I guess we might as well get this out of the way up-front, since there's virtually nothing worth discussing from Sunday's (March 24) installment of "The Amazing Race":
Sunday's hour began with a rather lengthy narrated apology for last week's Leg, directed specifically at veterans and anybody else offended by the episode, which took place in Hanoi and included both an extended challenge built around a Communist anthem, as well as a key route marker at a monument built around a downed B-52. The apology referred to the show at "insensitive" and was probably sufficiently self-flaggelatory to placate some of the outraged viewers (though not the commenters who posted on my recap and ratings posts last week vowing never to watch again).
Here's the thing: I understand completely why certain people were disturbed and pissed off about the scenes. Totally. I think that a lot of the vitriol that was spewed on Fox News was over-the-top, but that's par for the course. If you want to say that last week's episode was insensitive? I wouldn't dare quibble. If you want to say that CBS and the show are un-American and deserve punishment? Well, yeah. I can't go that far with you.
Because I watch the show, I know this is what "The Amazing Race" does. If the show is in a country that has a particular relationship with the United States, that relationship is acknowledged, even if it's not pretty. The most obvious examples have involved African countries, where the slave trade has been specifically addressed. But it's really not uncommon. So I wasn't surprised that "The Amazing Race" didn't shy from the Vietnam War when the teams went through Vietnam. Pretending that racing through Vietnam is identical to racing through Bali would be disingenuous and not the way "The Amazing Race" operates. The show is about world citizenship and the Vietnam War is a fair part of the discussion to a group of Americans racing around Vietnam. It just is. But could it have been addressed in a different way? Well, yes. Absolutely.
My question: The "Amazing Race" producers planned, shot and edited those sequences. CBS must have known where the show was going and somebody at some point must have watched the episode. Could the "Amazing Race" producers and CBS *seriously* have been taken by surprise that some people were uncomfortable? Were they relieved when it took Fox News two or three days to get pissed off? Or were they shocked that anybody got pissed off at all? So either they were oblivious that anybody could be offended or else they were too spineless to either stand by the show's choices or to attempt to explain the show's reasoning and intellectual strategy. To my mind, an apology-with-explanation would have been justified and educational, rather than just a blanket kowtow. "Here's why we did what we did. Here's why we understand we could have done it better." If the intent wasn't malicious -- and I don't believe the intent was malicious -- own the intent.
I just suspect that "The Amazing Race" is so acclaimed and over-honored that either it's immune to CBS oversight or there's a commonly held assumption that whatever "The Amazing Race" does will be worshipped, even when the show picks at one of the rawest wounds in semi-recent American history.
Anyway... they apologized. And that was the most interesting part of Sunday's episode. And the apology was over with 59 minutes to go.
A few more words after the break...