"The Amazing Race" is, in my opinion, one of the finest shows to come to television in ages. The series, which is an almost unimaginable feat of logistics and organization, has a pack of 11 2-person teams (friends, family, co-workers, etc) in a race across the world. There are no retakes, and the show shows events in real time as the racers hit various sites across different continents, attempting to solve clues and tasks that will allow them to proceed onto their next "pit stop", where they will rest for 12 hours before heading out into the world once again. The last team to arrive at the pit stop is elimated, although there are a pre-determined number of "non-elimination" legs that are randomly placed throughout the race.
The teams get a certain amount of money for each leg of the race, and aside from airfare (which is covered), it's up to them to save or spend it in the way that they see fit. Getting into the wrong cab can waste valuable minutes or get them completely lost. Every airport visit has to be spent looking for the best option, as an earlier flight than the remaining teams could mean a large lead. The team that gets across the finish line first goes home with $1,000,000.
This first season shows how it all began, as the racers hadn't seen any prior seasons in order to try and gain tips or tricks - they were fresh and unprepared for what the producers had in front of them. With a start in New York City, the teams then head to Zambia, France, Tunisia, Italy, India, Thailand, China and Alaska before coming back to New York City for a very enjoyable finale. As with seasons since, the teams encounter different cultures, deal with slow cabs and airport choices (in one instance, they come upon an airport strike), as well as other unexpected obstacles.
The contestants are an engaging and enjoyable mixture of personalities, lead by Drew and Kevin, fromer frat brothers who, despite obviously being good friends, enjoyed ripping into each other without mercy at every opportunity. During a bungee challenge in the first episode, one of them yells to the other, "Swing you fat bastard, swing!".
It's interesting to see how the show has evolved since this early season. Things such as how the production has gotten more easily able to handle the series (a team gets a time bonus in a couple of instances due to a production problem, which I don't remember happening in recent seasons.) Also, the tasks have gotten more complex, as well; despite being entertaining, some of the tasks that teams have to perform here seem rather basic compared to what contestants have had to do in other seasons. The amount of fast forwards (a pass that allows 1 team to jump ahead to the pit stop and skip remaining tasks on one leg only) have also been taken down, and teams seem a bit more bunched up in recent seasons (in other words, teams catching up because a place they have to visit doesn't open until a certain time) in comparison to this first season. Host Phil Keoghan is now there to greet every team when they arrive at the pit stop, as well.
The incredible thing about the series is that, despite the fact that I knew who won before I even started watching this DVD set, I found myself getting completely involved and, especially towards the end, on the edge of my seat. This first season of the show is absolutely riveting, tense television and the amazing thing is that the series has gotten better since.
The next season of "Amazing Race" starts on 9/27/05 (the same day this set arrives on store shelves), and - interestingly enough - it will be a "family edition" of the show.
1. 1- 1 5 Sep 01 The Race Begins
2. 1- 2 19 Sep 01 Divide and Conquer
3. 1- 3 26 Sep 01 Home for Some
4. 1- 4 3 Oct 01 Colossal Showdown
5. 1- 5 10 Oct 01 Desert Storm
6. 1- 6 17 Oct 01 Whatever it Takes to Win
7. 1- 7 24 Oct 01 Triumph and Loss
8. 1- 8 31 Oct 01 Competition to the Fullest
9. 1- 9 14 Nov 01 The Unexpected Twist
10. 1-10 21 Nov 01 To the Physical and Mental Limit
11. 1-11 28 Nov 01 Fight to the Last Minute
12. 1-12 5 Dec 01 Race to the Finish (1)
13. 1-13 13 Dec 01 Race to the Finish (2)
VIDEO: "Amazing Race" is presented by Paramount in 1.33:1 full-frame on this first season set. Image quality is superb, as the picture appeared consistently crisp and well-defined, with only a few rare instances of softness.
The presentation did not show any instances of pixelation or edge enhancement, and only a few minor moments of shimmer were seen. Colors were bright, natural and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The stereo soundtrack provides crisp, clear dialogue and environmental sounds. There seemed to be the slightest hint of distortion once or twice, but aside from that, the audio had no issues.
EXTRAS: An enjoyable feature is that, on several episodes, there are "side trips" - clicking on an icon brings up additional footage that had to be edited out of the broadcast due to length. Overall, there is 90 minutes of additional footage in all, and there's some great stuff to be found.
There are also four commentaries - "The Race Begins" has a track from Drew, Kevin, Lenny and Karyn; "Whatever It Takes to Win" has commentary from Rob and Brennan and "Team Guido" (Bill & Joe) ; "Triumph and Loss" has audio commentary from Drew, Kevin, Lenny and Karyn and finally, "Race to the Finish pt. 2" has commentary from Rob and Brennan and "Team Guido" (Bill & Joe). The commentaries are a lot of fun, as the participants share their side of some of the moments that were featured on the episodes, discuss what running the race was like in general and chat about some of the things that happened that were not shown.
Finally, on the last disc there are three additional features, starting with "The Lost Roadblock", which is an unaired challenge that had teams eating an Ostrich egg (a challenge that was shown in season 5). There's also "creating and coordinating", which discusses what the producers had to face during the first season, and some of the general discussion about how the production works as the racers go across the globe. Finally, "Reliving the Race" is a piece that has the producers, host Phil Keoghan and some of the racers discussing what it was like to run the race that first time around.
Final Thoughts: "Amazing Race" is an incredibly suspenseful series that offers comedy, drama, tension and even some touching moments. The series shows people faced with incredible challenges and finding themselves having to work together to try and overcome every obstacle. The series also provides an enjoyable and interesting look at other cultures and countries around the world, with a great look at some incredible locations. The first season DVD set provides fine audio/video quality and some informative supplements. Very highly recommended.