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"Race to the Altar" Review

By Shawn McKenzie 08/11/2003

If you are a hardcore reality show junkie like me, you have no doubt witnessed these shows cannibalizing each other.  When I first heard the name of NBC’s new competitive reality show “Race to the Altar,” I immediately thought it was going to be a rip-off the CBS show “The Amazing Race.”  After seeing the first two episodes, I realize that I was wrong.  It does rip-off other shows, but not “The Amazing Race” specifically.


You see, the eight couples vying for the prize of a dream wedding aren’t actually “racing.”  They are all in one place, specifically the Venetian Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.  They will compete in a series of physical and mental challenges, but there is no traveling involved.  The eight couples involved are: Grace (21) and Robert (22), Carolyn (31) and Ethan (36), Becca (22) and Andy (24), Tonya (28) and Andree (28), Jessica (25) and Scott (26), Cindy (29) and Chris (27), April (29) and Vinny (29), and Susan (21) and Coyt (28.)  I’m glad to see they were able to find people with different names, so we don’t have to resort to last name initials.  Each week the couples will compete in two games.  The first game is physical, and it is supposed to be symbolic of the strength of a marital union (though it makes the eyes of the viewers roll over.)  The second game is always a variation of “The Newlywed Game,” but is a little more telling in my mind.  The winners of each game become a Power Couple, which means that they have immunity.  The two Power Couples will meet every week to come up with a “guest list” of the couples they invite to stay, eliminating (or “un-inviting”) one couple every week at the “Altar Ceremony.”  It is possible for one couple to win both games, giving them the sole eliminating decision power that week (this actually happens in the second week.)  The home audience gets to vote on the winning couple in the second-to-last episode.  In the last episode, the winning couple gets the prize, a fantasy wedding planned by Colin Cowie, one of the top event planners in the world.  The wedding will be broadcast on NBC, of course.  Playboy Playmate Lisa Dergan hosts the show.


In the first episode, the eight couples helicopter into Las Vegas and check into the hotel.  They all get to know each other, and Lisa explains the rules to them.  They are soon talking about forming alliances (or “commitments” as they call it, because I bet one of the producers told them not to let on how much this show rips off “Survivor.”)  The first game is called “To Have and To Hold.”  Each person is hooked up to a harness, which is then attached to a beam, with the women on one side and the men on the other.  The couples stand on a platform 100 feet above the ground.  When the platform drops out from under them, they have to hold onto each other for as long as they can.  The couple that lasted the longest in that position won and became the first Power Couple.  Susan and Coyt win that one.  The second game is called “Pre-Nuptial Agreement.”  The men were asked a series of yes-or-no questions about their expectations for marriage.  Then the women were told those questions and they had to guess the responses of the men.  Andy and Becca win that one and become the second Power Couple.  The two Power Couples deliberate and decide to “un-invite” Jessica and Scott.


In the second episode, the couples separate by gender and each have a Boys’ and Girls’ Night Out.  The guys go dancing and drinking, while the women go shopping and eating ice cream (why didn’t the women do something a little more exciting?  They’re in Vegas, baby!  VEGAS!)  The first game they do this week is called “Ball and Chain” (boy, are these titles cheesy.)  The object of the game is to get a 100-pound ball that is chained to their ankles to a platform on the other side of a swimming pool (after they get it off their ankles.)  Coyt and Susan win that one.  The second game is called “Wedding Betiquette” (quite possibly the stupidest title so far.)  It is like the last mental game, except the questions are about wedding etiquette and there is a betting angle.  The women are given $2000, and they have to bet either half or all of that money that their guy got a multiple choice question about etiquette correct.  Coyt and Susan also win that one, making them the sole Power Couple that week.  They decide to “un-invite” Andy and Becca.


At first, I was turned off by the unoriginality of this show.  It’s essentially “Survivor” in Las Vegas with the prize being a wedding instead of a million dollars.  I started liking it by the second episode, when some drama started.  Coyt and Susan are a scheming couple, and I want to find out how far they get.  Susan specifically seems a little psycho.  There is a lot of backstabbing going on here, and backstabbing has always been a fun ingredient in a competitive reality show.


A quick note to NBC:  please stop hiring models to host your reality shows!  Lisa Dergan is awful, and she joins the host of “Dog Eat Dog,” model Brooke Burns, as one of the worst reality hosts yet.  Plenty of attractive females with a real personality outside of the modeling world could host your shows better.  If you must hire a model, choose one of the finalists from UPN’s excellent reality show “America’s Next Top Model.”  I recommend either Elyse or the winner, Adrianne (after she gets some speaking lessons, of course.)

Race to the Altar” may not be the most original show to watch, and the events are pure cheese, but it is fun if you like reality shows.  I’ve come to realize that there are few original ideas out there any more, but that doesn’t mean reusing the same ones can’t be fun.  I think I’m going to root for April and Vinny, because they are the underdogs (April injured herself and the couple couldn’t compete in two of the competitions.)  I may not race to this show, but I might stroll on over.


Ratings System:


Try to catch this show every week...

If a better show is on, tape this one...

If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...

If this show is on, change the channel immediately!


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