since you have to register to read the article I'll post the whole dealio ~
May 17, 2006
The Toughest Mission Yet for 'The Amazing Race'
By KATE AURTHUR
By last May "The Amazing Race" had been transformed from an underdog reality series with a devoted cult following into a mainstream hit for CBS. Helped by the popularity of Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich, a love-to-hate pair of villains who had migrated from CBS's "Survivor," the finale of the seventh season of "The Amazing Race" drew more than 16 million viewers, a series high.
But instead of capitalizing on that success, in its two editions this season "The Amazing Race" has shed viewers. During the fall the producers introduced a family version of the series, which featured 10 four-person teams traveling around North America. It was pummeled by critics and fans alike.
Then, in February, a new installment of the show promised a return to the original structure: 11 two-person teams in a scenic, breakneck race around the world. But CBS moved the show from its established slot on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. to the 10 p.m. hour, where it lost more viewers, and weeks later, to Wednesdays at 8 p.m., where it has sunk even further. The spring installment last year brought in an average audience of 13.03 million; going into tonight's finale (8, Eastern and Pacific times; 7, Central time), this edition has drawn 9.11 million.
"We've sent it on a very tough mission," said Kelly Kahl, CBS's senior executive vice president for scheduling. "Wednesday at 8 is extremely competitive."
In that hour NBC's "Deal or No Deal" regularly squashes all other shows, and has succeeded in ousting the comedies CBS had scheduled there, "Out of Practice" and "Courting Alex." The ratings for "The Amazing Race" have improved the network's performance for the time period. Mr. Kahl said: "It was a net gain for us at 8 o'clock. It was a helpful move for the network, maybe a tough move for the show."
"It's because it's such a strong franchise that allowed us to do that," he continued.
But Brad Adgate, senior vice president and research director at Horizon Media, a media planning and buying agency, said the show was "hard to find" and that moving it to 10 p.m. right after trying to showcase its family appeal had been a mistake.
"There are a lot of people who don't let their kids be up at 10 o'clock," he said. "It was one of those 'What were they thinking?' type of things."
Bertram van Munster, who created the show with Elise Doganieri, conceded that this season had not been easy. But he spoke excitedly on the telephone last week about tonight's two-hour finale, and what he saw as a creative resurgence in the show.
Was he frustrated about bouncing around the schedule? "Here's my answer to that: that is just the way it is," he said. "We are the producers of the show; we deliver the show to the network. We really have no say in the programming. What my personal feelings are is irrelevant."
Later Mr. van Munster added: "Ideally, you have your time slot and you stay there. That's not what happened this time around."
He sounded sanguine even when he discussed the fall's family edition, which he produced at CBS's suggestion. "It sounds really good, 'Oh, let's do a family show,' " he said. "It sounds maybe better than it is. It was fun. But it wasn't necessarily what we expected."
There were too many contestants, which undermined one of the show's strengths: creating characters for the audience to root for and against. "I don't want to keep pounding on that thing, but to tell the story of 40 people is not easy in the first hour," Mr. van Munster said with a laugh. "I think we deserve a medal to tell the story of 40 people."
Another problem with the family installment, fans complained, was that the challenges were made easier so that teams with children could compete. Linda Holmes, who writes recaps for the show on the Web site Television Without Pity, said in an interview: "They had to go find, like, the world's largest office chair. It's one of those things you'd see on a postcard, but it's kind of a joke."
Ms. Holmes, who also oversees the site's forums on "The Amazing Race," said that viewers also disliked the normally globe-trotting show's being limited to North America. "As soon as they figured out that they weren't going to go significantly outside the U.S., and that they basically were going to drive around in trailers a lot, the crowd became very hostile," she said.
In a telephone interview last week, Phil Keoghan, the host of "The Amazing Race," said he had heard similar criticisms from the audience. "I underestimated how much of a star the places were in the show," he said.
But, he continued: "I don't want to be the one who says I told you so, because I was excited about it. I thought it was a bold move."
"The Amazing Race" has been renewed for one more edition, and is in negotiations for more. Mr. Adgate pointed out that even with its ratings dips, it still attracted CBS's youngest audience, making it a valuable series for the network, which is poised to finish the season behind Fox and ABC in the important 18-to-49 age demographic. "I think 'Amazing Race' and 'Survivor' prove that CBS can put on a show that's going to draw a median age in the 18-to-49 demographic," he said.
Mr. Kahl of CBS said: "Nobody expected to be talking about 'Survivor 13' or 'Race No. 10.' As long as they're performers, we'll keep them on the air."Mr. van Munster scouts all of the show's locations with Ms. Doganieri, his wife. They have just returned from their test run of the next race and are preparing to film the new edition. He is happy to live this nomadic life as long as the show has an audience, he said.
"I'm not keeling over," he added. "I just got all my tests back; they're phenomenal. We put our heart and soul in it."NY Times