“The Amazing Race”: And they’re off, again!

Well, would you jump off a 700-foot dam for a chance at a million dollars? It’s scary, but it’s just another day on the “Amazing Race.” Over the past 21 years, the CBS reality show has raced more than 600 intrepid souls around the world, two by two – a global odyssey that tests the limits of their endurance, the limits of their dignity and strength. of their relationship.

And as with any game show, you can’t help but wonder what you would do if you were in their shoes.

In that spirit, “Sunday Morning” correspondent Tracy Smith went along to the season 34 premiere of “The Amazing Race” last May.

Before the pandemic, teams flew commercial airlines. But for safety sake they now use chartered 757s. “We’ve never done this before; it’s a nice change,” said Phil Keoghan, who has been host for all 34 seasons. “And maybe after two decades of doing the show, we’ll take it, yeah!”

Smith and Keoghan knew the plane was bound for Munich, Germany. But none of the contestants aboard had a clue. “I think it’s wild that we’re watching them; they have no idea!” Smith said.

“I don’t know where they’re going,” Keoghan said. “I mean, can you think of someone getting on a plane and literally having no idea where they’re going? Can you imagine?”

But they could sense that once they started their amazing run in Germany, things were going to get kind of hectic.

The contestants started the 34th “Amazing Race” in Munich, Germany.

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Executive producer Bertram Van Munster has directed nearly every minute of every leg of every race since its inception in 2001. Von Munster is particularly close to co-executive producer Elise Dognery. The two are married and have traveled the world together in the name of great TV.

She was the one who thought of the whole thing, inspired by a backpacking trip she took with her college roommate. “I thought, ‘If we put people who know each other together, there’s definitely going to be drama,'” Dogneri told Smith.

And what’s happened since then is TV history: “The Amazing Race” has become a perennial favorite on the network’s schedule, and winner of 10 Emmys for best competition show — more than any other. .

In 21 years of production, the race has been to nearly 100 countries, logging more than a million miles, and counting.

“Did you imagine that?” Smith asked.

“No,” Dognery replied. “We filmed the first season of the show, I was working in commercials. I took a leave of absence. I said to Bertram, ‘Should I quit? We sold the show.’ He said, ‘No, no, no, don’t quit your job, it’s television, you don’t know if it’s going to be renewed or cancelled.’ And then the show started and I said, ‘Brit, what do you think?’ And he goes, ‘You should quit your job.’

“And so, we took the risk.”

But now, 34 seasons in, Wayne Munster says it all still makes him as nervous as ever.

Smith asked, “So, did you sleep last night?”

“No, no, I slept maybe three hours,” he replied.

“Because you’re wondering what’s going to happen next?”

“Even after all these years.”

“That’s a lot of details!”

“It’s a lot of details, but I like it,” Wayne Munster said. “As they say, the devil is in the details.”

And there are many more details:

For the Munich leg alone, racers had to complete not one. Three The tasks, all inspired by Oktoberfest: First, roll a beer keg down an obstacle course in under a minute. Second, saw through a log; And three, break a huge block of ice. Once completed, they will have three parts of the clue they need to finish the leg.

The producers of “The Amazing Race” usually do a test run the day before, rain or shine, to make sure something is safe and actually doable. And just for that part of the run, they let Smith and her producer (her husband, John D’Amilio) do the honors.

Tracy Smith tests her barrel rolling metal.

CBS News

Log sawing was little better than beer keg rolling.


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And the Ice Block Challenge was something else. The idea was to patiently chip away at the ice until you found a small piece of gold. But Smith’s producer isn’t exactly a “sick” guy.

Talk about meaning. Tip: Large mallets work best.

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The producers then took away the big malt.

They often make adjustments before the race starts, but once the race starts, there are no do-overs. “There’s no stopping,” Wayne Munster said. “It’s always go, go, go, go, go. We don’t interrupt. We don’t second take. Never second take. Absolutely none. Because it’s a game show.”

Yes, a game show, but some of the locations are truly amazing, and you never know when a priceless moment is going to happen … or a rare moment of peace amidst the ringing of the bells in Munich.

The next morning, it was time to do what they came for. Before the start, camera crews spread out like distance runners, ready for the frenzy to come. And then – finally – Phil Keoghan said the words every contestant is dying to hear: “The world is waiting for you. Good luck, safe travels… Go!

We can’t tell you which team finished first in the first episode (you can find out later this week), but we can tell you that the race started as planned, and it was first. It was like wild.

Smith asked Dogneri, “Thirty-four seasons and the show wasn’t canceled. Why do you think the show survived?”

“Our background to the world is forever changing,” he replied. “We’ll never run out of places to film. And it’s great fun. It’s hilarious. We laugh at ourselves, but also travel the world and see places that you might not. Will never see. Lifetime.”

For contestants (even pretenders), it’s a chance to learn a little about the world and themselves in ways they never imagined.

And for the show’s creators, you get the sense that it’s all still pretty amazing to them.

“We thought we’d only be two seasons, maybe one season,” Dogneri said. “I never in a million years thought we’d still be doing this.”

Click the video player below to watch a preview of the 34th season of “The Amazing Race”:

The Amazing Race Season 34 Preview (Mixed) by the
Amazing race On

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Story by John D’Amilio. Editor: Steven Tyler.

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