Canadians are heading out for the second season of "The Amazing Race Canada," and the stakes are high. Not only for CTV, which is bringing back the ratings juggernaut, but for the actual show itself. Can "Amazing Race Canada" strike reality gold two years in a row?
Looking at its distant cousin over
on Slice on Global, "Big Brother Canada" killed it in its sophomore season, bringing in more viewers and online traffic than ever before. In a way, that puts even more pressure on "ARC." Can a country that traditionally shrugs its shoulders at homegrown reality shows possibly maintain interest over the long term?
(Full disclosure: I've seen the first episode of Season 2, but don't worry, no major spoilers here.) The premiere episode of "Amazing Race Canada" Season 2 has set the bar high -- tasks and stunts (Roadblocks and Detours) are arduous, extreme and exciting. There may even be some puking within the first half-hour! Now that's entertainment.
But in all seriousness, the quality is there, and we see host Jon Montgomery hamming it up like he always has, which is always welcome. A pleasant surprise is the teams aren't quite what you expect. Going in, I expected the mother-son pairing of Cormac and Nicole to be a snorefest (a.k.a. Margie and Luke in the U.S. version of "Amazing Race"), but Nicole has a hard edge and sass I didn't anticipate. As a result, they're fun to watch.
On the flip side, the "hippies" team is usually one to watch; sorry to abide by the stereotypes, but they're often carefree, relaxed and upbeat. This time around, the team of Mickey and Pete seems devoid of that tree-hugging charisma. This could just be me, or it could be that I've only seen one episode. I didn't come out of the premiere with a favourite team, and I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.
Luckily, the "Amazing Race Canada" Season 2 premiere makes up for the slightly lacklustre teams with outstanding obstacles. I won't reveal them here, but they're big. Huge, even. You thought jumping off a trestle was a big deal in Episode 1 of Season 1? Just wait for this.
Even the prizes are bigger this year. Gas for life from Petro-Canada? That's enough right there, but also tack on $250,000 cash, business-class Air Canada travel anywhere the airline flies for one year, plus two Chevy Silverados and any other prizes the teams win on each leg of the race.
So who's going to take it all? Here are my shot-in-the-dark, totally unreliable, based-on-one-episode predictions:
Rex & Bob (Married Couple)-- 100 to 1
After watching these two vamp and scurry for the cameras, I realized they're on the show for airtime, not to win. A long, long, long, long shot.
Mickey & Pete (The Hippies)-- 30 to 1
Hippies and outdoorsy people inevitably have a better chance of winning than someone who lives in air-conditioning 24/7. Just sayin.' These guys could pull it together before the end.
Ryan & Rob (The Bartenders)-- 10 to 1
I'm giving these guys a leg up because they're work colleagues at a bar. Do you understand what kinds of people they'd have to deal with on a daily basis? They're spry, quick-witted, and funny; a winning formula on "ARC."
Pierre & Michel (The Twins)-- 5 to 1
Initially I'd discounted these twin brothers because they didn't have the "game faces." Well, guess what? I was dead wrong. They're a strong pairing and they have great communication. Also never underestimate the power of the French language. Fluency is a gift in this game.
Laura & Jackie (Married Couple)-- 10 to 1
Constantly encouraging, positive and lovable, Laura and Jackie are a strong pairing. Having a lengthy relationship (friends first!) is an indicator for the necessary winning characteristics. That said, neither of them is particularly strapping, so they may lag behind in overly physical challenges that require brute strength.
Jen & Shawn (Married Couple)-- 20 to 1
This tatted couple is adorable, and I took a shining to them during the first episode. It's a big ol' "maybe" for them. They have the abilities, the drive and the heart, but it's all a matter of whether they apply it or not.
Sukhi & Jinder (Brother/Sister)-- 40 to 1
They're competitive, aggressive, and certain of their superiority -- in short, they're used to winning. When they don't, it has that awful negative effect on their performance. Mark my words: this is how they're going to go down, when they're overly negative about how they didn't come first in the leg.
Cormac & Nicole (Son/Mother)-- 5 to 1
I didn't expect Nicole to be so hardcore! Cormac has also proven himself to be competent, so I anticipate this team to make it far. And wouldn't it be something to have a father-son win Season 1 and then have Season 2 go to a mother-son?
Natalie & Meaghan (Olympic Gold Medallists)-- 2 to 1
No-brainer. These two have won gold medals together, faced adversity and dominated rivals. You see it when they're racing, too. Expect them to hit the final three without even really trying.
Shahla & Nabeela (Best Friends)-- 100 to 1
Reminiscent of other best friend teams I've seen on the U.S. "Amazing Race," Shahla and Nabeela are missing that essential "thing." If they last on the race, they'll be the ones taking up the rear.
Alain & Audrey (Dating Couple)-- 2 to 1
As above, the fluency in French is a boon. These two are a solid couple, supporting each other at every turn. If things don't sour as the race goes on, prepare yourself for this couple to make it to the final three.