Bringing a boring end to a boring season, The Amazing Race: Family Edition's two-hour finale delivered the reality show's lowest finale ratings since the Summer 2003 The Amazing Race 4 edition that, if not for the show's subsequent first Emmy award win, had been speculated to be the series' last edition.

The Amazing Race: Family Edition's Tuesday, December 13 finale averaged 11.51 million viewers, a 7.1/11 rating/share in households, a 3.5/10 in the Adults 18-34 demographic, a 4.7/12 in Adults 18-49, and a 5.5/13 in Adults 25-54. While the performance was disappointing in comparison to those of The Amazing Race's three most recent finales, the broadcast did win its time period in all five metrics and represented The Amazing Race: Family Edition's best total viewers, Adults 18-49 and Adults 25-54 numbers of the season.

While few expected this fall's eighth The Amazing Race edition to match the "Romber"-fueled ratings highs of last spring's The Amazing Race 7, the fact that the watered-down edition's finale couldn't even match the finale ratings of The Amazing Race 5 or The Amazing Race 6 reflects the (hopefully short-term) ratings damage that the dismal family edition -- a risky concept that was second guessed from the moment it was first announced -- inflicted on the previously critically-praised series.

An exact previous fall season comparison is difficult due to the fact that CBS had squeezed three The Amazing Race editions into the ten-month period between July 2004 and May 2005, but any way you slice it, The Amazing Race: Family Edition's finale ratings were disappointing.

Although it was scheduled as a Summer 2004 series, The Amazing Race 5 actually aired its finale at the beginning of the much more competitive Fall 2004 television season. Broadcast on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 versus the new fall schedules of several other networks, The Amazing Race 5's finale averaged 12.85 million viewers and posted a 8.2/13 rating/share in households, a 4.9/14 in Adults 18-34, a 5.6/14 in Adults 18-49 and a 6.2/14 in Adults 25-54.

Airing on Tuesday, February 8, 2005, The Amazing Race 6's finale averaged 12.62 million viewers, a 7.7/12 rating/share in households, a 4.2/12 in Adults 18-34, a 5.2/13 in Adults 18-49, and 5.9/13 in Adults 25-54.

For comparison, The Amazing Race 7's finale (broadcast on Tuesday, May 10, 2005) averaged 16.01 million overall viewers, a 9.6/15 rating/share in households, a 6.0/16 rating/share among Adults 18-34 a 6.8/17 in Adults 18-49, and a 7.7/17 in Adults 25-54 -- a performance that easily ranked it as best ratings performance of any episode in The Amazing Race's previous seven seasons.

While The Amazing Race co-creator Bertram van Munster claimed that The Amazing Race: Family Edition "didn't suffer in the ratings" during a recent interview with The Providence Journal, he did acknowledge being aware of viewers' widespread criticism of the family format. "Part of the problem we had as producers was that we had to introduce four people to the audience instead of two -- times 10," he told the paper in an interview conducted last week. "That's 40 people, and that's a difficult thing for the audience to absorb."

And although the end product might have been extremely disappointing to Race fans, van Munster is still grateful to have had the chance to produce The Amazing Race's first -- and presumably last -- family competition. "I'm grateful that CBS was willing to try something different... this was a very family-friendly show," said van Munster. "The show was a great calling card for the U.S. We had always wanted to do an 'Americana' version of the race, for us to show the beauty and diversity of the U.S. We become jaded in a way."

Thankfully, The Amazing Race's present status as a three-time Emmy award winner and still-solid ratings performer means that unlike after The Amazing Race 4, The Amazing Race: Family Edition's disappointing ratings performance has not put the status of future The Amazing Race editions in jeopardy.

Although the network has not yet confirmed its exact premiere date, CBS is expected to premiere The Amazing Race 9 -- a highly anticipated new regular wordwide edition of the show in which the competition will return to its traditional two-person team format -- on Tuesday, February 29, two days after the closing ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics.