Picks and Pans Review: The Amazing Race 4

updated 06/02/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/02/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

CBS (Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET)

I find it hard to work up much enthusiasm for the schemers on Survivor, the singles on The Bachelor or the singers on American Idol. But I'm ready to stand up—or at least sit straighter on the couch—and cheer for Steve Meitz and Dave Cottingham, the unabashedly out-of-shape air traffic controllers who form one of the 12 teams pursuing a $1 million prize on this reality series' fourth go-round.

After Steve and Dave, I go for the ebullient circus-clown tandem of Jon Weiss and Al Rios. Others may back Monica Ambrose and Sheree Buchanan, both married to pro football players and determined to prove that NFL wives are tough too. The 90-minute season premiere, airing May 29, introduces a nice mix of competitors who should stir rooting interest as they race around the globe using all manner of transportation. The last team to reach the weekly pit stop gets eliminated, and the first leg of the journey goes from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to an inn in Italy's Dolomite mountains.

Like other reality shows, this one has its irritants. I'd love some relief from the Mission Impossible-style music, and I don't need the repeated reminders that contestants Millie Smith and Chuck Shankles are still virgins after 12 years of dating. Does that mean they have lots of pent-up energy?

BOTTOM LINE: Travel along

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