Like many red-blooded Americans, the idea of going on a cross-country road trip has an undeniable allure for me. I have fond memories of piling into the car for family vacations, and years of watching road movies have convinced me that there’s no better way to experience personal growth. I’m also a fan of living vicariously through reality television, so it’s probably no surprise that I’ve been hooked on Focus Rally: America ever since I wrote ARGNet’s first article on the game. The reality show features six teams of two as they travel across the country, competing in challenges for a chance at $100,000 and a 2012 Ford Focus. So far, the teams have danced in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, shot hoops with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in Dallas, and engaged in aerial acrobatics in Arizona. They even held a singing and songwriting competition, providing the hilarious footage below.
Focus Rally: America offers viewers the opportunity to vicariously follow contestants via livestream from their cars in between daily episodes posted to the show’s Hulu channel. Viewers can interact more directly by chatting with the contestants online or solving puzzles. While most puzzles typically consist of solving 3×3 slide puzzles and answering trivia questions, a few have involved talking contestants through solving the Tower of Hanoi puzzle, explaining tangrams, submitting photographs to Facebook, and even making an air freshener for the car. Since the Focus Rally website tracks the GPS locations of contestants, some fans have met up with teams on the road to cheer them on. And for one event in Texas, fans were invited to join the contestants for a cook-out challenge. Players can even vote for rewards and punishments for the various teams, ranging from hotel room service to a parrot costume the Red Team will soon be sporting on the road.
I spoke with Elise Doganieri, one of the Focus Rally producers and co-creator of The Amazing Race, who noted that “typically with a reality show, you don’t want people to know what the contestants are doing or where they’re going, but this is the complete opposite: you want people to know where the contestants are and see what they’re doing so they can cheer them on and help them.”