Social Media Stars Became Reality TV Stars On The Amazing Race

By  · Published on February 14th, 2016


Welcome to Last Night on TV, our daily column that looks back at what happened on television the night before. If we’re going to stay up all night and watch TV, we might as well talk about it the next day.

Last night on TV, Chris welcomes a new season of The Amazing Race.

The Amazing Race

Christopher Campbell: For the 28th season of the most fun competition reality show on TV, there’s a new gimmick. All the contestants are Internet celebrities. Most teams feature a pair of social media stars, while a few have one web-famous personality accompanied by a non-famous family member or friend. It’s sort of the next level to last season’s showcase of media-based figures such as newscasters, paparazzi, TMZ reporters and Amazing Race junkies who’d received online notoriety for a viral video about their fandom. Now we’ve got video tutorial hosts, Instagram models, Vine magician Zach King, YouTube and LGBT icon Tyler Oakley, Rooster Teeth (Red vs. Blue, Lazer Team) co-founder Burnie Burns, Ultimate Frisbee pro Brodie Smith and funny flight attendant Marty Cobb.

As far as themed seasons go, this one has its pros and cons (unlike last year’s concept of blind-date teams, which was a completely bad idea). There are definitely some interesting issues for these denizens of the digital world, and the show’s producers clearly wanted that to be the case in angling the season with emphasis that they’re now out in the real world. Almost everyone appeared to have immediate difficulty with navigating physical space upon arrival in Mexico City. I bet even if there’s not actually more experiences of getting lost in this season, the show will make it seem to be true. But I bet a lot of the players really aren’t too familiar with analog maps nor have a natural sense of direction, as they’re part of the modern crowd that does everything through computers and the Internet and can’t go a block from home without GPS.

Ironically, though, it was the two older-generation parents of social media stars who had the most trouble with directions and with physical spaces. I kind of love Alabama mama Sheri, whose son is a Vine personality, and Scott, the father of makeup expert Blair Fowler, and really worried about them. They were awkward, stressed out, embarrassing and embarrassed and totally endearing. Sheri was prematurely apologetic early on and then later legitimately sorry for being so slow on the archaeological Aztec mask challenge. I wondered how she could have accidentally agreed to an underground cave task while being terribly claustrophobic, but I couldn’t fault her too much. And Scott’s wrongly wandering above ground and dropping essential puzzle pieces was cringeworthy but again I sincerely felt bad for him and was so happy that he and Blair were safe from elimination.

The main con of the gimmick evidenced so far on the first leg is how loud and lively the racers are. Most of them live so much of their lives in the public, a lot of it on camera, so they’re hardly shy. To the point that some of them are a little too much. A little too over the top. There was a lot of yelling going on during the mariachi detour, and not just to compensate for the volume of the musicians. It was obnoxious chatter. Of course, the other detour, involving more concentrated craftwork, had teams operating much more quietly. Hopefully a lot of the boisterousness in the first episode was the result of everyone being so excited at the start. They did seem to be more spirited on the way to Mexico City and their first detours than they were by the end of the leg. I should recognize that at the start of last season, the newscasters seemed annoyingly perky and camera happy and then they went on to be one of my favorites and, to my satisfaction, wound up winning. At this point, though, I don’t have any favorites or least favorites. I’m excited to travel further with all of them.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.