The last of the season premieres: TAR 17 is it?

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You know, I have a small bone to pick with Jeff Probst. I love the dude, don't get me wrong, and I'm very much part of the faction of people that believe Survivor will be half the show it is now if he leaves. I just...don't want it to stop. Ever! Seriously, few other shows have managed to engage me for 20+ seasons (because no shows have that many seasons), and make me as delighted as I am on a weekly basis to watch a bunch of loons on an island of the non-Canadian persuasion. Plus I still feel like they have a fair bit they could do: Survivor Couples (wherein each pairing of teammates are split onto two tribes)! Celebrity survivor! Bring back all the former winners that actually want to come back (and see if Sandra can make it a threepeat)! ARCTIC SURVIVOR!

Anyway my beef is that JP has whinged about the strain it takes to shoot Survivor, given he's off in some remote destination for 40+ days. That's right, Jeff Probst works (remotely anyway) for about 90 days a year, because let's face it, he doesn't have a bunch of other successful gigs lined up for him. Phil Keoghan of Amazing Race fame however, probably works for about six to eight weeks, and spends the rest of his time riding bikes and writing books. The difference is, Phil is zipping all around the world for those six to eight weeks. No doubt he's staying in nice hotels, but dude is suffering from the same amount of jet lag and travelling from challenge destination to challenge destination to make the race happen. So Probst, can it and keep on doing Survivor! Although how cool would it be if they swapped jobs for a season? I digress.

Another note on The Amazing Race. This is the first year they lost their Emmy. It's also the first year Survivor was NOT nominated, which is so bizarre it hurts after coming off of a pretty phenom season like 'All Stars'. Perhaps it's because Samoa was a pretty terrible season (sans Russell's world domination) and they don't consider 'All Star' seasons to be as creatively charged as brand new casts. It's just a tragedy because they lost to Top Chef of all things, which as far as I know doesn't even air in Canada. Lametown. That being said, I'm not in disagreement - TAR has a pretty weak year last year, with way too much time spent in one general area (Asia) and pretty lame casting.

Much like Survivor, the secret to a good reality show is in the casting. It needs to be a balance of gimmicky (see: acrobatic little people, Kentucky coal miners, beauty queens, etc.) and explosive (see: every violently angry couple on the show ever), with a dash of heart and goodwill (see: the hippies that won their respective seasons) and 'relative' hotness in the form of relatively douchey male teams (see: almost every season where a team of beefcakes was entered, they won).

This year it seems the folks on TAR are reallllly pushing for an all female team to win, with FOUR entries into the mix and NO beefcake male teams to speak of. The last time they did this was Season 14, with the flight attendants, the antagonistic but athletic (except for swimming) black sisters, and the former redheaded NFL cheerleaders (who ultimately placed second). Unfortunately none of these female teams had the charisma and fan base that Dustin and Kandice, the two-time second-place finishers had, and thus it was kind of okay that another chirpy, happy, intelligent brother & sister duo won (shortly after Ryan & Starr a season or two earlier).

Of the ladies on the race this year, I suspect the doctors or the volleyball girls have the best chance. Brook was annoying as all get out this episode, and I suspect Clare will lose enthusiasm as the race continues to NOT include taping thirty-minute segments while fondling some jewels. The mother/daughter reunion team is just all kinds of awkward, and beyond that, they don't have that competitive "We've both wanted this for SO LONG!" spirit that the majority of the other teams have. The doctors preformed solidly and calmly throughout the episode, making them a touch boring, but at least commendable. The volleyball chicks will likely be able to bring a bit more interest to the table, and they're buff and gorge, which will help them throughout.

Other than that, I think the male/female couples all have some interesting and potentially explosive dynamics. Nicky & Vicki are America's Best (idiots) so while they provide good entertainment value their time on the race is going to be short. Jill & Thomas (I keep on wanting to say jack & jill) may be interesting as well after a solid finish on the first leg, I'm curious to see how the Express Pass plays out, and whether the set-up dynamic for him being Ivy League and her being a beautician will come into play. She certainly got them across that lake fast enough, which contributed to their win. Finally I can't remember their names, but team 'Roid Rage' as I've dubbed them promises to be the couple 'most likely to be reconsidering things' after the race. I get squeamish at the verbally and physically abusive couples, but I hope it's at least a wake-up call for them.

Finally we have a scattered remaining group. I love the Gleeks! LOVE! I will be putting them in my early teams to root for that's for sure. They had a rough start but pulled off a very respectable third-place finish despite being on the second flight, so kudos there. Just as the race has never had an all female team win, they've also never had a parent/child team win, and I've loved many of the parent/child teams. So I'm also waving a small flag for our two parent/child teams - the Asian internet Sensations and Little Miss Sunshine & her dad. Truthfully I wasn't too sad to see Tony the Tiger & Ron leave. Their musical antics sounded interesting in the interviews but I was kind of yawning at their raceplay. There are other teams I want to see more of and it was nice that all of the female teams made it past leg 1.

Overall because of the solid casting here and the drive of the producers to have some very strong female contenders for the win, I'm giving TAR a promising thumbs up for the season to come. The Express Pass is an interesting twist / alternative to the underused Fast Forward (remember the first two seasons??) and not quite as dramatic of the Medallion of POWAHHHH! on Survivor, so I'm happy they shook up the game a bit. I'm wondering if they'll keep on popping more of those passes in the race or not, but content with the one for now. It's much better than the damn 'team' detours they throw in every once in awhile.

I'll also mention that Dancing with the Stars has fallen by the wayside. The cast just wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped in comparison to last season, and quite frankly watching that show without a PVR to skip through the excessive ads is not my cuppa tea. It's a very spoilerrific show and I'm very much an internet surfer, so watching it the next day on my laptop just isn't a good option either. I also skipped Desperate Housewives' premiere this week, as I feel the show has become a mockery of what it set out to be all those seasons ago. Easy come, easy go.

A friend of mine watched the new JJ Abrams show 'Undercovers' and being a mega-Alias fan was quite disappointed. I haven't heard the best things about it, and frankly, Abrams isn't a guaranteed hit-maker (and will jump ship once a show has launched to a higher ground) so I'm not chancing it. I am planning to tune into the new drama premiering tonight, 'No Ordinary Family', about a family of superheroes. Sort of like Heroes meets The Incredibles. It hasn't gotten a lot of buzz, but perhaps it'll build if the first few episodes are good.

That's a wrap on my fall round-up. We're in the home stretch for summery shows including Mad Men and Project Runway (seriously WTF TO MAD MEN THIS WEEK?), which is fine and good because a bunch of awesome-sounding movies are coming out right away. Stay tuned for my thoughts on four of fall's biggest movies: Easy A, The Town, The Social Network, and Let Me In!

- Britt's On!

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