detail and be self-sufficient at navigating with little direction.
How about practicing with your potential partner? Take turns picking something unusual in a (relatively) unknown location and see if you can get yourself and your partner there without speaking with the locals. Maybe you could even invent a way to do something like this with Google Maps ?? ... kind of a "Carmen Sandiago" for adults?

Good luck, and if you win be sure to mention us when you're on the show!
posted by mcarthey at 10:11 AM on May 21, 2010

I love this show but being Canadian I dont think I can apply :-(

I doubt they care that you can carry a backpack and run fast
The producers are more interested in personalities and relationships and creating competition and tension between the teams like the lesbians vs the beauty queen last season
So if you try out for the show try and find an interesting partner like your long lost brother an ex wife or a midget :-)
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 10:16 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another important skill is cramming the travel guide during the plane flight to the next destination.
posted by smackfu at 10:20 AM on May 21, 2010

You need to be a character. People on reality TV are halfway between regular folks and actors. There are special casting firms that specialize only in non-scripted programming. I have friends who work in the industry and I've worked a little bit in casting. These are my thoughts:

- You need to be a "type" (ie: jock, cougar, sorority girl, marine, soccer mom, gay, little person, etc).

- You need to have a prepackaged story arch ready for them (ie: "I lost 100 pounds and now I want to see the world!"; "We've never left our small town, now we're going to eat horse testicles in Guatamala!", etc).

- You need to be at least three of the following: attractive, fit, funny, relatable, sympathetic, goofy, 'evil', drama queen.

- Fitness is key; the chubby mensch is always the dude who fucks it up for their team at some point because they can't get there fast enough.

- Learn phrasebook words for as many languages as you can; there are some good 'European phrasebooks' that would help a lot when you need to tell a French cab driver to turn left or whatever.

- be willing to fake fight to keep yourself on the show. Nice people have to be marshmallow and rainbow sweetie pies, and bad guys have to be evil villains. But if you're the "nice" team, you're still going to need to have that climactic moment - a fight; threatening to quit; getting lost in a strange place; facing your "fear of snakes" (tell them you're afraid of something you're not, then really play it up when they make you bungee jump of whatever the fuck). This is TELEVISION, it has to be entertaining.

- You have to be smiling and happy to work 13+ hour production days (yes, I said work) while they film you doing the same thing over and over again from ten angles. You need to be willing to repeat the same line of dialogue over and over again until it "sounds right" and additionally go back in to record dialogue for looping purposes. You know how half the time you see someone talking, they cut away to a shot of the road ahead, then they cut back? Nine times out of ten those words were added in after. Same thing if someone's back is facing away from the camera.

- You have to be willing to go along with whatever 'arc' the show writers create for you, which may mean that the cards are completely stacked against you because they totally decide the results of the 'game' based on what they think will be most interesting. If they want you to cry and threaten to quit, you will have to lug kegs of beer through the Swiss Alps alone in the dark.

I add these last two not to dissuade you, but rather to remind you this is an entertainment medium which requires a lot of energy from a lot of people. As "talent" you will be treated as if you were getting paid (and you do, but not nearly as much as if it were a scripted series with actors). If the crew don't like you, they might just go out of their way to film you looking like a dick. This might be a fun adventure on paper but what it really ends up being is very low paying (unless you win) acting work.

The show is exciting but it really combines the two worst things - production work and travel. Sure, there's the dinner for two in Paris, but mostly it's just opening and closing the cab door six times while they get the shot in, and seven thousand cabs at the airport are honking behind you, then it's standing in line at the airport while your crew films you, etc. If you really truly think this sounds like fun, or you just like the idea of being on tv/traveling the world, then go for it, but make sure to "package" yourself as best as you can as a character that won't require a lot of extensive editing to make you interesting.
posted by SassHat at 10:30 AM on May 21, 2010 [10 favorites]

A friend of mine and his wife were contestants on the first season. I'll drop him a line and see if he minds you contacting him for advice.
posted by jbickers at 10:53 AM on May 21, 2010

SassHat may be speaking from experience with his friend, but the amazing race during racing segments will not have you redo a scene. Never ever. And the story arcs are created in editing. Not them telling you what to say.

Sasshat sounds like he/she is talking about "The Real World"
posted by lakerk at 10:54 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Raw Sugar, check your MeMail.
posted by jbickers at 11:00 AM on May 21, 2010

Here are the eligibility requirements to apply to be cast on The Amazing Race.

TAR is somewhat different than most other reality/competition shows, in that it is team-oriented. Much of it has to do with how well you get along with your partner and your dynamics as a team are what will get you cast on the show. To get on the show, you need to be charismatic and interesting, fit into an easily defined relationship-type and have an interesting dynamic to the relationship with your partner. think about what your one or two word team description would be. Does your relationship have a potential narrative arc?

As far as winning the Race, the first thing you need to do is get cast on the show. After that, composure is probably the most important attribute. Being able to navigate yourself quickly and reliably, getting locals to help you find your way, reading and understanding clues completely will make a big difference. Don't be frustrated when foreigners don't speak or understand English. Know how to drive a manual transmission. Always be trying to find the fastest transportation to the next destination. Physical stamina is important -- both for physical challenges and for being able to deal with the loads of travel.
posted by andrewraff at 11:48 AM on May 21, 2010

Long-time fan of the show here.

I'd go with watching more of it, by whatever means you can. You might also want to skim through the Television Without Pity boards for an episode after you watch it, where the posters often note racers' mistakes. (One thing I've learned from the TWoP boards: if a Detour offers one option which involves working with live animals and one which does not, the one without live animals is almost always the better choice.) There's some past racers who have posted on the boards there too.

Stick shift, definitely at least one person should know how to drive thoseā€”it's come up in many seasons. Attention to detail: read the clue multiple times along the way. Know your partner's strength and weaknesses, so you can decide which team member is better suited to perform a given Roadbloack. (They generally only give a vague, sometimes-cryptic clue before the team has to decide which person will perform the Roadblock, before giving out full details of what has to be done, but sometimes it's enough to give you a general idea of who would be better, or you may see other teams already there performing the task.) If you have some down time, see if you can research a place before you go. E.g., if you're stuck in an airport for several hours before a flight to Perth, see if you can find an internet cafe and do a bit of general research on Perth, or a guidebook. Also on the "attention to detail" point, if you need to fill your car with gas, be sure you know what kind of gas it takes. Never give up until Phil tells you you're eliminated, no matter how far behind you may seem to be; you never know when/if another team has made/will make a critical mistake. (Back to the gas-in-cars, there was a point in one season, when eight teams remained, where driving quite a distance was involved and a fill-up was required. Four of the eight teams didn't realize these were diesel cars and filled up with regular gasoline, and those four predictably stopped running in short order. Each of the four thought the race was over for them, as none of them knew three other teams had made the same mistake. Of course, only one of those four was eliminated.) Keep your passports and other critical documents with you at all times, in a small pouch or something, separate from your backpack. If you lose/leave your backpack behind, you may be able to do without changes of clothes, but not without your passport.

(a friend who i told i wanted to do this show someday with another friend of ours told me we'd never get in due to the fact that we never fight so there wouldn't be any fun tv drama).

I don't agree with this. Certainly I think the producers deliberately pick some high-drama teams for each season, but that's by no means true of all the teams on the show. And as a fan, I always find myself drawn towards the teams that don't fight within the team itself and turned off when team members fight with each other. (Inter-team drama doesn't really bother me, for whatever reason, but I tend to not like intra-team drama. OTOH, from the point of view of making good television, having someone to root against is almost as good as having someone to root for.)

mcarthey's comment about notes is well-taken. The winners of the most recent season had seen several previous seasons, noted that one of the tasks on the final leg was often a memory task regarding where they had been or what had happened throughout the race, and thus took notes and reviewed them before the final leg. True to form, one of the tasks was a memory one, which they completed very quickly.

Try to avoid making enemies of other teams, especially early on. (Unless you're trying to be cast as an "evil" team, but then getting cast in the first place might conflict with good racing.) Not to the exclusion of all else, of course, given that it is a race, but you don't want to give other teams a reason to subject you to a U-Turn when they are given the opportunity. The U-Turn choices seem to be a lot more about "which team do we really hate" and much less frequently about "which team does it make the most sense, strategically, to U-Turn."

Good luck! Hope to see you on my TV in the future.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:53 AM on May 21, 2010

whoever you want your partner to be - go on vacation with them - maybe a roughing it vacation with camping and cooking a poor sleeping conditions. will this help you on the race? not directly - but it will show you if you guys can work together when you're not gung-ho and excited. so often good teams will be brought down by one or both being too tired to effectively communicate.

get your hands on all the seasons. there are some things that get repeated - how different things are set up - "oh, so we're at the organize everyone by order of elimination challenge" - stuff like that. also, watch how some of the groups are smart enough to pick up a $2 map at the airport, or to find locals on the plane who speak english to grill about different areas of the city, or sweet talk stewardesses to let them in first class...

yes to driving a stick - i've seen it come up a number of times
arm strength - there's usually a "climb a tall structure while dangling from a harness" event
eye for detail puzzles
bungie jump/rappel/sky dive - there is always at least one height challenge
brush up on your swimming
help friends move - this might seem silly, but i've seen too many challenges where people are carrying mattresses, baskets, cuts of meat, etc through winding roads. some fail on directions, some fail at basic ability to carry awkward things.
put yourself in a town you've never been in with a map. have your race partner pick a landmark and tell you to find it. see how well you can do - then switch.

the other points that are made upthread about being interesting to cast are also apt. ask yourself honestly "why would someone want to watch me on tv" - watching all the other seasons will help you with this too - it'll show you what types they favor.
posted by nadawi at 12:01 PM on May 21, 2010

You need a partner that you can have a schitck name "the brothers", "the coworkers", "the twins". That kind of thing.

Also, when given the choice between say, "go into a hayfield, unroll the bales and find a clue" (luck) vs. "go carry this heavy thing through the streets to a location" (work and effort), always choose the latter. A lot of good teams have been screwed because they didn't have good luck.

One kind of luck you can't avoid is cab drivers. My suggestion would be to try to find out how to say "are you SURE you know where you're going" and "we're in a race, please drive fast" in the native language.

Oh and if you make it, pay attention to who gets eliminated and where. One of the last challenges is usually a puzzle that recaps the race where you have to review the whole season and put the teams in order of elimination or what country they got eliminated in.
posted by NoraCharles at 12:30 PM on May 21, 2010

Yes to everything people have said here, especially stick shift and swimming -- if possible, both partners should know how to do both.

These things seem like they might be good practice (or just fun, anyway), though you do have to pay to enter, and I can't vouch for how good they are:

The Great Urban Race

Urban Dare

Good luck!
posted by cider at 12:46 PM on May 21, 2010

P.S. I don't know if you're a man or a woman, but The Amazing Race has never had an all-female team win. If you can position yourself as a really competitive all-female team, maybe that would give you a boost?
posted by cider at 12:48 PM on May 21, 2010

I think you need a really good video to apply to The Amazing Race, that makes you and your partner look like a compelling couple to watch.

If you can get any kind of viral video stuff going on in YouTube and then parlay that into your audition video, that would be an added plus.
posted by misha at 1:13 PM on May 21, 2010

another friend of ours told me we'd never get in due to the fact that we never fight

It's one thing to not fight in ordinary daily life, or even during ordinary travel. But that's not what the show is. I guarantee that relations will go sour when you've been walking around on hard concrete for the last 10 hours carrying a heavy pack, having slept for 2 hours the previous night on a park bench, having eaten nothing but crap from a vending machine for days, having been in the same clothes for 48 hours and haven't had more than a baby wipe for a shower in the last 4 days, with crap in your hair from getting pies thrown at you or whatever and sore arms from trying to carry 300 glasses of beer in uncomfortable wooden shoes, and you discover that your partner neglected to notice that your clue says that you're not allowed to take a taxi for this leg and you must turn around and go back and walk it and undo the slim 45 minute lead that you desperately eeked out over your closest team.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:34 PM on May 21, 2010

Also, if you do get on the show, keep track of the elimination order. The final episode always has this challenge of "list the order of teams who got eliminated."

You also might be interested in this mefi question for further research. :D
posted by foxjacket at 6:12 PM on May 21, 2010

The final episode always has this challenge of "list the order of teams who got eliminated."

It's usually something about remembering what had happened throughout the course of the race, but the order of the eliminated teams is only one of many variants on that general theme which has been used.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:41 PM on May 21, 2010

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