‘The Amazing Race’ finally gets back on track

Rick's Reviews

Phil Koeghan is back on the road again with “The Amazing Race.” (Photo courtesy of CBS)

Contestants have been delayed for a variety of reasons during their trips around the world as part of the CBS competition series “The Amazing Race.” The roadblocks have ranged from missed flights to uncooperative animals.

Nothing in the past 32 seasons came close to the disruption every team in the race faced with this edition. Filming started in February of 2020 and was brought to a screeching halt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than a year and a half later, filming resumed under very strict safety protocols. It’s not exactly like the other 32 seasons but at least the race reached a conclusion and a winning team gets crowned.

The final race to the finish can be seen when “The Amazing Race” returns to the CBS lineup starting at 8 p.m. Jan. 5. If you miss the episode, it will be available through the streaming service of Paramount+.

Elise Doganieri – who co-created “The Amazing Race” with Bertram Van Munster – doesn’t see the long disruption as a totally bad thing. She actually has seen some silver linings.

“The good thing is that we were able to finish up the season that we had started pre—pandemic. We just had to make some adjustments. I actually think some of those adjustments were things that we could implement for the future,” Doganieri says. “We adjusted the format just slightly. You’ll still have the same ‘Amazing Race,’ detours and roadblocks, pit stops, check—ins, eliminations, and an amazing cast.

“But maybe it’s improved in some ways, and we can’t wait for everyone to see that. It was challenging, for sure. But with the protocols and the things that were implemented, we started planning six, almost nine months previous to leaving. I think everybody came home safe.”

The elongated season returns with 11 new teams taking off from their homes and traveling to their first destination in London. The fact two teams had been eliminated months ago meant the production team had to be creative to make sure they had enough episodes to fill the season without having to resort to too many non-elimination legs.

Making some of the legs a little longer is one way this season will be different. Another has to do with keeping everyone safe. Instead of having to deal with the complications of using commercial flights, this season features all of the players being transported between countries via a private chartered 757 airplane.

The release time for each team once the plane landed was determined by when they arrived. Those who arrived first, got the same time advantage when they started the next leg.

One big difference between the first race and this one has been the change in social media over the past two decades. In the past, every effort was made to stop people who wanted to take pictures of the contestants. The fear was the pictures would spoil the surprise.

The production team now embraces the social media attention. They realized people were going to show up and there was no way to stop photos from being taken as everyone has a camera in their phone. They decided that it ends up being free publicity.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that Phil Keoghan returns as the host. Keoghan has visited more than 100 countries and has been sharing his stories in front of a TV camera for over 30 years.

Keoghan has as much passion today for “The Amazing Race” – even in this time of the pandemic – as he did when he started the job 20 years ago.

“I would not believe that we would still be here 20 years later, with a show that feels as fresh as the day we started it. It’s never the same. I think if I was doing a studio show and I was going in and doing the same thing over and over again, rinsing and repeating the same format over and over again, I would definitely have gotten stale on the idea,” Keoghan says. “But ‘Amazing Race’ never feels that way. It feels, honestly, maybe more relevant today than it was even 20 years ago.

“It was groundbreaking 20 years ago, and I still think it’s continuing to push boundaries all these years later. And I just love being a part of something that the audience has resonated with. And the audiences are absolutely desperate for us to get back. They have been waiting for the world, and thankfully we’re able to give it to them again through the eyes of an amazing cast.”

Keoghan kept himself busy while production on “The Amazing Race” was on hold. He was busy with his own series, “Tough As Nails.” That competition show also faced serious safety protocols because of COVID but they weren’t as restricting since those players didn’t have to travel in and out of foreign countries.

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