Editor’s Note: Welcome to Reality AF, where each week Terry Terrones checks in on the state of reality TV, or, in this case, catches up with one of the biggest names in the game.
After 21 years and 33 trips around the globe, The Amazing Race shows no signs of slowing down. And throughout its run, host and producer Phil Keoghan has been alongside contestants every step of the way.
To get prepared for the series’ 34th season, which premiered last Wednesday, I chatted with Keoghan as the show got ready to air its 400th episode. I got his thoughts on why (for the first time ever) the series began outside of the United States, his most memorable moments, and how he thinks he’d do as a contestant. Here’s a transcript of our conversation.
There’s quite a few things that are unique about this season. What’s the reasoning behind the decision to have the starting line outside the U.S. for the first time ever?
Why not? I guess is the answer. For the first time we have access to a charter. We used it in Season 33 and again this season, so rather than having everyone rush to the start line in the U.S. we thought, “If we could fly anywhere for the start, where would we go?” The answer, Munich, Germany, home to the world’s largest beer festival, and where teams start off scrambling around the city to complete Oktoberfest-inspired challenges.
Non-elimination legs have also been eliminated. Why is that?
Non-Eliminations have been a point of conversation with fans since we began. Some fans loved the idea that they don’t know whether it is or isn’t an elimination, but many more have said they like the all or nothing aspect of competition and would love to see that on Race. Why the change? Again, why not? My announcement about no more non-eliminations certainly got the attention of the cast and yours so, here we go, watch out for a different kind of intensity on this Amazing Race.
It looks like you have a great and diverse cast that even includes a former NFL head coach. Which teams should we be keeping an eye on this season?
All of them, really all of them. There is never one team that makes a season work. Like cooking a tasty dish, you have to have all the right ingredients, the right amount of everything you need to fire the taste buds—too much of one thing, or too little of another can destroy a culinary experience. It is like that when assembling the right cast. You’re right, we pride ourselves with the diversity of our casting, we want our diverse audience to see themselves represented in some way, to see a team they can identify with and then vicariously travel with them to far away places to complete once in a lifetime challenges.
Look out for the most amazing backstory we have ever had on the Race, Emily and Molly: twin sisters who were separated at birth and didn’t know either existed until recently. You will literally see them getting to know each other for the first time. Juxtapose that with team T-Rex, NFL Coach Rex Ryan and his buddy Tim, himself a hyper competitive person who has competed in powerlifting. We have couples in love, a Big Brother team with Derek and Claire, and a fascinating generational father/daughter team. Don’t take your eye off any of the teams.
The Amazing Race teams will be going to Petra. What was that experience like and please tell me you dressed like Indiana Jones while you were there?
Yes, you will see my Indiana Jones inspired hat and landscapes you’ve seen in all your favorite movies like Dune and Star Wars. This is my first trip back since 1999, and the place I was most excited about sharing with teams. Look out for a scene that looks like the opening of an epic movie like Lawrence of Arabia, the audience is in for an eye candy trip filled with awesome challenges in a far away land.
The last season of the show had to be broken up into two parts due to COVID, and impacted the cast. When was this season filmed, and did COVID have an impact this go around?
COVID is still affecting production, yes, hence the reason we are still using the charter. Safety has always and will always be our number 1 priority. A huge thank you goes out to the cast and crew for adhering to the, at times, inconvenient COVID protocols. Including the four seasons I’ve produced of Tough as Nails in the last two years, I’ve completed six seasons dealing with COVID which puts a huge financial and logistical burden on producing content. It’s like having a secondary production to deal with. Again, I can’t say thank you enough to all those who have helped us continue to work.
What are the three personality traits that make for a good Racer? And is there a combo you think is better than any other (father/son, husband/wife, siblings, etc.)?
If you were to line up all the winners of The Amazing Race you would see very little of their approach, background, or personality in common. We had calm, loud, thoughtful, brash, young, old, tall, short, fit, not so fit, spontaneous, methodical, all kinds of pairings. Really at the end of the day there is a huge amount of luck involved, and a real advantage to those who follow the number 1 rule on Race: Read your clue!
After 34 seasons you’ve had some great teams. Who would be on your Amazing Race Mount Rushmore?
If I want to remain hosting and producing Amazing Race, I would be wise to take the 5th with that question. I think the fans know the answer. I love teams who are true fans of the show, teams that have never traveled, teams that never give up no matter what, those who are wide eyed and enthusiastic about everything we put in front of them. Teams that realize that not even a million dollars can buy the experience we are giving them to see the world. I definitely have my favorites for a variety of reasons but, I’m sorry, my lips are sealed.
After 21 years and 33 trips around the globe, what are some of your most memorable moments as host of the show?
The start, saying, “The World is Waiting For You,” for the very first time. Helping to produce the New Zealand, my home country, episodes we did in seasons 2, 5, 13, and 22. Having my dad as the greeter in Season 13. Doing a stand up surrounded by the TerraCotta Warriors. Millions of miles and complete sensory overload. Ultimately I feel extremely honored to collaborate with extraordinary content and storytellers. Working with the best has inspired me to be the best I can be. When you go to work and can look across at someone who is incredible at their job, you know you’re in the right place.
The Amazing Race will be celebrating its 400th episode this season, its 34th. What does the longevity of the show say about the program, and did you have any idea when it started that it would be so successful.
Yes, 400 episodes. The other day I was thinking about the fact that I have spent more than a year of my life greeting teams at the most iconic locations on earth. In front of the seven wonders of the world and historic buildings that I used to marvel over in books when I was a kid. The longevity of Race is a fantastic format from Bertram and Elise (show co-creators and producers Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri), the amazing places that we get to go to and amazing faces. Amazing people who literally write our script every episode. I love to say that luck is the residue of design, put the right people in the right place to do amazing things, and you increase your chances of things going right.
What do you feel or hope is the lasting legacy of the show?
A celebration of the human spirit, integrity and respect for all people who live all over our precious earth. For too long we have focused on our differences, but the reality is we all live in the same place, we might not eat the same food or worship the same God, but we all live on a fragile blue planet that will only support us if we can find a way to get along.
If you were to run The Amazing Race yourself, who would you race with and how do you think you’d do?
I would go with my dad. He’s 80, super fit, a walking encyclopedia, and fun to be with. We have done lots of adventures together and really love each other’s company. I would like to think that we could go deep in the competition, but the wonderful thing about The Amazing Race is that it’s unpredictable, and so I will avoid being overly confident about just how well we would fare.
Terry Terrones is a Television Critics Association and Critics Choice Association member, licensed drone pilot, and aspiring hand model.
When he’s not applying for Survivor (no offense Phil) you can find him hiking in the mountains of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @terryterrones.
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