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‘Amazing Race’ crosses the line

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)
Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

It’s just a matter of time before somebody calls some of the contestants on “The Amazing Race” (9 p.m., CBS) the Amazing Racists, so it might as well be me.

This show has had plenty of “ugly American” moments in the past, but now it seems to be getting out of hand.

Why did the producers insist that last week’s “game” take place at the site of a slave-trading port? What’s next, a round of capture-the-flag at Dachau?

The “Race” Web site brags about the ability of the show to “slow down” and take in historic places and “make you think,” but profound contemplation was hardly in evidence during the racers’ African sojourn.

While entering the historic slave museum, Rebecca, the bickering former girlfriend of “Hellboy” Adam, cracked that she wasn’t surprised that so many people “escaped” from Africa. Now that’s a novel way to look at the Middle Passage.

While rushing to the airport, Kendra couldn’t hide her disgust with Africa and Africans. “They just keep breeding,” she said of Senegal’s poorer citizens.

Jonathan’s unhinged behavior toward his wife, Victoria, has morphed from weird to deeply ugly. His whining, shrieking and screaming were bad enough, but at the conclusion of last week’s show he forcefully struck Victoria right in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

I was under the impression that physical violence was one of the few taboos of reality television, a cause for instant expulsion and deservedly so. “The Amazing Race” site describes Jonathan’s act as a “shove,” but anyone watching could see that it was a forceful, violent blow that sent her away sobbing and shaking.

At the very least, it was a shocking manifestation of emotional abuse that appears to have been going on for a long, long time.

The folks at CBS, “Race” and their advertisers should wake up and smell the outrage. Wife beating is not entertainment. Given the decided nonbuzz for his little-watched reality series, you’d figure tycoon Richard Branson would shy away from the cameras. But you’d be wrong.

The decidedly nonreclusive billionaire shows up to show off his digs on “Cribs” (10:30 p.m., MTV), along with other wallflowers including Lil Jon, Casey Mears and NFL player Bobby Taylor.

Q. Where is the week after Christmas just like August?

A. On television. It’s the time when networks “burn off” shows while nobody’s watching.

Hence, on three consecutive episodes of “Father of the Pride” (NBC), Kate’s comments put the PTA in a fowl mood (8 p.m.), obnoxious neighbors (8:30 p.m.), an anniversary forgotten (9 p.m.).

Other highlights

Miami heat melts the competition on “The Rebel Billionaire” (8 p.m., Fox).

Rory and Dean assess their situation on “Gilmore Girls” (8 p.m., WB).

Scheduled on “Frontline” (9 p.m., KSPS): the changing face of alternative medicine.

A sleep disorder roils a couple’s domestic tranquility on “House” (9 p.m., Fox).

Amy’s court is falling down around her on “Judging Amy” (10 p.m., CBS).

Illegal immigrants held as slaves on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (10 p.m., NBC).

Scheduled on “20/20” (10 p.m., ABC): New Years’ romance stories, including a mother-daughter matchmaking team; an academy for “cupids”; and classes teaching men and women to enliven relationships.

“Independent Lens” (10 p.m., KSPS) presents “Short, Not Sweet,” a festival of short films with less-than-happy endings.

Series notes

An abandoned helicopter is discovered in the middle of a crop circle on “Navy NCIS” (8 p.m., CBS) … A chance to play with Michael Jordan on “My Wife and Kids” (8 p.m., ABC) … Debi Mazar guest-stars on “All of Us” (8 p.m., UPN).

All grown up with bills to pay on “George Lopez” (8:30 p.m., ABC) … Shelly retreats on “Eve” (8:30 p.m., UPN).

Better living through alcohol on “According to Jim” (9 p.m., ABC) … Intimate information becomes public knowledge via the Internet on “Veronica Mars” (9 p.m., UPN) … It’s official: Nobody cares about “High School Reunion” (9 p.m., WB).

Careless talk of killing patients on “Scrubs” (9:30 p.m., NBC) … Rodney’s first paying standup gig is for chump change on “Rodney” (9:30 p.m., ABC).

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