posted December 15, 2005

Hope Family "Races" to Second Place on TV

Alumni ties and family bonds were both strong during this fall's Amazing Race: Family Edition.

                        The program, which aired on CBS from Tuesday, Sept. 27, through Tuesday, Dec. 13, pitted family groups of four members against each other and included two current and former Hope students and their father.  Lauren Bransen '05 and junior Lindsay Bransen, along with their older sister Beth and their father Walter, all of Park Ridge, Ill., were one of the 10 teams that set out traveling in pursuit of $1 million.

                        The four Bransens didn't take home the grand prize, but they did finish second in a race that after 25 days and 50 cities came down to a sprint to the finish line.  They also didn't do badly along the way, taking first place at interim stages and winning prizes such as "free gas for life" (reportedly $1,200 worth of gas per year for each of them for 50 years) and a Buick Lucerne.

                        Through the competition, the 10 families each sought to finish first during a series of race segments.  Whichever family finished last during a segment was eliminated from the race.  The final, two-hour episode on December 13 featured the last three teams.

                        The race, filmed during the summer, began with each family recreating Washington's crossing of the Delaware River, and then carried them around the country as well as to Central America and Canada.  Challenges ranged from carrying "wounded" soldiers during a battlefield reenactment at Gettysburg, to finding a red bean in a sack to, at the end, assembling a large-scale puzzle depicting North and Central America.

                        The contest finished at Lewiston, N.Y., with the Bransens and the four siblings of the Linz family neck-and-neck during the puzzle challenge.  The Linzes, three brothers and a sister, finished the puzzle just minutes ahead of the Bransens, and ran ahead to the finish line and the $1 million.

                        The program ended with good sportsmanship.  The Bransens and Linzes were both complimentary of one another's efforts when invited to make some final comments.  All of the competing families were on-site for the finish, and the closing moments showed them wishing each other well.

                        The contestants were not allowed to participate in interviews while they were still competing, and as the show concluded the Bransens were in New York for wrap-up activities arranged by CBS (the conclusion aired during the college's Finals Week - Lindsay took her exams early to be able to participate).  However, Lauren's and Lindsay's mother Judy, because she hadn't been part of her family's four-member team, was permitted to offer her impression of their experience while their tenure with the show continued.

                        "They just said they had a wonderful time together," she said.  "In general, the time together and the excitement of the trip and the challenge of the show were well worth it."

                        "They're great ladies," Walter said of his daughters as the foursome stood at the finish line during the final episode.  "They just proved a lot to me."

                        "It's a great experience just to have the time with the girls," he said of the race.  "As adults, you just don't get that type of opportunity to spend time and share the experience that we had together.  So that was the nicest part of it."

                        The Bransens' involvement began when daughter Beth saw a promotion for the Family Edition of Amazing Race and suggested that the family try it.  Although the seven-member family includes two sons, their sense was that a three-daughters-and-dad combination might make for the most unique team.  They cut a three-minute video audition that led to multiple interim interviews before a five-day Memorial Day weekend session in Las Vegas during which the final participants were chosen.

                        The Bransen family didn't possess the only Hope connections on reality television this fall.  The 16 castaways of Survivor: Guatemala, also competing for a $1 million prize, included Gary Hogeboom of Grand Haven, Mich., whose daughter Heidi is a Hope senior and son Jake is a former student.  Hogeboom is a real estate investor and a former NFL quarterback who played for Dallas, Indianapolis and Phoenix.

                        Survivor, also shown on CBS, debuted on Thursday, Sept. 15, and Hogeboom, too, made it far into the season, voted off during the episode that aired on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 24.  Survivor finished its season with a two-hour special on Sunday, Dec. 11.