Tuned In

The Amazing Race Watch: Family Thais

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Brief spoilers for last night’s The Amazing Race coming up after the jump:

Well, that’s it for me. I’m not bitter or anything, and frankly Team Mel and Mike White lasted longer this season than I ever expected them to. But with them gone, my interest in the remaining contestants has pretty much flatlined, so I’ll be a little more free on Sunday nights to juggle Breaking Bad and what’s left of Kings. 

But tribute must be paid to Mel and Mike, eliminated last night on the Thailand leg of the journey, who were my favorite contestants ever on The Amazing Race and possibly my favorite reality contestants at any time, on any show, full stop. TAR is a show that can bring out the worst in a lot of teams (see Jonathan and Victoria) or at minimum bring out the difficulties in a relationship between two people who are probably wonderful folks in real life. Mel and Mike, however, did extremely well, for an old guy and his scrawny son, and they did it with nothing less than good humor, grace, sportsmanship and—rarest on reality TV—a sense of perspective. 

Look, I realize this is reality TV and you can achieve just about anything with editing. But I don’t think you can fake the kind of good-spiritedness that the Whites showed week after week. I was a fan of Mike from a while back—having admired his writing on TV’s Freaks and Geeks and Pasadena not to mention his movies—but Mel won my heart earlier this season when he ran into trouble in a challenge and made a point of not praying because (maybe it takes a minister to point this out) God has better things to worry about. They had a pretty good gimmick—a gay father-and-son duo—but never made themselves caricatures. And while they were at a considerable physical disadvantage, they never made excuses. It seemed that they were on the race for the experience first, the prize second. 

Now in that respect, maybe it helps that Mike, at least, is a successful screenwriter and neither of them is likely too hard up for money—I don’t know their finances. But clearly the fact that they didn’t stress out, and didn’t act out, was what kept them competitive. And what made them winners was how clearly they communicated that they were delighted simply to have the time to spend with each other. 

If I have half that kind of relationship with the Tuned In Jrs. when I’m Mel’s age, I won’t need a million dollars. (They’re never going to get their dad to bungee-jump, though.) Well-played, Mike and Mel.