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TV Reviews: 'Lost' and 'Amazing Race' both leave starting line -- best bet on CBS's 'Race'

Wednesday, September 05, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Tonight if you have one and only one hour to devote to "reality" television, should you get "Lost" on NBC or join "The Amazing Race" on CBS?

It's an easy call: Suit up for the "Race."

An exhilarating, fast-paced competition filled with colorful characters, "The Amazing Race" is a pulse-pounding good time.

Though the initial cast of 22 seems a little daunting, they're such distinct characters, it doesn't take long to figure out who's who. They're a diverse bunch -- separated parents, trash-talking frat brothers, mother and daughter, a gay couple and grandparents -- and they make for darn good TV.

TV Reviews


When: 8 tonight on NBC.

"The Amazing Race"

When: 9 tonight on CBS.

Host: Phil Keoghan.


The race begins in New York's Central Park as the 11 teams of two are sent on the first leg of their journey, racing by cab and by subway to catch flights to Africa. The catch? Only one flight is direct and it's first come, first served to get a seat. Plus, the last pair to an African village, the destination in this leg of the journey, will be eliminated. The winning team at the end of the show gets $1 million.

It was a little disturbing to see how some of the contestants drive once they reach Africa. It appeared they could easily cause an accident as they race along African roads (producers have said they had to conform to all laws of the countries they're in, including the speed limit). "The Amazing Race" certainly won't erase the image of the "ugly American," though two lawyer buddies do attempt to act as goodwill ambassadors, passing out small American flags.

It's surprising how quick and easy it was to get caught up in the characters' lives. Some are easy to dislike (the overly competitive guy who constantly yells at the wife he's separated from) and others you'll cheer for (the mother and daughter are incredibly sympathetic).

Once in Africa, there are more hurdles to jump in the form of challenges (slide down a zip wire, go bungee jumping). It might seem tiresome to watch people perform the same stunts over and over, but their distinctive personalities and reactions make the challenges new each time.

It's a stark contrast to "Lost," which is mostly a bore. It's the National Geographic of reality television.

While competitors on "Race" run past highlights of the world, barely taking a second to absorb the grandeur of Victoria Falls, the contestants in "Lost" take their time moseying through the desert where they're dropped (NBC asked viewers not to reveal the secret location, but suffice it to say, it's not on the North American continent).

Six Americans in three teams of two must find their way back to the Statue of Liberty using limited funds and often combating a language barrier as they travel the world. The winner gets a $100,000 prize and a car.

The idea of dropping contestants in the middle of nowhere and watching them struggle to find their way home (let alone ascertain the name of the country where they've been left) is intriguing. But once Celeste has to take a break after walking a mere 50 yards over desert-like terrain, it's clear this won't be excitement central.

Celeste, a self-described beauty queen, is paired with Tami, an understanding mother of four, who is pretty patient with her partner's weakness -- so far.

Twentysomethings Lando and Carla take an early lead tonight, but the most amusing pair are painting contractor Courtland and Harvey Fierstein soundalike Joe, who take great pleasure in trying to delay the trailing Celeste and Tami.

However, watching these teams hike over the same barren terrain for an hour loses its entertainment value fast.

"Lost" makes more of an attempt to explore the culture of the countries these contestants visit, something that's lacking in "The Amazing Race," but when the pace of the show is this dull and the contestants mostly undistinguished, it's hard to care whether they ever make it home.

In addition to The Big Picture, Chuck Finder writes a general-sports column exclusive to the http://www.post-gazette.com/ every Tuesday. He can be reached at cfinder@post-gazette.com

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