'The Amazing Race' producer talks about the upcoming season
By Reality TV World staff, 09/23/2008
After twelve seasons, The Amazing Race viewers have grown used to seeing the show's contestants participate in some unusual or potentially dangerous tasks as they race around the world. However, according to co-creator and executive producer Bertram van Munster, the show will be kicking the danger level up a notch during this fall's thirteenth edition.
"[This season] you will see a tricky one where you will wonder 'How in the world did they have the guts to do this?' You are really going to wonder," van Munster told Reality TV World in an exclusive interview last week.
"I look[ed] at it and I [went] 'Oh what was I thinking? Oh my god, this could go very wrong.' And then it does."
But despite the unexpected task drama, The Amazing Race's thirteenth season -- which filmed this past summer and will premiere this Sunday at 8PM ET/PT on CBS -- will still feature the same structure and elements the show has become known for, according to van Munster.
"I think it's an unbelievable trek around the globe," he told Reality TV World. "We have a fun cast [and] we had a great time with them. They performed splendidly, they were exhausted, they were furious with each other, they loved each other, they were ready to give up. You name it, all of the emotions you can possible imagine on [a show] like this."
Unlike CBS' other long-running Big Brother and Survivor reality series, which have regularly used new twists over the years, The Amazing Race's thirteenth season stuck to a format very similar to the show's previous editions -- a move van Munster said was a deliberate decision to adhere to the six-time Emmy-winning show's original concept.
"The more you start messing with an original concept, usually it doesn't get much better. It doesn't really improve," he said.
Instead, van Munster said he placed additional emphasis on designing intriguing task challenges for the new season.
"What I've done [for this season is] I've come up with so many insane challenges that it should do the trick and I think it will be plenty exciting for an audience to watch it," he told Reality TV World.
Rather than moving away from the show's original concept, The Amazing Race 13 will actually attempt to return closer to it and feature "clues" -- which despite their name, have devolved into more basic instructions over the years -- that are a bit more challenging and closer to those used in the show's initial editions.
"I think that you'll definitely see it... we really try to go back to the old ways so the audience doesn't feel like we're 'FedEx-ing' people around the world," van Munster told Reality TV World.
"We are very diligent and I am extremely aggressive about it that the show stays really truly original and [as] distinct to the original core as possible."
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In addition, the season also happened to play out as one of the few The Amazing Race editions in which one of the competing teams failed to make it to the course's finish line -- an unexpected development that was welcomed by van Munster.
"I like it when people don't make it to the finish line," he said.
Non-elimination Pit Stops will also return as part of The Amazing Race's thirteenth season, according to van Munster, who said he was unsure why fellow executive producer Jonathan Littman had incorrectly told reporters -- and van Munster had then subsequently confirmed -- the stops had been eliminated from last fall's twelfth edition.
"That was our mistake," van Munster, who admits to not being a fan of the non-elimination Pit Stops, said of the confusion. "We probably all had jet lag, but there's always a non-elimination in there."
Last season's new Speed Bump tasks -- the show's latest version of a penalty for the team that arrives last at a non-elimination Pit Stop -- will return for The Amazing Race's thirteenth season, according to the producer.
Viewers will also see a broader range of equipment brought by the contestants this season, including a decision by "Best Friends" team members Mark Yturralde and Bill Hahler to run the race using extra small backpacks.
"We had people showing up with 80-pound backpacks and we had people showing up with almost nothing," van Munster said. "It's their choice. This is a true reality show. You show up with whatever you have and then we turn you loose and you have to figure out how to do it. We don't sit there and guide [contestants] and manipulate it and edit it and all of that nonsense. We just turn them loose and off you go."
Van Munster said that while the thirteenth season's course -- which covers approximately 30,000 miles of travel and is similar to the length of last fall's edition -- is shorter than most of the show's previous seasons, it features many "really original" locations and will not seem short to viewers.
"If you look at where we're going it's unbelievable," van Munster said. "There are a couple of straight-line-shots that make the mileage a little shorter, but we are going all over the place on this one."
"If you look at it you say 'How can it [only] be 30,000 miles?' ... we have such insane plane rides."
Along the way, The Amazing Race will visit Bolivia, Kazakhstan and Cambodia for the first time this season.
"When I went to Kazakhstan everyone thought I was going to pull a Borat on them," van Munster said with a laugh.
In addition, Cambodia also proved to be difficult due to the country's lack of organized transportation systems.
"The infrastructure consists of mopeds, taxis, and buses -- and lots of them -- so it doesn't make [travel] easy," van Munster explained.
Overall, van Munster said he was extremely pleased with the season's result.
"I'm very proud of it," he said. "It's an insane race once again."