Area pair add diversity to 'The Amazing Race'
Hal Boedeker | Sentinel Television Critic
Posted September 16, 2006
Yet another race to excellence
Don't be surprised if The Amazing Race wins a fifth consecutive Emmy as best reality competition.
Sunday's engrossing premiere reaffirms the CBS series' winning formula of strong characters, brilliant editing, tough contests and edge-of-your- seat pacing.
The Amazing Race quickly establishes players to root for, such as a female triathlete whose indomitable spirit carries her despite having one leg. In emotional scenes, a father and his lesbian daughter work to overcome past differences.
The show brings on pretty people, such as beauty queens and male models. Two single moms from Alabama supply tart observations. The premiere concludes in rousing style, with teams scurrying to climb the Great Wall.
Reality television doesn't get any better than The Amazing Race.
A Windermere husband and wife are perfect contestants for The Amazing Race because they adore the reality series, relatives say.
Producers raved about the couple, the first Indian-American team to compete in the CBS adventure. The series begins its 10th season with a 90-minute episode Sunday.
"They're terrific people," executive producer Bertram van Munster says.
"They're a very interesting couple. They're funny," executive producer Jonathan Littman says.
They are Vipul Patel, 29, a salesman, and his wife, Arti, 26, a nutritional educator. In the premiere, Vipul calls Arti his best friend.
"Arti is very loving. She's very caring, she's very friendly," he says. "Just look at her: She's beautiful."
Arti explains the reason they're taking part: They want to get the adventure out of their systems before they have children.
The Patels' loving style offers an oasis in tense conditions.
"You get meltdowns from everybody," van Munster says of the 12 two-person teams. "It's meltdown city on this whole trip."
He cites the stressful conditions, which fans have come to love. Competitors journey more than 40,000 miles, to four continents and 13 countries, in roughly 30 days.In the opener, at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, this globe-trotting contest starts in Seattle, then shifts to Beijing and a challenging climb on the Great Wall of China. Other stops this season include Kuwait, Mongolia, Madagascar and Vietnam.
The best stop for the show is a new time period. Producers hope a regular slot at 8 p.m. Sundays, after 60 Minutes, will mean more viewers. The Amazing Race has won four Emmys in a row as television's top reality competition, topping Fox's American Idol and CBS' Survivor. Yet Race has never scored ratings that reflect its excellence.
Vipul and Arti Patel know how good the show is, their sisters say.
"It was like his dream to be on it," says Nilam Patel, Vipul's sister, of Orlando. "We've been watching the show together for the last several years."
Nirali Kanjee, Arti's sister, says the couple drew Arti's family into watching. "He fell in love with the show, and Arti fell in love with it," says Kanjee, a student at the University of Central Florida.
The contestants don't talk to the press until they're eliminated from the show. Instead, CBS supplies relatives to give insights into the players. The contestants must keep the results secret from everyone.
Nilam Patel says her brother, who was born in India, is competitive and goal-oriented, qualities that make him a good salesman. He speaks three languages, she says.
Kanjee says her sister, who was born in South Africa, speaks five languages. The spouses love to travel and are energetic, but they offer a real contrast in personalities.
"She's very charming, she's calm, she's too nice," Kanjee says of her sister. "He gets what he wants," she says of her brother-in-law, describing him as "assertive."
Producers say this cast is the most diverse in the show's history. The players include Muslim best friends from Cleveland, a lesbian and her estranged father, and two Ironman triathletes, one of whom is a female amputee. There are also gay boyfriends, African-American single moms, Asian-American brothers and male models who are recovering drug addicts.
"We're trying to find people who are interesting to watch," host Phil Keoghan says. "Whether they're old or young or gay or straight or Muslim or black or white doesn't matter. It's are they interesting to watch and is the viewer going to care to watch them?"
Producers say Vipul and Arti Patel deliver on that count. Their relatives plan to gather at the couple's Windermere home to watch the Sunday premiere. Nilam Patel says the family is proud the spouses are the show's first Indian-American contestants. She says she has noticed a change in her brother and sister-in-law since they returned.
"They've always been happy," she says. "Now they have that special closeness. After you go through so many obstacles on the race, you become a lot closer."
Windermere's Vipul and Arti Patel are the first Indian-American team to compete on the show. link