You don’t need to travel anywhere else – you have everything you need in our home country.
Sixteen words. That’s all it takes for one team to potentially ruin a franchise.
In the next few weeks, Amazing Race Canada will begin its fourth trip around the world. As an outsider looking in on this franchise, it strikes me how different it feels to other Amazing Races around the world. This franchise doesn’t rely on the flexibility of travelling, knowledge of language, flight intrigue. No, it is fuelled by nationalism, by the belief that – above everything else – Canada is the best damn country in the whole world.
And, the weird thing is, they’re not exactly wrong. Canada is a fantastic country. I’ve spent nearly a month there in the past four years, and I can count on one hand the number of unpleasant people that I’ve met. However, nationalism can be a very dangerous thing, especially if it is left to overrun a franchise that has shown so much promise.
Amazing Race Canada began, as my good friend Logan likes to say, as a beta test – a test to see whether Canada – possibly the biggest fans of Amazing Race around the world – could sustain their own version. As a precaution, production limited the season to nine teams and ten legs, all of which took the China Rush model of not leaving their borders. As the show became Canada’s most popular show of all tiiiiiiiime, pleas for the show to embrace international travel began cropping up. Season 2 had two countries – China (Hong Kong/Macau) and France – appear outside of Canada’s borders. Season 3 extended this to three – Chile, Argentina and India. However, the tide began to turn during the airing of Season 3.
During Season 3, a tide of nationalism swept over the fans of Amazing Race Canada. Gone was the excitement to see new countries or teams deal with language barriers, and instead we had celebrations at visits to exotic Sudbury (suck it, Trebek) and a final memory challenge that involved string. This was compounded by the winners of the season – who in the opinion of this author are some of the most boring people ever to race – stirring up the tension to dangerous levels with their winners’ quote being the above sixteen words. They weren’t challenged by anyone – Monty agreed with them at the Finish Line, and so did the fans on the pages – and this is a very worrying trend.
Amazing Race is a show that thrives on new experiences, on ordinary or extraordinary people being pushed to their limits, doing things and seeing places that they would never have dreamed of. And even more worryingly, Amazing Race Canada risks grinding to a halt without the intrigue or vibrancy of the exotic and new locales.
People may claim that Amazing Race Canada is different – it is intended to showcase Canada, and not the world. I wholeheartedly agree – I’ve learned more about Canada than I ever could have thought possible three years ago. I’ve learned that Canadian casting is almost always fantastic, for example. But, I’ve also learned that Canada rests on its laurels when it thinks it has a good thing going on. There is a huge difference between patriotism and blind patriotism (and no, the difference isn’t that you don’t have to put your picture on the board for blind patriotism!) It is very easy to forget that Canada – along with many other countries around the world – has a place in the world, and it is just as important to show the world Canada as it is Canada the world.
Last season, producers focused more on adding in twists like the Double Battle, rather than adding in more countries, and that is fine. It was a wondrous idea to add in the race for the Double Express Pass in the second leg instead of just resting on your laurels and handing it to the winners of the first leg – that is how you build upon your franchise, but don’t think for a second that you can relax or rest easy or get lazy. To quote the introduction to every season of Survivor, they need to adapt, or they’ll be voted out. And the problem that Amazing Race Canada faces – whether they realise it or not – is that the actions of production now may condemn the franchise to the scrapheap in a few short years.
The international destinations are another point of contention. A little-known part of the show’s deal with Air Canada is that they can go on any Air Canada flight, but more importantly, on any flight with an Air Canada number – even if it is a codeshare flight. This means that they can fly on Air China, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa and any other airline in Star Alliance. Just because it’s not an Air Canada plane, doesn’t mean they can’t still say that the flight is provided by Air Canada (which it still would be). Air Canada alone flies to 182 destinations in five continents around the world – there is literally no excuse for minimising international travel. In addition to this, almost every English-speaking country in the world has a Canadian ex-pat community and – even if they restricted travel to Commonwealth and former British Empire countries – they could tie every leg for ten seasons back to Canada, without it feeling forced or egregious.
So finally, my plea to producers – please be very careful when the season begins. Please don’t stoke the nationalistic fires that you so carelessly stoked last year. Please don’t be scared of the backlash you might face for expanding to a fourth or fifth country. And please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t let Gino & Jesse be your damn mouthpiece again.