What's truly amazing is that I haven't watched a full season of The Amazing Race (TAR) since its inception in 2001.  And the only reason I watched it then is that I had heard that a college-mate had been cast.  In the end, he and his team partner ended up winning and made history as the first-ever TAR winners.  So that was fun.

But then I had a short attention span and drifted to other networks and channels.  I tried reality of different forms (music, dance, cooking, decorating, etc.) and calculations (contrived, really contrived and full-blown totally orchestrated). 

And now I've washed my hands of that (well, except for American Idol … and I'll have more to say about that come January 2010) and am back to where I started:  The Amazing Race

Fresh off its seventh straight Emmy Award win for reality-competition program, The Amazing Race began its fifteenth season recently with a two-hour whirlwind premiere.  I can safely say that it's great to be back and on this side of the action (fire-hot Wasabi and gunky mud pits anyone?).  And I'm happy to break down what you missed, in case you were wondering.

First, a very basic refresher on the way the game is played:

There are 11 teams (two people per team) and one show host (Phil Keoghan) at the beginning of the race.  The connections are all relationally-based (married, dating, siblings, family members, friends, co-workers, etc.), so each team has a preexisting relationship in some form or fashion.

The race is broken up into different legs.  Cash and clues are handed out at the beginning of each.  The clue leads teams to destinations anywhere in the world by car, plane, boat, rickshaw, whatever.  The goal is to be the first to arrive at each predetermined location and to complete a challenge (always related to the customs or locales of whatever country they are in).  Once the teams are successful, they are then given the clue for the Pit Stop (of that leg) where they must step onto the Check-in Mat where each team finds out its current standing (1st, 2nd, 3rd place, etc.).  The last team to check in is eliminated (if it is an elimination leg; sometimes they are not and carry a significant disadvantage for the last team).  Kinda confused?  Me, too.  But Wikipedia (it's the "free encyclopedia," you know … so you get what you pay for) has some helpful information about it here.

The final leg of the race is run by the last three teams and whoever comes in first is the winner of that season of The Amazing Race.  The grand prize is a whopping $1 million.  Hello.

So that's the basic gist of the show, and if I got something wrong then I'm sure someone will kindly let me know in the Feedback section below.  (Be nice.)

Next, let's discuss the teams of Season 15:

[NOTE:  If you don't want to know who was eliminated in Episode One, stop reading right now.  I'm going to spoil away!]

• Meghan & Cheyne:  A young couple.  Dating for five years.  Meghan is an account exec at a public affairs firm and Cheyne works for a social change marketing company.  Both blonde, both positive and both very "Up with People."  Ish.  They're athletic, work well together and have good communication skills.  They're definitely ones to watch.

• Maria and Tiffany:  Professional poker players who "make a lot of money" (we're told).  They lie about their profession in the beginning and instead say they work with homeless teens.  But alas.  Their cover is blown during the first leg when a poker fan (are there such people?) recognizes them.  Another team (which is ALSO keeping a BIG secret … details eight teams down) is a little annoyed by this.