`Amazing Race' 18 goes high and wide
Phil Keoghan will need a much bigger hair and makeup trailer now that "The Amazing Race" is finally, for its 18th edition, in high definition.
Suggest that possibility to Keoghan, and you'll get the famous raised eyebrow. (It's the left. The right goes nowhere.)
In 18 runs around the world for "The Amazing Race," Keoghan has curled up at the Pyramids in Egypt and shampooed his hair beside a road in China. Between "Race" seasons, he bicycled from Los Angeles to New York, picking up a load of gravel in his hip and face in a scary fall. As a man who wastes no opportunity for adventure, he isn't inclined to think too much about whether his nose is shiny.
While teams race for $1 million, Keoghan races to keep one step ahead and arrive on the mat before they do. Last winter, he spent 23 days on the road with contestants he already knew, as 11 teams who didn't win the first time returned to settle what's being called "Unfinished Business."
"Going out with a new cast is always a gamble," Keoghan said during a recent visit to St. Louis. "You worry they'll turn out to be wishy-washy."
With returning teams, "We had more of a guarantee, because these people had a proven track record. But rather than all-star teams, it's more like they have all-star stories — the unfortunate pee break, the lost passport, the bad taxi driver."
Oh, the bad taxi driver.
"Taxis!" Keoghan says. "They've been hands-down the biggest obstacle teams have faced in the race."
Eliminating a team is always tough, he says, "but this time maybe it was even harder because I knew them better. The first elimination is always the hardest, because nobody wants to be first to go."
The big news for the new season is that "The Amazing Race" is now in high-def.
"HD is a dramatic change," Keoghan says. "And I really think it's come at the right time, giving us something new to talk about, something to sell the show around after 17 seasons."
Possibly TV's most HD-worthy show, "The Amazing Race" has been criticized for remaining in standard definition.
"But that was because of the difficulty of producing a show like this," Keoghan says. "It's not the same as being in a studio. We're shooting in humidity, in rain, in dust storms. What if you're in Bangladesh and the camera goes down?"
The good news is that "we found a way to execute in HD, and the show looks sensational." A change to widescreen format also allows space for more information on screen, without blocking too much scenery, while Keoghan talks about where the teams are or what they're doing.
But remember, before you ask how he keeps busy when the teams are running around, that "95 percent of what I do is behind the scenes — rewriting the script, dealing with logistics, setting up my shots. It's just me, a sound guy and a cameraman, so it's hard."
This season, Keoghan shot a lot of behind-the-scenes footage for segments to air online.
"Viewers are really savvy, and they want to know the process," he says. "The behind-the-scenes segments will give fans a sense of what it takes to make the show and what the teams are doing when you're not seeing them."
Some things never change, though, and that includes teams' struggles to read maps and drive stick-shift foreign cars.
Surely, by now, the "Unfinished Business" teams learned to drive a stick?
"Some people," Keoghan says, "I don't think will ever learn to drive a stick shift."http://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/television/gail-pennington/article_2fd325d1-9c98-5755-9d6e-fa0dd0d8b80f.html