Screen Savors: Jetlag on the boob tube

Boring, inappropriate and sometimes ignorant, the contestants of 'Hamerutz Lamillion' compete for ratings and money but not enlightenment.

10… 9… 8… 7… 6…Sorry. Couldn't help introducing a review of Reshet's new Hamerutz Lamillion, Israel's answer to The Amazing Race, without that countdown they've been pushing in their promos. Gathered in the living room for the premiere, we were geared up for action. That is, until endless promos preceded the show and it seemed like it might never take off "courtesy of ISSTA airlines." When it did begin, I was a bit under-whelmed. It seemed that for every 10 seconds of globetrotting or grueling assignment (walking with a basket of fruit on your head?) there were two to three times as much time spent chatting with the participants, who spent the first night at the aptly named Tzitzikamma (tzitzi means breast in Hebrew) resort in South Africa, since that's what we saw most of - flesh. Oh, there were hippos and zebras and dancing African priestesses, but mainly, there were the contestants. Mostly buxom or bitchy, a few managed to catch our fancy - Hanna and Margalit in particular. The two older kibbutzniks from Emek Hayarden stole our hearts when they taught the priestesses a Hebrew song. The rest were the usual love 'em or hate 'em mix of beauty queens (Yelena and Liran splashing in a pool during their pre-contest interview), the get-it-done business partners (Shai and Guy), the spitfires (Yael and Mariana, "two Rottweilers," as one of them put it), the exes who grew more annoying as the show proceeded (Tom and Inbal), the blonde bombshells (Hadas and Inbal, owners of the shortest tennis skirts and pinkest items in one wardrobe), the funny-men (Asher and Mor, "We just want to collect the most towels," noted the former), the married with kids couple (Michal and Ran, "The children are trivial; it's my work that will miss me the most," noted the latter) and the oh-so-close to getting married couple (Maya and Amichai). Love or hate aside, you couldn't ignore them. A lot more than you can say for host Raz Meirman, who gives new meaning to the term "wooden." Particularly bad were those important pre-race declarations he made, like, "It's a race against the other teams, and the clock." Like, duh. "It's about to happen - the adventure of your lives, the world is waiting…Go!" Meirman said, setting the teams scampering into the big, wide world. The first stop was Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where they headed to a big game park. That's when the colonialist nature of some participants really shone through. Trying to find their way, one participant saw some locals walking along the road and considered asking directions. "Should we be asking homeless people?" she wondered aloud. Later, when Asher and Mor visited a poor village to participate in a challenge, they related how they felt "like Kobi Annan [sic]" arriving to deliver aid. Said Amichai, "It was an authentic village. I understand the difference between where we live and where they live." Even worse was Ran suggesting that lots of the locals were drunk. Someone feed them to a rhino. Meanwhile, our contestants had actual challenges to perform, if you can call them that - driving a vehicle through a patch of mud (boring!), attaching a log to the back of said vehicle, and, oh yes, balancing that fruit basket on their heads, which they then had to walk over to the high priestesses for a blessing and another clue. In between, we had important declarations from the participants, like, "I came to win!" and "We want to prove we're not just blondes!" We did get a kick out of the blondes figuring out that it's easier to drive the car to the log than rolling the log to the car. But the stunts left us pretty bored, and can someone please tell Tom and Inbal we're tired of their fighting already? Still, blondes and others showing cleavage apparently do well in the ratings. Though the overall production was impressive, we can only hope the stunts will pick up a notch while we enjoy the scenery. Jetting around the world should be fun and it is - in the US version. Hamerutz Lamillion airs on Channel 2 Thursday nightsat 9 p.m.