The Amazing Race turns the big 3-0 on Wednesday, Jan. 3, and the CBS veteran reality series is celebrating by pitting the most competitive teams it could find against each other knowing that only one team will emerge victorious.
The landmark season kicked off in Washington Square Park in New York City in October, where TV Guide met host Phil Keoghan for our semi-annual chat about the upcoming season. The host reflected on reaching 30 seasons, why the race is still going and what fans are going to get out of the upcoming episodes, featuring pro-athletes, a divisive Big Brothercouple, firefighters, cops, and moms who do yoga with goats.
How does it feel to be at Season 30?
Phil Keoghan: It feels great to be at Season 30. It's such a milestone. We weren't really sure if we were going to have a chance to come back and do 30, to be honest with you. The fact that we get to this milestone number of 30 seasons is really a great opportunity. I think everybody is really pumped up for this season and I think the stakes are a lot harder this season. We have the most competitive teams, collectively, on paper that we've ever had. You just look at the credentials of every single one of these teams.
When you look back at Season 1 until now, what are you proudest of in terms of what you guys have achieved and what has surprised you the most out of this journey?
Keoghan: I think the thing that I am most proud of on The Amazing Race is the consistent quality of the show. I feel like there's been a real focus on blue chip storytelling. Every element on this show I feel has really set a standard for what can be done. The logistics of this show is just insane. We shoot 12 shows in 21 days...We've continued to embrace new technology with the way that we shoot the show. We've stuck with the original format, but we've continued to polish it. I feel really privileged that I've gotten to work with a world class team who will settle for nothing but the best. They're about perfection. When you have a bunch of really good people who are all striving to do their best work, it pushes you to want to be better, season after season. We've never dropped the ball. We've always strived to do better every season.
When did you realize the show was working and that it would become something?
Keoghan: Early on, I never really felt like the show was going to go on and on and on. I thought that we would make a show and then we would wait to hear if people liked it and whether we would get an opportunity to do it another time. I never saw too far ahead. I was always just thinking, "Oh, I hope we get to do it one more time." Suddenly, you turn around and you realize you've got five seasons under your belt and you really can't believe, "How did we get to five?"
So honestly, when we got to Season 5 I realized we had this body of work behind us and that we were starting to hit our stride. We were becoming part of the zeitgeist. We were part of popular culture. We had a few Emmy wins under our belt and this thing could continue for a while longer yet. We experimented in Season 8 with a family edition, which was probably, I believe our first and only stumbling block. It just didn't work. To be honest with you, I thought it would work more than it did. There's just something about eliminating children on a reality show that just didn't work, but we tried it. I'm still really proud that we tried it. The teams of two racing around the world, that dynamic with adults works. The inter-generational, the couples, the best friends, siblings, I think that works really well. We've really honed the show.
How did you guys approach Season 30? Did you have any specific goals in mind?
Keoghan: I would say our goal for Season 30 was to pick the most competitive teams in the history of The Amazing Race. If you look on paper who we have lined up on the starting line this season, you will see that we have teams who have the best of the best in their chosen field. They are hot shots and hot dogs in their chosen field. There's a few wildcards thrown in there like a team of super moms who came up with goat yoga. Also some musicians from a quartet called, "Well Strung," who are two fit violinists. I feel like of all the teams we have, they are kind of the wild cards. Everyone else, if you look at their qualifications, they are the best of the best in their chosen fields.
We've got a lot of athletes.
Keoghan: We've got a lot of athletes this time. One of the things that I'm really interested to see this season is what happens when you have some NBA all-stars and they go up against some super moms who are used to doing goat yoga. Anyone who has done yoga knows that it's not as easy as it looks. I'm not saying that the athletic abilities of two super moms doing yoga can compete with NBA players, but I am saying that there's something about Amazing Race that is a great equalizer. It's not just about being strong, fit or agile. There is a lot of luck involved. There's a lot of cognitive power that you need to have on Amazing Race. You need to make really smart decisions while you're jet lagged, and maybe Team Yoga, maybe they're going to be able to deal with the pressure of this race more than our Indy 500 drummers.
The Amazing Race premieres Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 8/7c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS)
Additional reporting by Joyce Eng