Celebrating the Best of ‘The Amazing Race’ as it Turns 20 Years Old



CBS’s Amazing Race turned 20 years old this weekend.

After 32 seasons, the Emmy winning competition show is still on hiatus—thanks to its very premise requiring the world’s borders to be open—however, producers have every intention of bringing one of the most exciting competitions in the world back to television.

Celebrating the Best of ‘The Amazing Race’ as it Turns 20 Years Old

In fact, CBS is so confident in resuming the show for a 33rd season, and soon, that they have included it in its 2021-22 primetime line-up.

Though it seems The Amazing Race is in for an uphill battle when it comes to how the format will work in a post-pandemic (or “living with the pandemic”) world, changes in travel rules are nothing new for the show.

The Amazing Race premiered its first ever episode on Sept. 5, 2001 — six days before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. As security in airports and all other aspects of international travel adapted, as did The Amazing Race.

So, while we are sure the wheels are turning within the production team meetings, and as we await  Phil Keoghan kicking-off of the beginning of the next 20 years of racing, here are the top 5 iconic Amazing Race moments of the past 2 decades.

1-“Cheese Wheel of Misfortune” – Switzerland, Season 14

For this Detour, teams had to carry 50-pound wheels of cheese down an extraordinarily steep hill, slick with mulchy, fallen leaves, using a rickety wooden cheese carrier harnessed to their backs. Teams inevitably fell, a lot, and the giant cheese wheels came barreling down the hillside toward other contestants and the production crew. One contestant, Mel White pulled his groin while attempting to bring two heavy wheels of cheese down the hill.

Though the challenge was rather disastrous, it was repeated in season 22, again in Switzerland. This time the competitors didn’t need to worry about mud and leaves causing a slick surface- they had to worry about the blanket of snow!

2-“Hay Bales” – Sweden, Season 6

In this mammoth Roadblock, contestants needed to unroll a hay bale in order to find their next clue. Sounds easy enough. Until you factor in that, among the 270 hay bales in the huge field, only 20 actually contained the clue that would lead the contestants to their next challenge.

The work was taxing, yet most teams completed the Roadblock in less than an hour. One team, however, was still at it nearly ten hours later. Host Phil had to eliminate sisters Len and Kristy Jensen in the field as they continued to search for the clue among the hay so that the cameramen could catch the next flight to the next location.

Similar to this challenge was the infuriating “Sandcastle” Roadblock in Bora Bora in season 22 where, amongst 400 sandcastles only 11 had clues underneath them. The castle had to be knocked down to find the clue, but if no clue was found, the castle needed to be rebuilt before the contestant could move to the next castle.

But we digress…

3- “Sushi Roulette” – Japan, Season 15

The Roadblock had teams participating in a crazy Japanese game show- Sushi Roulette where the host spun a giant wheel with nine spaces labelled “sushi”- where the constant must eat a piece of sushi if they land on this wedge, and two spaces labelled “Wasabi Bomb.”

The twist was that teams wanted to land on the Wasabi Bomb wedge as eating the entire ice cream cone size of wasabi wrapped in seaweed—in under two minutes—was required before teams could move on. Contestant Brian Kleinschmidt had to chow down on two wasabi bombs as he was seconds too late finishing it the first time round.

“Eat the Wasabi!” Iconic.

4- “Watermelon Launch” – England, Season 17

One of the most memorable moments and, thanks to the internet, most watched moments ever on The Amazing Race was the Watermelon Launch Roadblock in the UK. Using giant slingshots, teams had to knock over a suit of armor with their watermelon. Unfortunately for competitor, Claire Champlin, instead of the watermelon flying forward upon release, it somehow flew backward directly into her face!

The standing-by medical team jumped into action and were surprised that Claire was perfectly okay- no concussion, no broken nose. In fact, a mere 15 minutes later, Claire was back to launching watermelons, albeit a little more carefully.

5- “Head Shaving” – India, Season 7

This Fast Forward, which if completed gives a team a huge time advantage, required teams to have their heads shaven in order to receive their next clue. Engaged couple Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich (of Survivor fame) denied doing the challenge but married couple, Joyce and Uchenna Agu decided to stay and complete the Fast Forward.

Uchenna already sported a bald head, so it all came down to Joyce, who consented to lose the locks. There were tears, but not only did Joyce look absolutely stunning with no hair, she and Uchenna won the entire season and the $1 million in a heart stopping race against Rob and Amber to meet Phil at the finish line.

Sidenote: I seriously traumatized my dog by jumping on my couch (in full Tom Cruise style) and cheering Joyce and Uchenna on so loudly during those final moments (remember they couldn’t pay the cabbie?) that I didn’t see the poor mutt for hours.

Of course, after 32 seasons, there were tons more epic moments including food challenges that left viewers dry heaving in their living rooms and others so scary- either because they were swimming (caged) with crocodiles or were hundreds of feet above solid ground that wannabe racers found themselves tearing up their application forms!

If you’re an avid Amazing Race fan we’d love to hear from you- what was your favorite Roadblock or Detour? Help us reminisce by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below and continue watching this space for more news on when season 33 might finally return to CBS.

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