A big, wordy title for a big, absurd race, Amazon Prime’s new streaming competition is a load of treacherous fun.
There are titles, and then there are absurdly wordy titles like World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji, which almost sounds like a joke. But there’s nothing funny about this ten-episode streamer now gracing the thumbnails of Amazon Prime Video, in which over three hundred athletic hopefuls explore the picturesque Fijian landscape by racing through it at great cost to their mental and physical wellbeing.
That silly title, then, seems accurate enough to me – if this isn’t the world’s toughest race, I’d be fascinated to see what is. It’s certainly tough enough to keep a viewer engaged through all the typical hallmarks of these team-based outdoorsy competition shows, including lots of dramatic slow-motion, close calls, and urgent Bear Grylls narration.
Given that the race itself is a nightmare, it helps that the format is rather simplistic. Here are your teams of five, one of whom sits pretty in camp, and here are various checkpoints that each team has to get through within an allotted time. Here’s the endless and varied Fijian topography, and here are some medallions that need to be collected for added spice. Good luck, the show says, and try not to collapse and die. That’s it, really.
But then there’s the human element to consider. With such an outlandish task ahead of them, it’s easy to forget that these are ostensibly normal people, and despite a slightly lopsided focus in the early going, World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji does a good job of honing in on different competitors and their attendant – often tragic, usually inspiring – backstories. As the teams become more spread out, and the legitimate competitors begin to emerge, it’s easy to get to know these people and wish them well, especially since their ability to simply cross the finish line in one piece, let alone win, always seems in question.
With so many competitors and teams and stories, the enormity and variety of the race itself are reflected in the sheer scale of running it, with helicopters needed for establishing shots just to get a sense of the geography. Sometimes, the show doesn’t do a great job of navigating all that space, especially in terms of peoples’ position in it relative to the goal, though perhaps that’s part of the point. With so much ground to cover, and so many different disciplines required to cover it, you’re bound to get lost. But here’s a reality competition show that really revels in its scale. It’s an engaging and often thrilling affair, and its daft title might well be accurate. This is, probably, the world’s toughest race, and watching people suffer through it is a compelling experience. Just don’t ask me to run it.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.