A brief disclaimer before we get started: I myself am not Canadian. However, I did grow up close enough to the border that I grew up watching CBC, so I share many of the cultural touchstones of our neighbors to the north. I am no stranger to Kidstreet, Mr. Dressup, Super Dave, or anything Degrassi. We frequently took day trips to do our back-to-school shopping at The Bay, and I think my parents still own a set of Calgary Zoo panda placemats we got for buying gas at an Esso in 1988. So hopefully I possess enough Canadian cred to give TAR: Canada the coverage it deserves.
Canadians have been watching the U.S. version of the show since its inception and Canadian fans have long been chomping at the bit for their own chance to race amazingly. This summer, nine teams will get that chance. Let’s meet them and unfairly compare them to previous Amazing Racers!The token cute girls.[/caption]
Vanessa Morgan and Celina Mziray (sisters from Ottawa, Ontario)
U.S. Counterparts: Dustin and Kandice (TAR 10/11) + Victor and Tammy (TAR 14)
This season’s token cute girls, Vanessa and Celina are an actress and a model, respectively. (Vanessa has appeared on Degrassi: The Next Generation – can you get much more Canadian than that?) Predictably, they caution us not to underestimate them just because they’re little and cute, but they also express some concern that their petiteness will be an obstacle on tough physical tasks, which doesn’t bode well. They do get props for not voicing intent to flirt their way through the competition (as far as I’ve seen, anyway), although the season is still young.
Ten years separate Vanessa and Celina, which could make for an interesting dynamic. They claim to be very close, but it’s safe to say they probably didn’t do as much petty bickering as siblings with less of an age gap. This could work for them or against them. Celina admits she does have a tendency to play the part of the bossy big sister, and power imbalances (real and perceived) tend to trip teams up.
Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod (married couple from Oakville, Ontario)
U.S. Counterparts: Teri and Ian (TAR 3/11) + Joey and Meghan (TAR 22)
If TAR: Canada can be said to have cast a gimmicky team, Hal and Joanne are it. Anyone who’s watched any amount of Canadian TV since roughly the late 80s knows them as the super-perky hosts of Body Break, a series of bite-sized TV spots that started out as a government-funded PSA and has since expanded into a huge fitness empire. (Even I vaguely remember Body Break and its “keep fit and have fun!” catchphrase, although I haven’t thought about it since 1994 or so, and I definitely didn’t recognize Hal without his mustache.)
Still, if TAR: Canada is going to stunt-cast, they could have done a lot worse. Obviously, these two are in great shape and have can-do attitudes. They are highly recognizable, which has helped famous and famous-ish teams on TAR: U.S. in the past (remember Rob and Amber in South Africa?). They’re huge fans of the show. And a team who’s not only sustained a 25-year romantic partnership, but a 25-year business partnership, is going to work together well. I like their chances.
Tim Hague, Sr. and Tim Hague, Jr. (father and son from Winnipeg, Manitoba)
U.S. Counterparts: Dave and Connor (TAR 22) + Gary and Matt (TAR 15)
The show hasn’t even started yet, and the Tims already have a fanbase with a name (appropriately, and Canadianly, enough, their fans have been christened “Timbits”). That’s not terribly surprising as parent/child teams are usually popular, especially if they’re athletic and boisterous. They describe themselves as good-looking, loud, and fun, and they’re tweeting up a storm in anticipation of the premiere.
Like Dave and Connor on the most recent season of TAR: U.S., the Tims have their own tale of adversity in Tim Senior’s recent Parkinson’s diagnosis. Senior swears he won’t let it slow him down, and he wants to show the Parkinson’s community that the sky’s the limit. And of course knowing all that, I definitely want to root for them. But it’s hard to tell whether these two will go far or if they’re destined for a tearful, all-too-early exit.
Brett Burstein and Holly Agostino (married pediatricians “excuse me, paediatricians“ from Montreal, Quebec)
U.S. Counterparts: Ernie and Cindy (TAR 19) + Nat and Kat (TAR 17)
Brett and Holly appear to have a veritable smorgasbord of interesting skills and talents, but while you never can tell what secret talent will save your hide on the Amazing Race, it doesn’t seem very likely that photography or cardiac defibrillation is going to come up. Although to be fair, Brett will probably not be forced to confront his deep-seated fear of global warming either.
The duo acknowledges that they’re not the physically strongest force out there, but if doctors know one thing, it’s how to cope with stress. I really don’t see them bickering like most of the couples in this age bracket that we see on the American version; still, they seem kind of snarky, and I like that.
Jamie Cumberland and Pierre Cadeux (best friends from Alberta)
U.S. Counterparts: Jet and Cord (TAR 16/18) + Danny and Oswald (TAR 2/11)
There’s just something about a hat and boots that creates a perfect storm of aw-shucks affability and fish-out-of-water charmâ€¦but cowboy garb, in the past, has masked surprising Race competence. Jet and Cord are one of the most unforgettable teams in TAR:U.S. history, and equally popular on their home turf were TAR: Australia’s Matt and Tom (who were a lot like Jet and Cord, but used the expression “fair dinkum” significantly more often). In representing the cowboy demographic, Jamie and Pierre have got some big boots to fill, but the Canadian cowboys also look to me like the team we’re all going to most want to win.
While we’ve definitely never had a pair of gay rodeo enthusiasts on any season of the Race, it’s pretty clear that this duo is out to buck stereotypes left and right, and I’m confident they’re more than just the sum of their parts. They seem to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses quite well, and both are big fans of the American edition of the show, so expect them to avoid common pitfalls like not reading the clue.
Jet Black (no, that really is his name) and Dave Schram (best friends from London, Ontario)
U.S. Counterparts: Rob and Brennan (TAR 1) + Joey Fitness and Danny (TAR 20)
Okay, I looked at Jet’s bulging biceps and affinity for protein powder and immediately dismissed this team as gym-rat meatheads. But on second glance, there’s actually a bit more depth to these two. While they certainly have lots of meathead markers, they actually seem pretty well balanced as far as other strengths and weaknesses. They’re also incredibly goofy.
It’s pretty clear that if this were a purely physical competition, Jet and Dave would be unbeatable. But there’s much more to the Race, and it remains to be seen whether they are as ready to navigate, solve problems, and strategize as they are to kick butt. They seem to be going in with some level of awareness about what the Race entails, so things are probably going to go well for them.
Treena Ley and Tennille Dorrington (twin sisters from Hamilton, Ontario)
U.S. Counterparts: Natalie and Nadiya (TAR 21) + Karen and Linda (TAR 5)
I will admit to raising an eyebrow when 26-year-old grown-ass women Natalie and Nadiya called each other “Twinnie” throughout the duration of their Race. So I don’t even know what to do with the fact that 36-year-old Treena and Tennille have nicknamed themselves “The Twinzz” (with two Zs). But what they lack in branding savvy, they’ll likely make up with their strong bond and ability to play to each other’s strengths. They’re both moms, so they also cite a talent for multitasking.
It’s hard to predict how twins will do on the Race just on the basis of their twinness. For every Natalie and Nadiya, we’ve had an Idries and Jamil. The Twinzz have athleticism and brains on their side, but they both admit to being stubborn control freaks, and we’ve seen in the past that players on too-similar emotional wavelengths tend to stumble early on.
Kristen Idiens and Darren Trapp (dating couple from Fairmont Hot Springs, British Columbia)U.S. Counterparts: TK and Rachel (TAR 12) + Colin and Christie (TAR 5)
Darren and Kristen are very outdoorsy, which would help them out on Survivor: Canada, but I’m not sure what it does for them here. Still, free-spirited granola types have been surprisingly successful on the Race, even claiming two winners in BJ and Tyler and TK and Rachel. Darren and Kristen seem to have more competitive drive than either of those teams. It isn’t clear how well their volunteer gig in Cameroon will help them, say, bungee-jump off of the CN Tower, but they have seen a lot of the world, which can only be beneficial.
What isn’t going to help them is the way they talk to each other. I can’t tell if they were trying to be cute or not, but if their audition video is any indication of how they’ll talk to each other on the Race, I think I’ve got these guys pegged as our token bickering couple.
Jody and Cory Mitic (brothers from Ottawa and Edmonton)
U.S. Counterparts: Art and J.J. (TAR 20) + Bates and Anthony (TAR 22)
Jody was a sniper in Afghanistan until he lost his legs to a land mine in 2007. In the intervening six years, he’s made an amazing recovery and looks like he’s in tip-top shape. Military types have done very well on TAR: U.S., and I expect this team will be a force to be reckoned with. If a land mine can’t take Jody down, what hope do twin moms, British Columbian raft guides, and the couple from Body Break have?
The Mitic brothers want you to know that they’re not here to make friends, but they do seem to bro out with each other pretty well. They might be a little intense, but look for some hidden goofiness under the steel exterior.
Jon Montgomery (reality show host/skeleton racer from Calgary, Alberta)
U.S. Counterpart: Phil
For those of you who are not Winter Olympics superfans (and/or those of you who are only Winter Olympics superfans every four years), skeleton is the sport where you slide down a hill headfirst on a sled with no brakes or steering mechanism. This sounds pretty hardcore and it makes me like Jon Montgomery, who won a gold medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, already.
Still, of all the Amazing Race shoes to fill, Phil’s are the biggest. Grant Bowler and Allan Wu have done okay, but they aren’t Phil. Even Jeff Probst is no Phil. And neither is this Jon Montgomery dude. I predict he will fall as short as they have. We may come to appreciate Jon Montgomery on his own merits, but nobody has ever beaten Phil, and nobody ever will. Sorry, Canada.
My predictions: In every season of the U.S. edition, I pick both the team that is likely to win and the team I, personally, will be rooting for. I see no reason to do things differently for TAR: Canada.
Likely to win: Jody and Cory.
I’ll be rooting for: Pierre and Jamie. Yee-haw.
Who are your picks? Sound off in the comments!