Amazing Race, The


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

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About

The winner of fifteen Primetime Emmy Awards (as of May 2019), the globe-trotting competition show The Amazing Race is one of the most popular and longest-running programs of the reality show craze of the early 2000s. Each season of the show typically features eleven teams of two racing to different countries and performing mental and physical challenges for a chance to win a $1 million prize. While there have been exceptions in the show’s more than thirty seasons, the teams usually have a pre-existing relationship and much of the on-camera drama comes from how these relationships are tested by the stress of the competition. 

The show is hosted by New Zealand television personality Phil Keoghan and was conceived by partners Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster. Doganieri was inspired by a European backpacking trip she had taken with her college roommate where neither spoke the languages nor had much money. Van Munster sold the idea immediately to prolific film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. The show went into production in August 2000, with the first season filming in March and April of 2001.

The Amazing Race premiered September 5, 2001, mere days before the 9/11 attacks. Perhaps because of that unfortunate timing for a travel-themed show, coupled with the glut of new reality programming at the time, the show suffered from poor ratings for its first four seasons. However, a strong fanbase, favorable reviews, and award victories (including the inaugural Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program) kept the “bubble” show alive. Strong word of mouth lead to steady growth in the ratings, eventually resulting in season seven becoming the highest watched reality program of 2005. An unpopular “Family Edition” aired later that year, but the show remained a solid ratings performer for seasons to come.

A typical episode consists of one leg of the race, at the end of which the last team to reach the Pit Stop is eliminated. Each leg typically features two different challenges themed to the locale: a Roadblock, which only one member of the team can complete, and a Detour, where the team has a choice between two different challenges with one being more physically demanding and the other detail-oriented. Some legs feature a U-Turn where a team, after finishing the Detour, can force an ensuing team to complete both Detour challenges.

Doganieri and van Munster continue to act as the show’s executive producers, planning each season, choosing the destinations and working with a team to develop the challenges unique to each location. Over the show’s first thirty seasons, the show has visited 89 different countries. The international aspect of the competition creates multiple production challenges. All contestants are required to get travel visas for each destination (and for some additional locations not on the race). The teams are responsible for booking their own flights and those of a two-person audio/video production team. Travel decisions and mistakes can greatly impact the course of the race. For example, three teams have had to leave the race due to misplacing or losing their passports. The production team, which includes Doganieri and van Munster, stay just ahead of contestants and work with local crews and representatives to make sure each leg of the race goes smoothly.

In 2005, CBS began optioning the format to other countries which spawned over a dozen international spinoffs. Of those, The Amazing Race Canada, The Amazing Race China, and Israel’s The Race to the Million continue to air (as of May 2019). The show’s concept has also been unofficially adopted on a much smaller scale by many small cities and towns holding Race-themed scavenger hunts. The flagship US U.S. show has continued to tweak its formula and try different variations to keep things fresh. Recent variations include pitting existing couples versus blind date pairings (season 26), a season highlighting social media celebrities (season 28), teams consisting of total strangers (season 29), and a season consisting of returning teams facing off against contestants from fellow CBS reality competition shows Survivor and Big Brother (season 31).

-Jacob Rosdail, MFA Dept of Communication, University of Nebraska Kearney, May 2019

HOST

Phil Keoghan

CREATORS

Elise Doganieri

Bertram van Munster

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

CBS

September 2001- Current

SOURCES

Bloomenthal, Andrew (June 18, 2014). “Amazing Race’ Brain Trust Reveals Some Tricks to the Trade”. Variety.
https://variety.com/2014/tv/awards/amazing-race-brain-trust-reveals-some...

Eakin, Marah (December 6, 2013). “What’s it like to be a contestant on The Amazing Race?” The A.V. Club. https://tv.avclub.com/what-s-it-like-to-be-a-contestant-on-the-amazing-r...

Rhodes, Joe (November 4, 2006). “An Audience Finally Catches Up to “The Amazing Race”. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/16/arts/television/an-audience-finally-c...

Highlights
Elise Doganieri on coming up with the idea for The Amazing Race and how it changed longform storytelling
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on coming up with The Amazing Race show title
Lisa Kudrow on how The Amazing Race inspired her show The Comeback as well as other reality shows
Julian Gomez on his favorite episodes of The Amazing Race
Julian Gomez on the casts of The Amazing Race, and on the editorial staff of the show
Julian Gomez on winning Emmy Awards for The Amazing Race
Who talked about this show

Elise Doganieri

View Interview
Elise Doganieri on coming up with the idea for The Amazing Race and how it changed longform storytelling
Elise Doganieri and Bertram Van Munster on the importance of casting on The Amazing Race' s and why people want to be on it
Elise Doganieri and Bertram Van Munster on coming up with The Amazing Race show title
Elise Doganieri and Bertram Van Munster on what they each contribute to The Amazing Race and on why the show is compelling to viewers
Elise Doganieri and Bertram Van Munster on why they believe The Amazing Race is compelling to viewers
Elise Doganieri and Bertram Van Munster on how The Amazing Race has changed the perception of America to the world; and altered American's views of other countries
Elise Doganieri and Bertram Van Munster on the format of The Amazing Race: on why the participants must know each other before the show; on what it is like filming the show
Elise Doganieri and Bertram Van Munster on the biggest challenges in filming and producing The Amazing Race; on  unexpected complications with flights and other complications; on the crew and contestants not sleeping
Elise Doganieri and Bertram Van Munster on The Amazing Race premiere one week before 9/11; how 9/11 impacted the show
Elise Doganieri and Bertram Van Munster on choosing locations for The Amazing Race  and scouting in foreign countries
Elise Doganieri and Bertram Van Munster on The Amazing Race' s host Phil Keoghan; on how his role is different from other reality show hosts
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on the "Pit Stop" on The Amazing Race; on rules for crew and staff
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on the post-production on The Amazing Race and the role of writers
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on how clues are given on The Amazing Race; on what contestants are given and what they can/cannot use on the show 

Julian Gomez

View Interview
Julian Gomez on being assigned to edit various elements of The Amazing Race like the "Detour" or the "Roadblock"
Julian Gomez on how he came to edit for The Amazing Race, and on the show's near cancellation
Julian Gomez on the editing challenges he faced when he joined The Amazing Race
Julian Gomez on working with The Amazing Race creators Bertram Van Munster and Elise Doganieri
Julian Gomez on the casts of The Amazing Race, and on the editorial staff of the show
Julian Gomez on collaborating with the editorial staff of The Amazing Race
Julian Gomez on the logistics and details of editing for The Amazing Race
Julian Gomez on the process of editing an episode of The Amazing Race from start to finish
Julian Gomez on the challenges of dealing with sound when editing The Amazing Race
Julian Gomez on working with graphics and text on The Amazing Race
Julian Gomez on his favorite episodes of The Amazing Race
Julian Gomez on winning Emmy Awards for The Amazing Race
Julian Gomez on the legacy of The Amazing Race
Julian Gomez on dealing with product placement on The Amazing Race

Lisa Kudrow

View Interview
Lisa Kudrow on how The Amazing Race inspired her show The Comeback as well as other reality shows

Bertram van Munster

View Interview
Elise Doganieri on coming up with the idea for The Amazing Race and how it changed longform storytelling
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on coming up with The Amazing Race show title
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on how The Amazing Race has changed the perception of America to the world; and altered American's views of other countries
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on what they each contribute to The Amazing Race and on why the show is compelling to viewers
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on why they believe The Amazing Race is compelling to viewers
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on the format of The Amazing Race: on why the participants must know each other before the show; on what it is like filming the show
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on the biggest challenges in filming and producing The Amazing Race; on  unexpected complications with flights and other complications; on the crew and contestants not sleeping
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on The Amazing Race premiere one week before 9/11; how 9/11 impacted the show
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on choosing locations for The Amazing Race  and scouting in foreign countries
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on The Amazing Race' s host Phil Keoghan; on how his role is different from other reality show hosts
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on the importance of casting on The Amazing Race' s and why people want to be on it
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on the "Pit Stop" on The Amazing Race; on rules for crew and staff
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on the post-production on The Amazing Race and the role of writers
Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster on how clues are given on The Amazing Race; on what contestants are given and what they can/cannot use on the show 
Elise Doganieri on coming up with the idea for The Amazing Race and how it changed longform storytelling

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