Tuesday, 11 October 2005

The Amazing Race 8 (Family Edition), Episode 3

Middleburg, VA (USA)- Dulles Airport, VA (USA) - Charleston, SC (USA) - Huntsville, AL (USA)

The decisive factor in The Amazing Race: Family Edition this week is the fact that only one team at a time can ride the pilot-training centrifuge , and that it takes some time to spin up to speed and slow to a stop again. That gives the last team on the centrifuge no chance to catch up before they are eliminated at the finish line. It’s hard to run, anyway, when you’ve just been struggling against 3.2 times the force of gravity, an amount of force that can cause people to lose consciousness and will cause most people to be at least a bit unsteady on their feet when they first emerge from the centrifuge.

Before getting spun around in a capsule at the end of a glorified (yes, very glorified) amusement park ride, the teams had to make their way through two actual travel tasks:

First, they had to fly from Washington Dulles International Airport, IAD (actually in Virginia — none of the three airports with scheduled passenger service in the greater Washington metropolitan area are in the District of Columbia) to Charleston, South Carolina.

The only reason for the television producers to require the racers to fly from Dulles would be to showcase Independence Air, which has its hub at Dulles and which was prominently named (in a paid product placement, presumably) as having the flight to Charleston that arrived first.

The irony is the widespread expectation that Independence Air will file for bankruptcy — and possibly for liquidation, unlike other airlines that have thought they had a chance of reorganizing under protection of bankruptcy, and continuing to operate — before changes to the bankruptcy law take effect next week. Independence Air had a business plan as hopeless as the worst of dot-com’s: “Let’s charge lower fares than our competitors, while using the most fuel-inefficient planes with the highest possible operating costs per available seat mile (small “regional” jets).” But if they go bankrupt the week after buying their way into “reality” TV, I’ll think it an appropriately realistic fate.

From Charleston, the producers chartered two buses to take the racers to Huntsville. That was probably because there is (so far as I can tell) no direct scheduled bus service from Charleston to Huntsville. But in isolating the racers on chartered buses, the producers missed a chance to put them in touch with a cast of real characters, not just for the 12 hour ride but while changing buses in the Atlanta bus station (and you complain about changing planes in Atlanta?) in the middle of the night.

As my friend Wendy Grossman wrote in her column this week, and as I noted in my blog:

I have some guidelines that might be of assistance to TSA personnel stationed at bus depots, train stations, and airports to play spot-the-terrorist. First of all: it is very, very easy to spot the suspicious people in a Greyhound bus station, especially at, say, two in the morning. They are the people who are clean, well-dressed, affluent, and not creepy. Eliminate the foreigners, and you have your suspicious people. Affluent Americans do not travel by bus unless they are expatriates back on a visit.

At the end of their bus ride, and after their centrifuge ride, the family teams of four cross-country racers come to rest in the field of rockets and missiles on display at the U.S. Space Center museum and site of the “Space Camp” in Huntsville, Alabama — not to be confused with NASA’s nearby Marshall Space Flight Center founded by Werner von Braun, who developed rockets both for the Nazis (including the V2 used against London) and for the USA (including the Saturn 5 that launched all the people who’ve gone to the moon), and is perhaps best known for the line attributed to him in a song by satirist Tom Lehrer:

“Once the rockets go up, who cares where they come down. That’s not my department,” says Werner von Braun.

The racers’ countdown will last for 12 hours as they try to wash the mud and shrimp-cleaning detritus from their tasks off their clothes, eat, and sleep at the Huntsville “pit stop”. Our countdown will last for a week as we wait for the next episode.

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 11 October 2005, 23:59 (11:59 PM)

For the sake of argument, if Independence Air didn't pay for placement and they were just selling seats at retail...

How good could it possibly bode for them that there were *that* many seats open on that flight?

Posted by: Joe Taylor Jr., 12 October 2005, 06:56 ( 6:56 AM)

Fantastic blog Edward!!!

In general, this year's version of TAR is a bit of a let down. Obviously the producers couldn't make the tasks too difficult, knowing that there might be children on the team. You have to have tasks that a six year old can at least contribute to. I'm going to stick with the show because I do enjoy it and want it to return next year.

Posted by: TJE, 12 October 2005, 16:59 ( 4:59 PM)
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