Phil Keoghan Is Ready to ‘Race’

Phil Keoghan of The Amazing Race and Tough As Nails
Phil Keoghan, host and executive producer of ‘The Amazing Race,’ says producing season 33 posed challenges. (Image credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images)

Season 33 of The Amazing Race begins on CBS with a two-hour premiere January 5, a fresh batch of two-person teams schlepping around the world and hoping to be the first to cross the finish line. 

Phil Keoghan is host and executive producer, roles he also holds down on another CBS competition series, Tough as Nails, which wrapped season three December 8. Keoghan spoke about the challenges of producing the globetrotting series and the new cast members on Amazing Race who viewers may already be familiar with. An edited transcript follows.

B+C: What’s the key to a show staying on for 33 seasons?

Phil Keoghan:  Consistency. There’s a standard that the team has managed to maintain for many, many years. It’s not easy to continue to produce something that still meets the high standards we set. You can’t just sit back and dial it in — you have to step up every time. The team we have, they strive for that.

We’re all looking to try to give it some kind of edge every season. The most common question I get is, what are you doing this season that’s new and different? It’s not that you have to do something necessarily new and different every time. It’s more the consistency of doing what you do well. The format works.  

B+C: Is there one cast member you can tell us about who might pop?

PK: We went about looking for some people that are part of the zeitgeist — who are people talking about? In this day and age, there’s a buzz around people doing new and different things. That was the premise with some of the people that we found. 

Taylor and Isaiah [Green-Jones] had that viral wedding dance video, a couple that sprung onto the scene and brought a lot of joy and smiles to people. Ryan and Dusty — Ryan was wrongly convicted of a crime and spent 10 years behind bars. He’s only 35 years old, so he lost a huge chunk of his life. Now he’s with his best friend and has the opportunity to go around the world and be free, literally.

Raquel and Cayla are flight attendants. They’re super smart and obviously travel savvy, and they just want to have a good time. 

One team people will probably talk about is Anthony and Spencer, the gentlemen who attacked an armed man on a Paris train back in 2015, which inspired the Clint Eastwood movie [The 5:17 to Paris]. Spencer literally jumped on top of a terrorist and risked his life and wrestled guy to the ground, supported by Anthony. They’re so-called ordinary people but they have great stories to share.

B+C: What’s your highlight of the new season?

PK: Coming back and shooting the restart. It’s not necessarily something we want to do again. It was just being able to bring the Race back together and finish off what we started. It was a huge achievement in a time when it’s so difficult to find normality in life. 

So much had transpired between the time we had to suspend the Race and start the Race, so it was just a great moment to bring everybody together, to hear their heartfelt stories, some of the challenges that they’ve been through. I got goose bumps talking to everybody, and knowing the fans are so desperate to see us back on air. 

I’m also just so proud of the team for getting us back on air. I’ve done quite a bit of production during COVID with Tough as Nails and it’s an incredibly difficult thing. To do it on a global scale adds a whole other layer of challenges.


B+C: What’s one Race moment across 33 seasons that makes you smile or laugh or cry more than the others?

PK: There are so many. Right from day one, and we’ve been talking a lot about this just because of the 20th anniversary of Amazing Race and starting in Central Park, way back, starting something that we just didn’t know … Everybody likes to be an expert after the fact: of course it was gonna be a success, of course it was gonna be the Race we all love. I never imagined that 20-something years later I’d be talking about Race and we’d have done as many loops around the world as we have and the show has achieved what it has. 

That start was definitely a highlight.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.