Ready, Set... It's The Amazing Race: All-Stars Preview!
by Angel Cohn
Phil Keoghan, The Amazing Race: All-Stars
CBS' The Amazing Race doesn't hit the road again until this Sunday at 8 pm/ET — this time with an elite group of "all-stars" — and yet people are already buzzing about the return of Rob and Amber, and whether it is fair that one-time winners Uchenna and Joyce got invited back. When TVGuide.com asked affable host Phil Keoghan how the encores were chosen and if this season would in fact be harder than ever, we were relieved to make it through the Q&A without being Philiminated!
TVGuide.com: What made you want to do All-Stars?
Phil Keoghan: To be honest with you, in the beginning, I wasn't so keen on the idea of an all-star show because people started talking about it really early on in the Race franchise, like during Season 5. Over a period of time, as we got more and more really good teams, it just seemed like it had to happen. Then the big question was, "Who would we pick?" Because after 10 seasons we just had such a great range of teams from the very fresh-faced innocent racers, from David and Mary, to the old and cunning Guidos of Season 1.
TVGuide.com: I love Team Guido.
Keoghan: I would say of all the racers ever on The Amazing Race, they are the biggest fans who are ex-racers. I get e-mails from them all the time about whether they like my wardrobe, whether they like a particular eyebrow raise, if a certain team is bugging them....
TVGuide.com: Not shy at all.
Keoghan: No, they aren't shy. They seemed like they had to be in [All-Stars]. I was asked to submit a list of teams, so I put forward 15 teams. Ten of those that were picked were on my list. That's a good sign. The one team I didn't pick was Eric and Danielle, because I didn't think of that new combination, which actually is a really good one.
TVGuide.com: My personal favorite team, Kevin and Drew, made it, so I'm happy.
Keoghan: Really? You'll be interested to see what happens to them. They aren't exactly the same size they were before, they've got a few years on them, they are married now.... They are a lot of fun to watch, and I think you'll get a kick out of seeing what's happened to them since [Season 1].
TVGuide.com: Why'd you decide to let Uchenna and Joyce back on? They already won, and none of the other teams have.
Keoghan: It is an all-star show, so it is not about who won or who did really well or if you were eliminated early. The whole premise of All-Stars wasn't to pick the best racers, otherwise we could have done all the winners and teams in the top three. The goal was to pick the teams that have earned the most attention over the last 10 seasons.
TVGuide.com: Hence Rob and Amber.
Keoghan: Hence Rob and Amber. Hence Charla and Mirna. Hence Uchenna and Joyce. There has never been a more popular team that has won The Amazing Race, in my opinion, than Uchenna and Joyce.
TVGuide.com: Well, after she shaved her head and all....
Keoghan: People fell in love with them. We tried to get a balance of the heroes and the antagonists, and the people who are fun. You can only imagine how difficult it was to leave out teams like the bowling moms, the clowns and the gutsy grannies, Lynn and Alex.... There are so many great teams.
TVGuide.com: I usually root for the underdogs, but since everyone has done this once, are there any true underdogs?
Keoghan: There are plenty of underdogs, are you kidding?! They are on an equal footing, but then you have to balance everything else out. If you look at Uchenna, the guy has been one of the fastest sprinters in the world, he is lightning fast, and he's racing alongside someone like Charla, who isn't the fastest but has the biggest heart of anyone we've ever had on this show. That's the beauty of this race. There are people who epitomized being out of shape.
TVGuide.com: Are you talking about Kevin and Drew again?
Keoghan: [Laughs] No, I'm not just talking about them. There are a few of them who are pretty out of shape. There are some others who are in extremely good shape, and some who are quite shapely.
TVGuide.com: I would think that, knowing how hard it was the first time, they would have been in training.
Keoghan: But is it about physical fitness, or is it about training your mind? Or is it about being in the right place at the right time? How much difference does it make in The Amazing Race to be fit? That's what I love about the race.
TVGuide.com: Are there any fun twists that you threw in this time around?
Keoghan: The twists really come from the mix of people. For David and Mary, the biggest reality fans that you could find, to be racing alongside all of their heroes, people that they love, that's part of the twist. Do they stay enamored with these people, or do they think, "We are in this race, and we're all-stars and can win this as well"?
TVGuide.com: I've been getting a little flak for saying that I like Rob and Amber and that they are totally fun to watch.
Keoghan: Well, there are a lot of people who have already expressed that they are upset about them being in there. I think there would be more of an outcry if we left them out. Either way, we knew it was going to create some kind of controversy, or at least get a reaction from people. They had to be there. You can imagine that they elicit that same kind of reaction not just from fans, but from people who are actually in the race. People talk about them and what they think from the get-go.
TVGuide.com: Any alliances to look forward to?
Keoghan: There are definitely some interesting dynamics. There are a lot of individual teams in there, but there are also teams that have a history of following, or forming, alliances. They've had a chance to see themselves on TV and reflect on what they did right and wrong. The question is, will they take the same approach? Will they try a new approach? You'll see it all, I promise you. We've got a great course lined up. We're hitting South America and Africa, Europe, Asia... some exotic lands. And we're wanting to push things a little harder because they've done it before. You can imagine that Rob and Amber are at the starting line saying, "We're not going to be second again," along with the fact that they are racing against Uchenna and Joyce, who beat them last time.
TVGuide.com: Did you throw in more difficult challenges? It is All-Stars after all.
Keoghan: I would say that the challenges are definitely more difficult. But to be honest with you, we never take it easy on them. Every challenge that we've ever put on any show has been really designed to test people.
TVGuide.com: Are you up for another season after this?
Keoghan: I hope that the show keeps going. I don't know if it is being picked up, but the ratings have continued to improve.
TVGuide.com: Any more episodes of your Discovery Channel show No Opportunity Wasted?
Keoghan: Yeah, we sold the format to New Zealand and did six episodes down there. It did really well, it was the highest-rated show that they've had in that time slot on that network, ever! It is now in development in Canada, so hopefully we'll sell it all around the world.
TVGuide.com: And in all your spare time, you did animated segments with stories of yours on CBS' Innertube.
Keoghan: Yeah, they're fun. Someone came up with a great idea for that content.
TVGuide.com: Much use for your reindeer-racing license?
Keoghan: [Laughs] I guess if I was single, it would be a great pickup line, but it is more just something to tell my grandkids about.
TVGuide.com: Back to the Race, we here in the office just have to know how bad the racers smell when they get up to the mat.
Keoghan: There are times when they've arrived at the mat having swum through a bog in Finland, or manure in Season 4.... They really don't smell so good. There are times when my eyes water from the smell, hence my reluctance to embrace them fully. I have to be selective. I've also had people who have prepared themselves with aftershave or some perfume in order to smell a little better when they arrive.
TVGuide.com: That's considerate.
Keoghan: I think so!
TVGuide.com: Anything else exciting to look forward to starting Sunday? Cars breaking down? Run-ins with the law?
Keoghan: Cars will break down, things will break down, and people will break down.... People will miss flights, and some interesting things beyond our control will happen. It happened to me even. Last year, I got locked up in the Ukraine in immigration. This season, I lost my bag, with my wardrobe, for five days.
TVGuide.com: So we'll see you in the same outfit for, like, three challenges?
Keoghan: I had to do a little on-the-fly shopping. I always leave a spare shirt with the pit-stop captains in case my bag goes missing. God forbid I should get stinky.
TVGuide.com: I've got my fingers crossed for another season.
Keoghan: I hope so. Maybe they'll be doing the show for senior citizens one day, and I'll be walking out on one of those Segways. Or maybe they'll have little hovercrafts. [In a creaky old voice] "Teams must now make their way to the moon.... "
TVGuide.com: Who knows, maybe we'll be on Mars by then.
Keoghan: I'm ready for it!