• Some shows don't need self-created controversies to draw attention. They can fall back on proven quality — like The Amazing Race
(CBS, Sunday, 8:30 ET/PT
), which kicks off a new season with a 90-minute special that just may be the show's best start yet. This time, the 12 teams gather in Seattle and head immediately to Beijing, where architectural glories and a few new game surprises await. Race
's value as a visually splendid travelogue can't be underestimated, particularly when it has the splendors of Beijing to display. But the show rises and falls on its players, and these 24 racers appear to be particularly strong and admirably diverse, as the Race
has been since its inception. Though favorites will emerge and change, in the early going I'm rooting for Mary, the feisty, friendly wife of a Kentucky coal miner, who compares landing in China to "dropping a 30-year-old baby in the world and telling him, 'Just go.' " You go, Mary.