Is somebody cutting onions in here?
Oh, right. We’re just watching Relative Race.
Relative Race, BYUtv’s Amazing-Race-with-a-family-twist show, just finished its third season, and my family — from the parents down to the three-year-old — was glued the entire time.
I’ll get into why this really is the best show on TV, but first, for the uninitiated, here’s the gist: you may know that services like Ancestry and 23 and Me can test our DNA can tell us a lot about ourselves, including who’s in our family. Relative Race builds on that premise. Using DNA results, the show takes contestants and locates their relatives all across the United States.
From there, the race begins: four teams (made up of two same-family contestants each), start together with the show’s host, Dan, in a single location (like San Francisco, or Washington, D.C.). Dan takes the contestants’ smartphones (no GPS or outside help is allowed on the show) and gives each team the name of a city.
The teams travel to that destination (using only paper maps and the help of random passers-by) completes challenges, and finally, gets the address, in that city, of a relative they’ve never met. The team’s final destination each day is their relative’s home — that relative may be anyone from a distant cousin to a brother, sister, father, or mother. They spend the evening with their relative and learning more about their family.
Each night, the teams find out who was the slowest relative to the time they were allotted for their journey that day. That team gets a strike. In the morning, each team gets a new destination, and repeats the whole thing over again. Any team that gets three strikes before the 10-day race is complete is off the show.
On the final day, remaining teams race to complete an special set of challenges to determine a winner, who gets a bunch of money and the bragging rights for winning Relative Race!
Why I love this show
I’ve rarely looked forward to watching something so much. And there are a few reasons this show has struck a chord with me.
It’s perfect for all ages
It’s rare for my family to find something we all truly enjoy watching together. If the kids get their way, they’re watching something animated, often on PBS Kids. My wife and I will often watch something on Netflix after the kids are in bed.
Relative Race is an exception to that rule. We all look forward to it. If I propose that we turn it on, the kids literally scream in excitement. They’ll beg to watch it if we’re behind and are glued to the screen as we do. It’s become a Sunday tradition for us to watch it together, and something we all look forward to.
It makes you feel things
The show is fun and entertaining, yes–watching the teams interact and struggle together to get to their destinations and complete challenges is a key part of that.
But beyond that, you start to truly feel connected to the teams as they find family members they thought they might never meet. As the seasons have progressed, more and more close connections to family members have been made. Season 1 had a lot of cousins, which was fun — but by Season 3, there were multiple contestants who met immediate family members on the show.
Watching these moments is incredible. There is just something about family. There’s just something about our connections with these people that we haven’t chosen, but that we’re irrevocably tied to. Yes, I’ve turned into a big softy since having kids, but seeing connections that were broken or never truly established re-forged on Relative Race has had me in a puddle of (manly) tears more times than I care to admit.
It brings families closer together
Yes, that’s the premise of the show. There’s no question that it brings the families of the contestants closer together — they’re literally connecting, for the first time, with family they didn’t know they had!
But one unexpected side-effect has been that it’s actually brought my own family closer together. Because the show works so well for any age, it’s something we really do together, which in and of itself forges bonds: we each have our favorite teams, our inside jokes based on moments from the show, and our predictions about who’s going to win or lose. It’s a fun topic even when we’re not watching.
We told my parents about Relative Race and they binge-watched all three seasons within a couple weeks. It’s been fun to connect with them over it as well.
And finally, Relative Race has inspired me to learn more about my own family and ancestry. My family tree is a bit broken–I may write more about this more some other time, but I have almost an entire side of the family in Puerto Rico whom none of us have ever met, and about whom we know practically nothing. Watching the teams on Relative Race reconnect with long lost relatives has been incredible and it’s become a goal of mine to make those missing connections in my family.
How to watch
As of this writing, Relative Race is between its 3rd and 4th seasons, and not currently airing on live TV. However, you can watch all the way back to season 1 through the BYUtv app:
In addition, BYUtv is available on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox 1, and Windows Mobile. See all the ways to watch BYUtv here. (While you’re at it with BYUtv, I’d also recommend checking out another of my family’s favorites, Random Acts.)
What’s next for Relative Race
Having completed three successful seasons, Relative Race is coming back for a fourth. They’ve announced via their Facebook page that Season 4 will air in fall 2018, and teams have already been selected!
I, for one, can’t wait to watch.