'The Amazing Race' execs reveal big changes after 20-month Season 33 shutdown and what was frustrating
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 01/03/2022
The Amazing Race producers have revealed how Season 33 changed following its 20-month shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and what "frustrated" production.
The Amazing Race executive producers Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri postponed production of the show's 33rd season in February 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic after filming three legs, or essentially three episodes, in London, England and then Glasgow, Scotland.
But when filming resumed, not all of the teams had found their way back to The Race. In fact, two teams dropped out and only seven pairs of Racers returned, Varietyreported.
"Certain people had just extenuating circumstances that frustrated us and them and everybody really tried to make everything work so everybody could come back," Elise told Variety.
But there was also a big change for the teams that were capable of continuing their race around the world.
"A lot of them during COVID started running and working out," Elise shared, "so some of them came back and were super buff!"
And because their time and experience together on the show extended over more than a year, "they are probably the closest group of people we've ever had, because it was over so much time," Elise noted.
"I think some of them actually stayed in touch during COVID and during the shutdown."
Teams reportedly ran a limited race route through a handful of Mediterranean countries with "remote areas or small cities" where coronavirus infection rates were low, and they were constantly tested for the virus on the road.
The teams also reportedly avoided public transportation, engaged with only vaccinated locals, and searched for clues and completed tasks in Switzerland followed by the French island of Corsica and Thessaloniki in Greece.
Teams finally raced through Lisbon, Portugal before reaching the finish line in Los Angeles, CA.
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"I kept thinking about what [or] how am I going to restart this? What am I going to say?" Phil explained.
"And then it came to me, I was gonna say, 'Welcome back to The Amazing Race... before we were so rudely interrupted, I was saying...' It's almost like, if you just took the end of the where we just finished in Scotland to the start of it and just lifted out all that time."
Phil also caught up with the Racers on-camera before they took off on Part 2 of their adventure.
"It was one of my favorite starts to a Race ever, if only because it just felt so good to be back," Phil told Variety.
"And we had some extra time to talk to everybody at that restart and to hear their stories. We heard about family members that had been lost. We heard about challenges that they all faced in life and how excited they were to be back again."
Phil wanted to remind people The Race is "a fun trip around the world" and "not a life and death thing."
"And yet we've all been through this over the last year with some serious stuff. We wanted that to be real. Because it's reflective of what our audience has been through in the last 19 months," he added.
Watching the season back was apparently a bit of an adjustment for the executive producers considering so much time had been spent in quarantine and social-distancing.
"We actually were watching the first two cuts right now and kind of taken back, because in the first episode, there's somebody at a table waiting for them. And one of the teams goes up and hugs them," Elise said.
"It's a little jarring at first, but exciting at the same time. It's like, 'Oh, wow, remember when?' You see the streets filled with people. And they're just running up to people, asking everybody questions."
Elise also revealed the Racers were not required to wear masks once the Race resumed this past fall.
"But they're wearing masks when they're on the plane and different areas," Elise noted.
"It's very different. You're not going to see the streets crowded with people like you did before and you're going to see them maybe standing a little further apart."
She elaborated, "They're not running up to Phil and hugging him on the mat. There's definitely a difference."
But now that COVID variants have emerged, producers made adopt a similar approach to filming the CBS reality series going forward.
"The only way to really figure it out is being out there and we did," Elise said of the new limitations.
"Were we super excited when that plane landed back at the finale at the end? Yes, wheels on the ground, back in our country. Everybody came home safe. And we were just super grateful. Our system worked. All the protocols and all the procedures that we put in place."
Elise concluded, "Nothing will stop us, because we know how to do it safely now."