(CBS Local) – The filming of season 33 of the CBS Original show, ‘The Amazing Race’ started out like any other season with eleven globetrotting teams, collecting clues and vying for the $1 million prize.
Then, COVID hit.
Out of an abundance of safety for the cast and crew, production was suspended in February of 2020, just six days and three legs into the race.
Fast forward nearly 20 months and what host Phil Keoghan calls the “longest pit-stop in the show’s history.” He credits co-creators and executive producers Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri with orchestrating a plan to get the challenge back on track while keeping the contestants safe.
“Bertram and Elise who are the show runners – they’re the ones that really spearheaded the the challenge of getting back out onto the road along with our executive in charge of production, Mark Vertullo,” said Keoghan. “Many, many hours of talking through a plan, how it was going to work. A lot of thought about how we were going to reset the race.”
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Keoghan says viewers can expect the same competitive spirit, fast-paced action and fun you’d expect in any other season, but with a few necessary changes, adapting with the changing world and keeping safety first.
“The responsibility was not just to the people in front of the camera, but also the people behind the camera. Right, so how do you how do you get everybody out into the world and then back home safely again, to their families,” said Keoghan. “It’s our number one priority, which is why we stopped in the first place, but we certainly didn’t want to go out and restart the race and then have to like stop at a second time.”
But, in a season that usually films all twelve shows in only 21 days, would the contestants see this extra long break as a negative or a positive? Keoghan sees this as a unique opportunity for everyone to reflect on the first few legs and reassess their strategy.
“What do we need to do next time if we get a chance to come back? Do we need to be fitter? Do we need to change the way that we read clues?… it was very interesting to see,” said Keoghan.
While some changes may not be evident, there is one big one you’re sure not to miss. For the remainder of the season, airport terminals are off-limits. Instead, the show chartered a 757 to fly from stop to stop, complete with a “The Amazing Race” logo on the side.
“It’s actually one of the jets that some NFL and NBA teams have used in the past. And that was a real game changer for us because suddenly we were able to protect people and ensure that we weren’t running through airports and exposed to the general public,” said Keoghan.
Sadly, after so many months between filming, not all of the original teams are returning for the rest of the season.
“Nineteen months is a long time. People’s lives change. They move on from relationships. They change jobs, they move cities. So we knew that the longer we suspended the race, the harder it was going to be to have everybody come back,” said Keoghan
But, he says they’ve come up with an “interesting twist” that he thinks fans will be pleased with.
Watch ‘The Amazing Race’ on Wednesday, January 19th at 9pm on CBS as the teams gather in Switzerland to ‘restart the race’. Also streaming live and on demand on Paramount+.