bestof2014-22

Every day between now and Christmas morning, we’ll share the twenty-five stories that engaged, enchanted, amused and amazed us the most in 2014. If you missed them, now’s your chance to catch up; if you’re looking for a gift for the wonk in your life, then these are our most enthusiastic recommendations!

Today, The Amazing Race.

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of The Amazing Race. It reality television done right, and the only reality game still on the air since Survivor turned into Big Brother with extra sand and discomfort. The Amazing Race works best — and distinguishes itself from its competition — when it embraces and reflects Phil Keoghan’s genuine enthusiasm for the cultural and philosophical enrichment that comes from travel. There’s precious little that’s snarky or snide about this show, and when the casting is strong — as it was in the most recent season — then the alchemy between people and place leads to some fascinating studies of human behavior. There are some who treat the race like a popularity contest, or like a political game, or like an unscripted drama; those people generally crash out pretty quickly. The game is what matters, and the game — buying tickets, choosing detours, wielding express passes and fast forwards, and, of course, foot races to the finish line — is remarkably robust. It’s a machine for generating real stories, interesting conflict, and the snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat, and vice versa.

You’ll note, I’m sure, that I’m not spoiling the most recent season. Suffice it to say that The Amazing Race hasn’t been this good, this fulfilling or this engaging for years; if you’ve any interest at all in following the show — and seeing some enchanting Scottish countryside along the way — then you should set aside a couple of days, and marathon the whole run. You won’t regret it.

Get it now: The Amazing Race.