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TV Series Review

What if Survivor's executive producer decided he wanted to make his own version of CBS' perennially popular show The Amazing Race? Well, we don't have to speculate anymore, because veteran reality television impresario Mark Burnett has done exactly that.

Except, he insists, his take on a competitive journey through an exotic locale isn't really like The Amazing Race at all. Oh, sure, each episode involves two or three or four legs of a race across sometimes unforgiving terrain, with demanding physical challenges spliced in to level the playing field and to give competitors clues about where they're supposed to go next—just like CBS' show. But that, Burnett wants us to know, is where the similarities end. "There's no taxis. There's no hotels. This is very, very different," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "Here, you actually need to put yourself on the line, really be willing to cross the deserts and the mountains and use the camels and the horses. So it's a very, very much more difficult competition."

Specifically, the debut season's competition involves the deserts and mountains and camels and horses of Morocco. Each episode, teams of three ford raging rivers, scale dunes in the sweltering Sahara and traverse snow-capped mountains. AJ Gibson, a member the a team dubbed Fab 3, reflects on the journey this way: "We knew this was going to be hard. I mean, the word Impossible is in the title. But I couldn't imagine this. It's just miserable."

As with The Amazing Race, the last team to check in at the end of the episode is eliminated—or evacuated, as they say on Expedition Impossible. The reward for each member of the last team standing? A Ford Explorer and $50,000. (The vehicle often makes commercial-like product-placement appearances.)

For all of Burnett's protestation, then, that his new show is really different from The Amazing Race, its basic premise seems pretty familiar, right down to the irrepressibly chipper host, wildlife reality TV veteran Dave Salmoni. And equally recognizable are the frequent eruptions of frustration we see as the competitors are stretched to the breaking point. Also just like The Amazing Race, we're presented with a team whose members make a point of pointing out their sexual orientations. And censored profanities mingle with frequent exclamations of "oh my god!"

On the other end of the spectrum, the same competitors who quarrel and swear often manage to tap into reserves of stamina and determination that they didn't even know that they had as they battle injury, exhaustion, attitude, altitude, searing heat and bone-chilling cold. That's inspiring, to say the least.

"I think when you're at your worst," AJ says, "when you're at your absolute lowest, is when you have the most potential to rise above it and to find something new about yourself. … And as long as we don't give up on each other or give up on ourselves, I think we'll be OK."

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ExpeditionImpossible: 7142011



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Adam R. Holz

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