This image is from the official preview for “The Amazing Race,” distributed by CBS.

Traveling around the world sounds fun by itself, but “The Amazing Race” takes it to the next level by attaching a one million dollar grand prize. With the 34th season premiering on Sept. 21, “The Amazing Race” has been a CBS staple for a while, which means it runs the risk of becoming stale. When I watched a couple of seasons a few years ago, it certainly felt stale to me and quickly became background noise while I did something more exciting. Perhaps recognition of this staleness is why the most recent season introduced more game-changing twists than ever before.

The show follows 12 teams of two as they travel around the globe completing numerous challenges. The last team standing wins a one million dollar cash prize. Each leg consists of three separate challenges where teams are able to dive into that location’s culture and local customs. Challenges could be anything from learning a drum beat to launching watermelons from a slingshot to herding ducks — truly, anything goes.

For the first time in the show’s history, this season of “The Amazing Race” started its first leg outside the U.S. in Munich, Germany. While that doesn’t affect the race much, it is something long-time fans might appreciate. Dedicated fans may also recall that in previous seasons, there were some non-elimination legs, meaning after completing the challenges in one location, the team that came in last continued competing and only faced a time delay when beginning the next leg. In this season, all legs are elimination legs so whichever team comes in last is guaranteed to be sent home. 

In the past, teams were given a single location they had to reach to receive their next clue, and so on and so forth. This made it so challenges were completed by all teams in a particular order. That has changed this season as well, with a new format called the “Scramble” taking its place. Teams are now given the locations of all challenges, after which they can choose the order they complete them. While this makes it harder to keep track of the teams as a viewer, it does ensure the same challenge isn’t shown for too long on screen.  

This season features a good mix of family pairs, friend pairs and romantic pairs, so there’s something for everyone (my personal favorite is the team made up of University of Michigan alum Claire Rehfuss and her boyfriend Derek Xiao who met last season on “Big Brother”). What is yet to be seen, however, is who the most directionally challenged team will be. Without fail, in every episode some team — and sometimes the same team — gets hopelessly lost while searching for the next destination, ensuing a compilation of stress and panic for minutes on end. It’s entertaining to watch from home, but I know I would lose my composure just as quickly as most of the teams do.

“The Amazing Race” was a show I used to occasionally watch with my family. It was never my favorite, primarily because it’s not a social strategy game: There isn’t any room for lying, deception or manipulation, which are undoubtedly the best things about competitive reality TV shows. I got bored of watching the same challenges over and over and found it difficult to connect with the competitors. That said, “The Amazing Race” has always felt like the most attainable reality show to me. For the most part, you just interact with a partner you choose, and it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to have with someone special.

The show was in desperate need of a change in format, so it was nice to see it updated after so many years on air. While time will only tell if the changes that have been implemented this season will be enough to truly reinvigorate the show, it seems like a step in the right direction.

Daily Arts Writer Jenna Jaehnig can be reached at