After more than a year of waiting, Amazing Race fans can finally exhale. The highly anticipated reality TV showdown that is season 31 is set to pit your favorite former Racers against some Survivor and Big Brother heavyweights for an all-out battle as they trek around the world for that $1 million prize.
Host Phil Keoghan is “ridiculously excited” for the premiere — even 31 seasons and nearly two decades into the CBS series’ run — mainly because, he jokes to Us Weekly, he’s “so over fans asking me on the street for the last year when the show is coming back.”
“Sorry, I’m just excited because now I can say it’s next Wednesday, it’s April 17 and it’s really good,” Keoghan adds. “So I’m very excited.”
Here, Keoghan further breaks down what fans can expect:
Us Weekly: What do you think the secret is to the show’s longevity?
Phil Keoghan: You know, the idea is so strong at its core that it still feels fresh. And if anything, the concept is more a part of the zeitgeist now — the idea of traveling the world and mixing with different cultures — than it was when we started in 2001. If you think about how the world has changed. … But I’ve always said Amazing Race, from season 1, I said, the world is waiting for you and it’s the way I start every race. And it’s something that I’m trying to also instill in the audience. Like the world really is out there. It’s waiting for you to be … it’s waiting for you to discover it. And we allow people to discover the world through the eyes of our team.
Us: Absolutely. So Jess and Cody from Big Brother won last season. Did that factor into bringing back more reality stars? How did the concept of this season come about?
PK: Well this reality clash is something that fans of all the shows have been talking about going way back. These three shows are the old school reality shows that have been around for all of them. We’re all now approaching two decades of having been on the air. And so there’s always been this discussion about, are the people on Survivor as feisty and would they be as good traveling around the world as they were on the island or in a house? And so there’s always been that discussion.
There are people who only watch Survivor and there are people who only watch Big Brother. And there were people who only watch Amazing Race, but there is also a massive amount of people that watch all of them. So you watched them because you love reality TV and you love you what the shows have to bring and all those three shows have all produced good quality programming for many, many years. And so the fans are the ones that have put that forward. I wouldn’t be lying if I said that not everybody is happy about the idea. Like some of the hardcore race fans who don’t watch the other two shows are … not everybody is happy about this idea. But what I will tell you is that they’re going … those people are going to be surprised when they see just how interesting it is to bring these people into the Amazing Race folks.
Us: Do you like when they bring people back or do you like when there’s fresh new players? Which one’s more fun for you?
PK: For me, I’m not a big fan of star-studded reality shows. I like watching the fresh people come in. That’s my personal preference. However, I will tell you that this season surprised me in terms of the way it played out and it was really interesting. Would I want to do it all the time? No, I really do like Race at its core and look just so people who are longstanding Race fans. They’re going to get that. It’s going to come in 32, but I like plucking people out of Kentucky and out of a coal mine and putting them on a plane when they’ve never been on a plane before. I just love that fish out of water element. But I also understand that people like to see some of their returning characters. Like how long have people been asking us to bring Colin and Christie back?
Us: That was my next question, yeah.
Phil: One of the more dynamic teams that we’ve ever had. And what’s interesting is they really are quite different people. They’re not the same people that we had on season 5. Now they’re married, they’ve got kids, they’re quite spiritual. There’s a different connection between them and they are quite different people. So fans of Colin and Christie, and fans of the show, they’re going to see that there’s a huge change in character in some of these people. They’re not all the same. … So yeah, it’s a good mix. The Survivor teams that we have on, they’re obviously extremely well known in the Survivor world and also in the Big Brother world, people know these teams. And we looked online to see who fans thought would be good potential contestants for the show and that’s sort of how we addressed who we should go after.
Us: I’m assuming because everyone’s been on reality TV before that the idea of an alliance or the idea of social dynamics is even stronger in a season like this.
PK: Yes, I mean, look, humans are tribal, right? We all belong to clubs. We are the alumni of some college. We have a sports team that we’ve being following since we were in the womb and our parents were screaming at the TV screen for their favorite team. And then we grew up and at 3 years old, they slap a New York Yankees cap on our head and we were suddenly Yankees fans for the rest of our lives. So we’re tribal at our core and so yeah, you’re going to see that people from their particular shows. They have something in common. They have that connection. I’m not going to tell you what happens once everybody gets together. It’s kind of interesting what takes place.
Us: Any new places that you were excited to visit?
PK: Well, we’ve never been to Laos before. It was our first trip there and it’s a really beautiful place in Asia. Really interesting history. And I love going to places like that because I just love when people get completely remote. It’s a landlocked country that’s bordered by Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, mainland China a little bit and also Myanmar. So there’s a real mix of cultures there and I love anytime we go to a new place. I was there about twentysomething years. I haven’t been back for a long, long time. It was great to go back.
Us: How familiar were you with the Big Brother and Survivor teams? Were you familiar with their reputations before the season?
PK: I knew of them. I didn’t know as much about them. I’m going to be totally honest with you. I’m traveling so much. I’m working so hard. I really do not watch a lot of TV. Just being at CBS, I do understand the passion for these shows because I see it. And also I watched with interest at how popular the shows still are. So no, absolutely. I mean, there’s such a part of popular culture. All of these teams, you can’t help but not know them. But I got to know them a little bit more and it was a really interesting experiment.
Us: Do you think one show has more advantage than the other in terms of just skill set?
PK: Well, I guess teams from other shows they could claim, oh the Amazing Racers have done it before. So maybe they have an advantage, but that said, Racers are not voted off. You’re really down to your own abilities. Right? It’s not about being popular. It’s not about winning friends and winning influence … if you can get from point A to point B faster than another team and get through the challenges faster than another team, you will do well. So to me it’s less about the fact that the Racers have done it before. It’s more about, well how well do you do anything in life? It’s really about using those life skills that they have and applying them in some remote place in the world and making it work. So that’s the part that I loved the most is when we have them doing things that are a part of the local culture.
Us: In terms of season 32, did you film that already?
PK: Yes. 32 is shot and I will tell you one of my favorite seasons. I mean we’ve been very lucky. This is why I’m so keen and so happy to be back. Last year, we aired at the beginning of 2018 and we had our highest ratings in about 10 seasons. We got that wonderful Wednesday time slot. We did really well in that time slot, which is what prompted us to get these two seasons picked up. And now it’s just a matter of us having a chance to share them.
Us: Maybe let’s not wait another year to air 32 if we can help it?
PK: Yeah. Well, I agree. When you make something, there’s so many people that pour their heart and soul into making something. You want to get it out. Trust me. You’re chomping at the bit to share it. You want it out. Too many secrets and just too excited about it. It’s like having a Christmas present, unwrapped Christmas present, sitting under the tree that you want to give to somebody and you just, you’re like, oh my God, I’m not allowed to open it today and not tomorrow and not yet. Now we have this chance to unwrap the gift.
The Amazing Race premieres on CBS Wednesday, April 17, at 9/8c.
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