'The Amazing Race' producers reveal how they "safely" filmed global race during pandemic
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/14/2021
The Amazing Race producers have revealed how they managed to film a race around the world for Season 33 "safely" amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Amazing Race executive producers Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri hoped to map out a "Plan B" alternative route or end up filming solely in South America once coronavirus began to spread in February 2020, but as the world went into lockdown, so did production.
"I knew there was something really wrong here," Bertram, who postponed production as a precaution after filming through The Race's third leg or Episode 3, toldVariety.
The cast had already traveled to London, England and then Glasgow, Scotland when producers "sent everybody home" without hesitation.
Luckily, before the show was postponed, Bertram filmed a transition in Glasgow to use as a bridge for the restart, which he initially thought would only be two months later -- not almost two years.
"But we shot a transition and that hooked in very well with the start of the next episode," he shared.
Over a year-and-a-half later, The Amazing Race resumed in Zurich and concluded production in Fall 2021.
"We had to prove that we could do the show safely," Elise explained. "And we went through a number of variations on how to do the show, picking locations. Where can we go that was safe? How could we fly them around?"
The solution was for The Amazing Race teams and crew to fly exclusively by private chartered plane once the Race resumed.
A chartered 757 jet with an The Amazing Race logo on the side flew everyone from Pit Stop to Pit Stop so cast and crew wouldn't have to enter crowded airports, Variety reported.
"It actually opened up a whole new world for us of how to do this in a very different way, but still have the same feel and energy," Elise explained.
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But since the teams always traveled together, Elise said it created "a close race" every single time the plane touched down in the next city.
"I think you're going to really like the way the show plays out with this plane. It might be the wave of the future, but I don't know if it'll be affordable for a global trip," Elise noted.
And teams ran a limited race route through a handful of Mediterranean countries with "remote areas or small cities" where coronavirus infection rates were low.
The teams searched for clues and completed tasks in Zurich and Lugano, Switzerland followed by the French island of Corsica and Thessaloniki in Greece. Teams also raced through Lisbon, Portugal before reaching the finish line in Los Angeles, CA.
"We looked very carefully so we could do two or three shows in a country, which we normally don't do," Bertram said. "These were all handpicked areas where they had the least amount of COVID, where we had freedom to go into a lot of areas where there's nobody there."
The cast also avoided public transportation, including taxis and presumably trains, and only interacted with locals who had tested negative for COVID-19 and were vaccinated.
Elise told Variety that she was a big fan of Racers driving themselves to certain locations, making for "the best TV" in her opinion.
"Nothing makes these contestants more crazier than when they have to figure out how to get somewhere without a GPS device," Elise teased.
Teams, however, were also able to utilize some buses and shuttles.
"We also stayed out of those places that we felt were going to be filled with people that weren't tested. So everybody that worked on our crew -- every judge, every person that you'll see around the contestants -- has been tested and vaccinated," Elise said.
"That was just part of our strict protocol rules, but it will feel and look like The Amazing Race. You really won't feel any different from what you're seeing."
Although Elise admitted the process was "a little nerve wracking," Bertram recalled there being "no issues in any of the countries."
"It was easy in Switzerland, easy in Greece and France, and it was not a problem in Portugal," Bertram confirmed.
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."