'The Amazing Race' producer: Upcoming twelfth edition is a nail-biter
By Christopher Rocchio, 11/01/2007
If you listen to The Amazing Race co-creator and executive producer Bertram van Munster, the show's upcoming twelfth season sounds more like one of fellow executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer's blockbuster summer movies than a five-time Emmy-winning reality competition series.
"It's probably one of the best shows we've produced. I think it's a nail-biter. I think it's a lot of fun, a lot of drama, and a lot of humor," van Munster told Reality TV World about The Amazing Race 12, which is scheduled to premiere Sunday, November 4 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.
The Amazing Race 12 filmed this past summer following last spring's broadcast of the show's All-Stars edition. While van Munster said filming The Amazing Race: All-Stars was "fun," he was quick to add nothing beats a fresh crop of characters and competitors participating in the show.
"First of all, it's very difficult to choose the All-Stars [cast] because we have 250 people who really are all very good. It's a difficult choice procedure. And they act very differently once they have done it already once... They all think they know all the tricks of the trade," explained van Munster. "Now with a new group of people, you have the original fears and anticipation that to me is more exciting."
Also adding to The Amazing Race 12's excitement level, according to van Munster, is the fact that the show has done away with non-elimination legs, a format change executive producer Jonathan Littman first revealed at the Television Critics Association summer press.
"The audience and ourselves, we're not crazy about non-eliminations," said van Munster. "It's exciting to see people eliminated at the end of every episode."
Non-elimination legs have been part of The Amazing Race since the reality competition series first premiered in Fall 2001, and the show's fifth edition was the first in which teams were penalized for being the last to reach non-elimination Pit Stops. Doing away with non-elimination legs means there will also be no more penalties, an aspect that van Munster said will also make The Amazing Race 12 more fast-paced.
"Penalties just make it murky," he explained. "This is just such a clean-cut concept, it's not about finding more penalties and hurdles for people. That's not what this thing is about. I think the audience and our fans like eliminations from what we understand."
The fact that a team will be eliminated at the end of every The Amazing Race 12 leg will also keep the contestants on their toes.
"For the contestants, the heat's on every step of the way," added van Munster. "Every leg of the way the heat is on because they can be eliminated."
The Amazing Race 12 will begin with the 11 teams getting the green flag from host Phil Keoghan at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, CA. They'll immediately begin to fight for the best flights to Shannon, Ireland, where they'll face their first Roadblock of the season -- a bike ride on a high-wire 200-feet above the Atlantic.
Ireland is one of five new countries The Amazing Race 12 filmed in, along with Croatia, Lithuania and two African countries with names that van Munster said most people can't pronounce.
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"It's very exciting to go to new locations because we have gone to places where people have never seen a television camera or have never seen television," he explained. "But these are the people we also have to work with. So from a producer's perspective, it's more than exciting."
The Amazing Race 12's course will span approximately 30,000 miles in 21 days, making it one of the shortest courses in the show's 12 seasons (The Amazing Race's Fall 2005 Family Edition, which included young children and their families as contestants, also spanned 30,000 miles).
"There was really no reason," explained van Munster about the competition's shorter-than-normal course. "It was just the way the logic was laid out to go from which country to which country. It just happened to be like this. It's a very short Race in the sense it's 21 days -- still 30,000 miles in 21 days, which is a lot of traveling. The heat is really on this."
"The thought of really quick, unexpected travel is nothing new for us," Cothron told Reality TV World. "This show seemed to be a natural fit for us because we love to travel. We love to road trip. We feel very caged in if we stay in one spot for too long."
Like all previous The Amazing Race editions, each of the members of the 11 teams competing on the show's twelfth installment have a pre-existing relationship with one another. Five teams consist of couples who are married or dating, four teams are made up of family members, and two teams are friends.
But unlike most previous The Amazing Race editions, the cast doesn't contain any young all-male teams (five of The Amazing Race's nine previous non-Family Edition, non-All-Stars editions have been won by all-male teams, including the two most recent editions). Van Munster said "it was not intentional" that The Amazing Race 12 does not include any young all-male teams.
"The cast as it is now is really how it came out and is really what we love and thought we should go with," he said. "From my perspective, I think this is a great cast."
According to van Munster, it's also just a coincidence of sorts that 15 of the season's 22 racers are either from or currently reside in California.
"We always take people from all over the country, this just happened to be the case," he explained.
Two of the seven racers who aren't from California are Cothron and Fiala, who hail from Louisville, KY and dress in traditional Goth garb -- an unusual look they think actually helped them on the Race.
"Our appearances will be an advantage to us," said Cothron. "I think when we arrive in these different nations, people are going to be very curious as to who we are... When we're looking for help, I think quite honestly a lot of people are going to wonder, 'Hey, who are these guys?' I think there will be really willing to help."
While van Munster wouldn't divulge any twists featured on The Amazing Race 12, he said it is laid-out in a way that makes it possible for any of the 11 teams to win it.
"The Race should be able to be won by someone who is 58-years-old or 69-years-old," said van Munster. "The balance in laying out this course and the activities, it really is in-tune with what people can do, their physical ability and their mental ability. If you're in physical shape and you've got good mental shape, anybody can win this Race."
CBS had renewedThe Amazing Race for a twelfth edition in May, but announced that for the first time in three years, The Amazing Race would not premiere as part of the network's initial fall schedule launch and would instead air as midseason programming. However according van Munster, the change didn't really affect the twelfth edition's production, which still used to a production schedule similar to The Amazing Race's previous fall editions.
"We don't get involved in the [schedule] programming... it's not our jobs, it's not what we do," said van Munster.
Still, he added it was nice to learn The Amazing Race 12 would be airing earlier than expected as a replacement for Viva Laughlin, a musical drama series that CBS canceled after just one poorly-rated broadcast in its regularly scheduled Sundays at 8PM ET/PT time period.
"I was definitely pleasantly surprised it came back early," said van Munster. "Absolutely. I found it fantastic!"
The Amazing Race 12 is slated for an 11-episode broadcast run, which van Munster said will likely take it through the holiday season and into early January.
However since the show's original midseason replacement status means CBS only ordered one The Amazing Race edition for the 2007-2008 season, viewers are still unlikely to see another The Amazing Race edition this spring.
According to van Munster, even if CBS decides to order another edition immediately, there probably isn't enough time to cast, film and produce a thirteenth The Amazing Race edition in time for Spring 2008 broadcast.
"For the spring, it would probably not be possible," said van Munster. "[But] my mouth is under lock and key [about whether CBS has ordered another edition]."
While he wouldn't talk about The Amazing Race's fate beyond its twelfth season, van Munster did still hint that even if CBS doesn't air another edition this spring, viewers probably haven't seen the last of the show.
"By any stretch of the imagination to have 12 seasons of anything on the air on CBS is miraculous. It looks like we could go a little further than that," he said.