'The Amazing Race' returns for Season 29 fighting for its life
(Courtesy of Bell Media)
Strangers in a strange land.
That’s the direction The Amazing Race decided to go in for the first time in its 29 season history.
The multiple Emmy Award-winning reality show, now airing on Thursday nights on CTV and CBS, paired up 22 strangers to navigate across the globe deciphering clues, performing mental and physical tasks, meet the locals and take planes, trains and automobiles for a one million dollar prize. Whew! (In past seasons, pairs were coupled with family members, couples, or friends.)
“I think what it’s done is it’s opened up an opportunity to create even more diversity than we’ve ever had,” says host and producer Phil Keoghan.
“This time 22 individuals, 22 different places, 22 different upbringings, 22 different socio-economic backgrounds. It’s a complete change because you’ve suddenly rolled the dice on even more diversity. There are so many times where we find a great individual but their partner’s not necessarily so great. This time, we didn’t have to worry about that,” exhales the 49-year-old New Zealand native.
Postmedia Network made a pit stop with Keoghan, who’s also busy promoting his cycling documentary Le Ride (he and a buddy re-enacted the 1928 Tour de France ride on bikes from that time period), down the line from his L.A. home recently.
Was the 29th season originally supposed to air last fall?
There’s no point in denying it. We made the show in the summer. We’ve been on in the fall over the last couple of years; we wanted to be on in the fall. However, what we want and what the network wants isn’t always exactly the same thing. They wanted to try something different in the fall so we didn’t make that season’s schedule. Not for lack of trying or us not wanting to be there. They just decided, ‘You know what. Thanks very much. We want to try something else.’ Obviously, a lot of Race fans were not happy about that – and I can tell you all of us who make the show don’t want to wait, either. It’s a very competitive television market today and how am I to judge the most-watched network in the world? They know what they are doing. They’re not a bunch of schmucks.
How did you feel about the move from Sunday nights to Thursdays?
I wouldn’t necessarily choose that timeslot but I’m not in charge of the scheduling. I love where we were on a Sunday night. But again, it’s not for me to decide. We’re very lucky to be on a network, lucky to have a timeslot and just lucky to be airing! So rather than griping and moaning about it, I’m like, ‘OK, let’s see what we can do with this.’
Do you anticipate a 30th season?
Well, it’s really hard to tell. Look, the show’s been rating really well and people have been responding really well to the show. Our fans want the show to continue. I certainly believe the show deserves to come back for 30 because I still believe it’s a quality show and can stand next to the best of any of the reality shows in terms of what it offers. This particular season is a really good one. The first show was a little slow coming out of the gate, in my opinion, because of the people getting to know each other, but the fans loved it. What you’re going to see is that it took about 80 hours before the sparks really started to fly, which is about episode three, and we’re going to kick into high gear by about episode five. And then it’s a really great finish all the way to the end.
Have you seen the Canadian version of The Amazing Race?
I have, yeah. It looks great. It has a very distinctive Canadian feel and tone. It’s definitely struck a chord with the Canadian audience. Overall, it’s great for the Race franchise. I think the Canadian version is probably the most successful of the formats internationally – and yeah, good on them.
Do you think Kiwis and Canadian have adventurous spirits in common?
I lived in Canada for four years when I was a kid. My dad was lecturing at [University of] Guelph [in Ontario] and McGill [University in Montreal]. As a kid, I drove across Canada in a Volkswagen Westfalia van and visited all the National Parks. My dad’s a plant scientist so we drove right across Canada in the ‘70s, a couple of times actually. I like the Canadian mindset. There are a lot of similarities with the British connection to the New Zealand psyche. I think it’s the pioneering spirit and a similar heritage ... that English background. We like our tea and we like going out and about.
And we like our Amazing Race!