One Family Reflects on their Amazing Race
A Look at the Hit Reality Series on the CBS Television
Story by Jon Minners
Contains material originally written by Jon Minners for the Bronx Times Reporter (Site Coming Soon)
Imagine having your family’s ultimate vacation televised for the whole country to see. That’s exactly what happened to one Bronx sanitation worker and his family when they took part in a trip of a lifetime on the CBS television award winning reality series Amazing Race: Family Edition.
Tony Paolo is a well-respected sanitation worker in Country Club, but residents who see him taking out the trash every week got to see another side of the Italian family man when he was joined by his wife Marion and two sons DJ and Brian in a battle with ten other families over a $1 million prize that actually resulted in every family being a winner.
“It was something I cannot describe,” said Paolo, describing his time filming the show. “It was an unbelievable experience. I still can’t believe it. To come from Italy and now be on a CBS television show traveling all over the place. It was a lot of fun. We had a great time and it felt great to represent New York, my home of Carmel and the Bronx. I think we did everyone proud.”
If you have ever seen Amazing Race, you probably know the show is probably the third most popular and most consistent reality series behind Survivor and American Idol. A fan of the series since the first edition many moons ago, this is truly the most unique of the reality series taking contestants on a true race around the world. For the most part, contestants start out in America and through a series of clues travel from one country to the next, getting money along the way that they must budget wisely in order to succeed in their journey. The contestants are on their own, having to speak to the natives of the country, decide which planes to take or what other means of transportation to use and a host of other choices that could determine their placement amongst other contestants in the series. A unique dynamic of the series is that there is always at least one pair of contestants; it is not a solo journey, so viewers watch as two lifelong friends, a married couple, lifetime partners, engaged couples, brothers, sisters, mother-daughter, even couples that have split unite to win (even Boston Rob and his Survivor-winning wife competed together). Sparks fly. Couples end up on the outs. Love is put to the test. Some realize they belong together after all. It’s truly an Amazing Race and for the first time this year, the show featured four contestants united together on each team making the show’s most compelling installment; The Family Edition.
The show has been completed and although the Paolo family ended up in fifth place, they captivated the imagination of audiences everywhere by constantly overcoming the odds to go from underdogs to favorites among viewers. During the first couple of weeks, the team struggled to stay out of last place, hanging on by the skin of their teeth to move on in the competition and then their luck turned around.
“Basically, we never expected to make it past the first leg of the race,” said Brian. “But later, when we came in first place two weeks in a row and there were only five teams left, we realized that we really had a shot.”
Added DJ, “In the run we had in Costa Rica, my mom looked like she was going to drop dead and we thought we would end up in last place, but we ended up in first. She really came through and everything else after that was gravy.”
Marion remembers the experience well. “People were coming up behind me and I was dying; you could have tripped me with a feather at that point,” she recalled. “I had never done anything so physical in my life. I started to exercise; walking seven miles every other day to get into the best possible shape I could get into in the two months we had from being accepted into the race until we actually had to compete. I never expected anything like this.”
Tony felt good about his physical conditioning during the race, stating that his work lifting everyday made left him ready for the competition, but DJ has enlisted a friend to hit the gym since coming back, preparing for future competitions. “Just in case they call us for an all-star edition of the show,” he says before adding that his family should star in a sitcom. “We would do well in a sitcom and all we would have to do is act like ourselves.”
DJ almost never made the race. “He had shattered an ankle a half year before we auditioned,” said Brian. “We didn’t expect him to be able to compete, but I am definitely glad he was able to come. He contributed a lot to the team.”
An initial audition tape sent to CBS was returned with a request to include DJ, who decided to give it a try. “When they first made the tape, I thought they were crazy; that they would never get picked,” DJ recalls. “I didn’t feel 100% and I my ankle was still bothering me, but I am definitely glad I decided to do it. If I didn’t, I would have been kicking myself over it.”
DJ can now lay claim to the title reality star, but if he and his family never make it to television again, the family will still be happy with their brush with stardom; one that still has their friends and family talking to this day. “I felt that most of the show was on point, but I think they made me look like the evil son,” DJ said to laughs from his family, as Tony added that he expected a lot of material to be cut to fit the hour-long program.
Marion, who notes that many people recognize her from the show, felt a lot of footage was left out, but enjoyed watching the program with those closest to her. “We would watch with my son’s friends and it was fun watching them react when it looked like we would be the first team eliminated,” said Marion. “My in-laws were calling every 15 minutes saying, ‘please tell us you aren’t getting eliminated. We got a kick out of that, but we had more fun watching the other families since we didn’t know what they were doing in the show.”
Those families ended up becoming close friends with the Paolos; a friendship the family feels will last a lifetime. “We got along great with all the families, except one,” said DJ. “One family was just made up of loners. They didn’t want to be social. The other families are friends for life.”
Brian also took home great memories, but would love to experience more in the future. “In the other Amazing Race competitions, they got to travel all over the world,” he said. “This was a family edition, so they didn’t travel as much, but I would love to go back to every single place; Costa Rica and Panama – Southwest Arizona was an incredible place; I would love to visit them all again. It was an amazing experience.”
Added Tony, “That was what this competition was about to us; great friendships and great experiences. $1 million can’t buy that.”
If you want to be a part of the next installment of Amazing Race, it is not that hard a feat to accomplish (to apply, that is). Just go to http://www.cbs.com/primetime/amazing_race_application/ and sign up. And for more information about this season’s past Amazing Race, go to http://www.cbs.com/primetime/amazing_race8/.