It’s that time again.
The Amazing Race Canada‘s second season premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on CTV and after screening the first episode in advance, I can tell you that the casting team has certainly expanded the diversity of the teams selected for the show. Make no mistake about it… this is a good thing.
While last year’s edition also took great pride in featuring the spirit of Canadiana in its cast, the racers on this particular season do not resemble any Amazing Race cast before it.
First and foremost, there are a pair of best friends who remain committed to upholding their religious beliefs while racing the course. Muslims Shahla Kara and Nabeela Barday remain steadfast that they will not drink alcohol or consume any meat that is not halal on the show (regardless of what a particular roadblock or detour may or may not ask them to do).
In addition, the show also features two gay couples (one of which includes former National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Rex Harrington), an interracial couple from Quebec, a South Asian brother and sister as well as a couple of Olympic teammates.
While the standard mother/son and married couple teams are still omnipresent, they almost serve as the exception rather than the rule.
It is in this regard, that the show succeeds and serves to further separate itself from its Amazing Race counterpart in the United States. In addition to the cast, host Jon Montgomery’s kitschy and quirky style continues as a stark contrast to the relatively understated approach employed by Phil Keoghan. There is also a much deeper sense of appreciation for the locales that are visited on each leg of the Canadian Race as all the teams seemed to always make time to comment on the beauty of the locations that they frequented in the first leg.
With that said, I am definitely hoping for more alliances and villainous behavior this season. The standout team for me on The Amazing Race Canada‘s first season were doctors Brett Burstein & Holly Agostino. They seemed to be the only racers willing to do anything and sacrifice anybody to finish in first place and their feud with BodyBreakers Hal Johnson & Joanne McLeod was unquestionably my favourite part of the show’s inaugural season. While I love the politeness of Canadians, generally when I tune into a reality show, I want to see in-fighting, drama, and alliances. That, to me anyway, is the true measure of voyeuristic programming and I am hoping that is what The Amazing Race Canada will bring. One must note, however, that The Amazing Race Canada is unlike other reality show out there as the focus truly remains on the pre-existing relationship between each team member and their strengths and weaknesses as a pair. I just think that for the show to succeed on the level that Big Brother Canada has, it needs to make us love certain teams and love-to-hate other ones. The good news is that with this year’s crop it is not only possible but very likely.
So I know you are here for my pre-season rankings so let’s get to them.
NATALIE & MEAGHAN
These hockey teammates are used to winning. After pulling off one of the most unbelievable comebacks in sports history to win the gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, I honestly feel like The Amazing Race will be a piece of cake for Natalie & Meaghan. While I knew that the the hockey players would physically be the strongest team on the show this season, there is a particular challenge in tonight’s episode where they absolutely mop the floor with the competition intellectually as well. I honestly don’t see how any of the other teams will be able to compete with a team that is used to working together, appears physically unbeatable, and remains mentally strong. I would be stunned if Natalie & Meaghan don’t become the first all-female team to win The Amazing Race Canada.
SUKHI & JINDER ATWAL
Before screening tonight’s season premiere, I had picked Sukhi & Jinder to win. The well-travelled siblings seem well-equipped to take on the challenges of the Race and appear to be willing to do whatever it takes to gain even the slightest lead on their opponents (as you will see). I believe that the experience of travelling all over the world is one that will certainly serve as a major advantage. Sharing the same cultural background as the brother and sister, I know that failure will not be an option for them and in this regard, they remind me of the brother and sister pair from The Amazing Race 14, Victor and Tammy Jih (who, by the way, ended up winning). I wouldn’t be surprised with the same result for Sukhi & Jinder.
RYAN STEELE & ROB GODDARD
These British Columbia bartenders seem like they have what it takes to do well on The Amazing Race Canada. Their job requires having great social skills (for tips) and they both are in great shape with Rob serving as a fitness trainer as well. Generally speaking, alpha male teams have a history of doing well on the show and I expect nothing less for Ryan and Rob.
MICKEY HENRY & PETE SCHMALZ
Channeling their inner BJ & Tyler from The Amazing Race 9, the Canadian hippies from Parry Sound, Ontario reek of being this year’s fan favourite team. The best friends seem to live a very carefree lifestyle and I believe that they could probably use the $250,000 prize the most. As a result, I am not fooled by their charming and laissez-faire attitude at all. I am sure they are there to win. Mickey and Pete also look like they have a strange skill set and on a show like The Amazing Race Canada, this could come in very handy. I expect them to be very good at the various roadblocks and detours on the show and also expect them to win quite a few legs. Definitely a team to watch.
ALAIN CHANOINE & AUDREY TOUSIGNANT-MAURICE
This dating couple from Quebec look like they go to the gym as many times as I go to McDonald’s. In his bio, Alain says that his biggest pet peeve about his girlfriend is that she ‘always loses her cool’ and Audrey’s biggest issue with Alain is that ‘he is stubborn.’ When you put those together, it equals a combustable team that will likely bicker and fight on the show as each one tries to force their will on the other. If Alain & Audrey keep their communication problems to a minimum, I could see them winning. Unfortunately, I don’t think that they will be able to. When you have two bulls running around in a China shop (or in our case a Canada shop), there are bound to be a full broken plates.
CORMAC & NICOLE FOSTER
This mother/son team from Winnipeg was the most surprising team for me in the entire first episode. Initially, Cormac reminded me of a dopey Garfield who didn’t look like he would be able to stay awake for the duration of the Race. I also didn’t know how athletic Nicole would be. To say that first impressions aren’t always right would be an understatement, at least in the case of this parent and child. These two came out like firecrackers out of the gate and seem very competitive. I didn’t have high hopes for the Tim’s last season and they ended up winning the entire show. I won’t make the same mistake again. I think Cormac & Nicole will surprise people. I like them.
PIERRE & MICHEL FORGET
These twin butcher brothers from Quebec seem like they will serve as the comic relief of the show. With heavy accents, they definitely amused me every time they popped up on my screen and despite their last name, I don’t think any fans of the show will ‘forget’ them. Like Alain & Audrey though, I believe their competitive nature will force them into making a mistake that will result in an untimely early demise. They do have a great backstory though with Michel giving up his dream of becoming a competitive skier to allow Pierre to pursue the same vision.
SHAHLA KARA & NABEELA BARDAY
When I first received news about Shahla & Nabeela making the cast, I almost thought that this team was cast for me specifically. A pair of single Muslim stunners? There is absolutely no doubt they are the pair that I am wholeheartedly rooting for. While the last pair of Muslims on The Amazing Race ended up being the first team to be eliminated (Bilal Abdul-Mani & Sa’eed Rudolph on The Amazing Race 10), I am hoping that Shahla & Nabeela have better luck. It’s clear that the best friends know the show and that their chemistry won’t be a problem. While many believe that adhering to their religious principles will be what results in their exit from the show (with them perhaps not completing a challenge), I believe that their lack of physical athleticism is ultimately what will result in their early elimination. I am hoping that I am wrong but on a season that features Olympic gold medalists, competitive skiers and fitness trainers, an occupational therapist and consultant will not be able to hang with the physical challenges that are seemingly on every leg of The Amazing Race Canada.
LAURA TAKAHASHI & JACKIE SKINNER
This married couple from Toronto met when they were both camp counselors and initially were best friends before their relationship turned into one that was romantic in nature. I believe that this team will absolutely dominate all of the ‘creative’ challenges on the show (that require painting, puzzles, and employing their great people skills), but like Shahla & Nabeela, I believe that Laura & Jackie will struggle with the physical demands of the show. That is not to say that Laura & Jackie are not athletic. I just believe that the other teams are more athletic and in a foot race, I could see them being edged out. A likeable team, but one that I also see going early.
JEN & SHAWN KING
This married couple from New Brunswick is the second oldest team on the show this season, and also my second-last pick to win. The two admit that while they are in great shape, they are worried that the physical challenges on the show will trip them up. They definitely seem like great parents but as far as racers? I believe they will be left in the dust.
REX HARRINGTON & BOB HOPE
While nothing is certain about The Amazing Race Canada, the one thing I know for sure is that Rex & Bob will be this season’s favourites. Their positive attitudes and ability to read what the other is thinking will serve them well on the show, but as the oldest team this season, I don’t see them being able to even win a leg (let alone the entire Race).
So there you have it. My take on The Amazing Race Canada teams this year. Don’t take my opinions as fact though. I was definitely wrong last year when I put all my eggs in Jet & Dave’s basket (who didn’t even make it to the finale). With that said, I am quite confident this year as I really don’t see anyone being able to take out Natalie and Meaghan.
Before you leave, don’t forget to check out my interview with The Amazing Race Canada‘s host Jon Montgomery.
The Amazing Race Canada premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on CTV
Tags: murtz, Murtz Jaffer, The Amazing Race Canada