The strange story of scheduling for The Amazing Race 4 keeps getting stranger. We previously reported that the Asian network AXN had posted that the show would air in the summer of 2003, but we also carried a lengthy analysis from reality TV expert Paul Decker, who expected the show to be held until fall.

Now three more sources are weighing in with rumors (or maybe facts) consistent with AXN's timetable. First, Matt Roush in TV Guide says that, although nothing is official, it "looks" as if The Amazing Race 4 could start as early as the end of the May sweeps (the last week of May). However, he also notes that no one really knows until CBS confirms an air date.

Then, Canadian network CTV reports on its Web site that The Amazing Race 4 will begin airing on Thursday, May 29.

Finally, Time Magazine reports, in a feature on Race executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer, that "The Amazing Race, the closest a reality show has ever got to being a critical darling, returns to CBS this summer despite middling ratings."

So, AXN, Matt Roush, CTV and Time are all reporting the same "rumor," which would mean that Decker's analysis, while logical, may be incorrect.

We contacted Decker, who was busy making his Kentucky Derby selections, and asked for his opinion regarding these latest developments. "The Thursday-at-8 slot has normally been reserved for Big Brother during the summer, so if Race is going to air on Thursday, it would have to fill the 9 PM or 10 PM EDT slot. The show currently in the 9 PM slot is CSI, which, like Race, is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. The Thursday at 10 slot is occupied by Without a Trace, also from Bruckheimer. It is certainly possible that Bruckheimer has asked, for reasons of his own, to pull one of those shows off the summer rerun schedule. Nevertheless, if Race runs during the summer, it won't be on the fall schedule, which would generally be seen as a huge loss to both Bruckheimer and CBS."

"If Race is reduced to a summer fill-in, then CBS would have a hard time continuing to bill itself as the leader in quality reality programming, with only Survivor in prime time during most of the year. And, if Race continues to struggle against summer competition, it could be on its last legs."

Decker's analysis sounds good to us, but it sounded good before and yet it may well be wrong. Uh, to put it politely, we know his Kentucky Derby pick but aren't reporting it until his track record is a little more established....

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