Break out your guidebooks and passports — The Amazing Race is finally back. The fifth edition of TV's best reality show (and they have an Emmy to prove it!) kicks off tonight at 9:30 pm/ET on CBS. The 90-minute premiere finds a new bunch of wayfarers racing across the globe in pursuit of that $1 million jackpot. Here, host Phil Keoghan — whose travel smarts and fashion sense have earned him his own fan following — shares some details about the upcoming season, including a major new challenge the teams must face.
TV Guide Online: Was it a thrill to get on the road again?
Phil Keoghan: It was, yeah. This one felt like the first season again — it had the same sort of fresh energy. I think that's because of the Emmy Award. To get that recognition gave everybody the incentive to try and make this show bigger.
TVGO: Was that Emmy the main reason CBS ordered a fifth season?
Keoghan: I can't see how it hurt. I don't know whether [Race] wouldn't have come back without it, but it certainly gave the show a tremendous amount of credibility. There seems to be a lot more attention. I think we have a second chance to find a whole new group of people who will watch it.
TVGO: How will Season 5 differ from the past races?
Keoghan: This year, we have this new element [called] Yield. Each team is allowed to use the Yield once — it's a way for them to stop a team that's behind them from moving forward. They can stop them for a predetermined amount of time at a particular point in the leg. [The yielded team] has to wait, even as other teams pass them. The challenge is, when do you use the Yield and what are the ramifications? Do you use it at the beginning or save it for the end? Which team do you target? And if they survive it, will have they a vendetta against you?
TVGO: How does this cast stack up to its predecessors?
Keoghan: It's a top cast. This time, we've got strength of character across the board. There were a number of major contributions made by multiple teams. It wasn't just isolated to a few standouts. That's crucial. If we were ever going to get it right, this is the time to do it because there will be more eyes on us than in previous seasons.
TVGO: One contestant is a reality vet — Alison from Big Brother 4. How did she fit in here?
Keoghan: I thought it was a nice touch to take somebody who had been a reality-TV participant before and put her into a completely different reality format. That also brings with it fans who love to hate her or love to love her.
TVGO: You've done this five times now. Are you recognized on streets all over the world?
Keoghan: Outside the 42nd Street public library in New York, this guy runs up and says, "Will you Philiminiate me?" Fans never ask me to tell them they've won the $1 million — they just like the Philiminations. So this man and his wife ran around the corner, and I had to eliminate them with a straight face. And he was critiquing me! He was like, "No, you've gotta look more serious!"
Keoghan: We're working towards it, but we don't know yet. We're definitely preparing. What it'll come down to is where and how we'll turn the show around so quickly. Logistically, it's a bit of a challenge. It takes about a month or so to do each season, and it's a pretty frantic period of time.
TVGO: Anything you'd like to say to Amazing Race fans? Keoghan: Let's see if we can keep this thing going! Tell a friend to make this appointment viewing and sit 'em down because people that see it generally stick with it. Obviously, ratings will speak, so I hope fans spread the word. Also, we'd like to thank the people that have hung in there with us — [CBS notices] that we have a core fan base, and that's absolutely crucial. It's given us huge inspiration to keep going. And this season is kind of like a new beginning. I think they should be pleased with what they see.