Monday, 5 July 2004
Eyewitness to the final episode of "The Amazing Race 5"
If you aren't off travelling yourself (and maybe if you are), it's time for a summer of armchair travel around the world:
Broadcasts in the USA of the latest season of the CBS reality-TV show about around-the-world travel, The Amazing Race 5 , start Tuesday (tomorrow), 6 July 2004, at 9:30 p.m. EDT/PDT, 8:30 p.m. CDT/MDT, with the final episode tentatively scheduled for broadcast 21 September 2004. Canadian broadcasts will (mostly) be on the same days; broadcast schedules in other countries vary. (Some countries are several seasons behind.) Enjoy, learn -- and get inspired to travel!
Once again, of course, I'll be filing weekly columns the morning after each episode is broadcast (with the possible exception of a couple of weeks in the middle when I may be travelling outside the broadcast area and/or out of Internet connectivity).
This season CBS, for reasons that remain a mystery to me, put out press releases listing the locations of all the pit stops where the race stops. But don't worry: I think guessing where the racers are going is part of the fun, and I won't spoil it for you. If you really want to know, you can find listings elsewhere on the Internet, but you'll also find some extremely detailed and credible-seeming, but false, rumors and mistaken reports of sightings in places the race didn't go.
How do I know? I've got the scoop. One of my correspondents sent me an exclusive account of part of the final leg of the race, along with clearly recognizable photos of the final three teams.
No, I'm not going to tell you who they are now, and I'm not going to post the photos until the final week of the race. [14 September 2004: I've now posted the photos here and in more detail here.] Keep your own eyes peeled: "The Amazing Race 6" is being filmed this summer, for broadcast in a new time slot on Saturday night this fall, so now is the time to be watching for the yellow-and red flags wherever you go, especially around airports. But to tease you, and get you thinking about what it must really be like when the race comes through, here's what it was like for one eyewitness:
Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 5 July 2004, 17:26 ( 5:26 PM)
Finding a parking spot along our main street is always difficult. When one becomes available, locals are quick to grab it. When there's two or more empty spots in a row, you know something's going on -- either town operations is hanging Christmas lights or there's a film crew in town. On a recent day I spotted a row of empty spaces. It was after December, so it wasn't the Christmas lights scenario, and the only film crew in town I knew of had just finished shooting, so I was intrigued. The most obvious thing about the shoot was what wasn't in town -- the big rental trucks, the satellitte dishes, the change trailers, and frantic crew running around with cell phones stuck to their ears.
Two things about a guy leaning against a shop window caught my eye. Firstly, it was a cold day and he was outside reading the paper. Secondly, no one takes that long to read the local paper. I wandered over and asked him directions. He said he was from out of town, on vacation from California. With a walkie-talkie in his top pocket? Not likely, I thought.
I'd found out that filming was to be done in two locations. One was along the main street, the second in a parking lot by the river. I had no idea how soon the action would start, but it was obvious the downtown stop would be a quick one, and the main event would be out of sight of the public. I went home, changed into an outfit that screamed "tourist", bought a disposable
camera to complete the look, and headed off to the second filming site.
All entrances were manned by official security, so I disappeared into the woods and "accidentally" emerged in the middle a film crew preparing for the shoot. I ignored the spectacle and casually wandered along the riverbank, taking my first ever pictures with a disposable camera. A plain-clothes security guy wandered over, seemingly unconcerned, and asked what I was doing. After telling him I was on my honeymoon and how beautiful the river was, and that I was waiting for the sun to come out to take a photo, he wished me well. I asked what was going on, and he said they were filming a documentary, and that I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the set.
I had no idea how long until filming would begin, but I realized I had a unique opportunity to watch the action if I was in the right place and if I was cautious. It was cold, snow was beginning to fall, and the light was fading. It was time to get serious. I returned home, changed into some practical winter clothes, and loaded up my regular camera with fast film and a 600mm lens.
Two big black SUVs with rental plates greeted me in an otherwise empty parking lot across the river from the film site. I parked up the hill and slipped into the woods. High above, I could hear voices of what was obviously security, not allowing anyone to stop along a short stretch of road. By this time I had arrived at a narrow ridge, from where the entire filming set was laid out below and across the river. I snapped a few shots, then decided to move a little further along, where the brush was thicker. Even though my angle for watching the action was perfect, it hadn't crossed my mind there'd be a camera set up on "my" side of the river, but there it was, with two cameramen, a stone's throw from my own vantage point. I quietly retreated to my original spot. Over the next hour, there was little action across the river -- just an occasional crew member checking equipment, the supporting cast milling around a fire in traditional dress, and the crackle of walkie-talkies as the security guys above me patrolled the road.
Finally, a black SUV with tinted windows pulled up, with two well dressed guys jumping out and barking orders. Three teams of two arrived in quick succession, with one member of each team working on a challenge under the watchful eye of locals with thousands of years experience at the task. Each team was followed by separate film crews, getting up close and personal to capture the struggle, then panning out to capture tethered horses that were no more than props, benches covered in sheets to keep the wilderness look, and across the river to where I was hidden away. And then it was over. It was getting dark and I couldn't see who was who as the six competitors and 30-odd crew seemed to be casually mingling.
The entire parking lot was empty within an hour. I'd heard the nearby cameramen pack up long ago, so I headed back up the hill to my vehicle, chilled to the bone, but with two rolls of film to be developed and the satisfaction of having watched reality TV firsthand.