Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
In this week’s episode, Variety‘s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with “Amazing Race” executive producers Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri about their CBS reality hit, now in its 29th season.
Keeping the show fresh isn’t a challenge for them. “The world is a big place,” says van Munster. “We take (the contestants) to places they don’t know, they don’t recognize, very often they don’t speak the language. They always try Spanish, which doesn’t work in India.”
There are still a lot of places they haven’t been to, “including North Korea,” says van Munster. “We’re halfway through our Amazing Race,” says Doganieri.
Adds Doganieri, “Casting is also important to keep it fresh. It seems there was a whole new generation that has been born since the show first aired. And now they’ve grown up and they’ve always wanted to be on the show. We always have an influx of people who want to be on the show.”
Technology has changed tremendously since the show first launched, but they keep it old-school for the contestants once they’re on the show. “No technology allowed,” says Doganieri.
This season, for the first time, complete strangers were paired as partners on the “Race.” Van Munster admits he was a little worried about it. “In the first two episodes, they were courteous to each other,” he recalls. “But in the third episode, they really opened up…. This worked out.”
Adds Doganieri, “It’s another way of trying a social experiment. It’s about the relationship that they form during the process of being on the show. And then the story that’s told. Do they wind up as friends or do they want to kill each other in the end?”
But the duo — who are married — don’t journey together. “We travel in opposite directions,” says van Munster. “We have learned that this is not a good thing to do to travel together.”
They’ve divided the world between them — and their roles. “That’s what keeps the peace,” says Doganieri.
“Amazing Race” has won 10 Emmys so far, an impressive streak dating back to when the reality-competition category was first introduced in 2003. “It’s not done by luck, but with hard work, tremendous risk, liability, nervous breakdowns, you name it,” says van Munster. “If we get that thing, we are honored every time. We’re always in good company…. And when we get it, I’m severely humbled by it.”
You can listen to this week’s podcast here: