Season 30 of “The Amazing Race” proved pivotal in more ways than one. Not only was it a milestone number for the 10-time Emmy winner to hit, but Phil Keoghan believes it revitalized the long-running series. “I think there were some doubters about where the show was at a year ago,” the host tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview (watch above). “I felt like we needed this jolt of Vitamin B, if you’d like. We needed to do something, we needed to make a little turn just to say to people, ‘Hey, guess what? We haven’t gone away. We can still make a really great show.’”
Billed as the most competitive season yet, Season 30 featured some familiar faces, including 10-time Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating champ Joey Chestnut and 2016 IndyCar champ Alexander Rossi, and a very controversial “Big Brother” showmance, Cody and Jessica, who won the $1 million in one of the tensest finales ever. There were new twists, the Head-to-Head challenge and the Partner Swap — the former of which will be back next season — suspenseful, unpredictable legs, and a new Wednesdays-at-8 timeslot that contributed to a ratings boost.
Keoghan credits CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl, the network’s longtime head of scheduling who was promoted in May 2017, for sticking with the show — and sticking it in “Survivor”’s usual timeslot when “Survivor” was in between seasons. “I gotta give a shout-out to Kelly Kahl for having the belief in us and for having the belief to give us that timeslot and see what we can do with it,” he says. “New timeslot, a great timeslot, a coveted position on a network primetime schedule lineup, the confidence of the president of the network to give us that shot — and I feel like we delivered. It’s such an amazing, collaborative team who make ‘Amazing Race.’ I think everyone felt like they wanted to step up for 30.”
The renewed success comes after a few years of living dangerously on the bubble. Reduced from two seasons a year to one and becoming a utility player when one of CBS’ new shows failed, “Race,” in the eyes of many, appeared to be on its last legs (no pun intended). And Keoghan says the threat of cancellation was very, very real.
“I think every season you have to fight to have your place,” he says. “CBS is the No. 1 network in the world. They are the best of the best. We’re fighting for our position in the lineup every single season, so yes, very realistic that we could’ve gone by the wayside. I think that’s the way it should be. I think if you’re a great player on an NFL team, just because you made it on the team, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gonna make it on the team the next season because there’s always young people coming up who want to push you out of the way.”
Keoghan is also grateful to the fans and his peers for their continued support of the show. “The fact that we continue to get recognized by our peers and that the show is still relevant in 2018, we’re very thankful for that,” he says. While he has no expectations for “Race” to reclaim the Best Reality-Competition Program Emmy — “’The Voice’ is on a bit of a roll right now” — he does propose a couple of new Emmy categories.
“I think it’s very hard to compare, say, ‘The Voice’ and ‘Amazing Race.’ If anything, I feel like there should be another category for shows that are shot on a stage that are performance shows because they do it very well,” he says. “[But] that whole genre to me is quite different from being on location. Working in an environment that’s 69 degrees with beautiful lighting [is] a completely different skill set from being in 120 degrees in Bangladesh, where you’re just drenched. … If something breaks down, you can’t just go over to the Valley [in Los Angeles] and pick up another camera. You’re stuck in the most densely populated city in the world trying to make a show. Yes, they’re both reality shows, I guess, but I would call those shows more like variety-type shows more than I would really [about] what we do or ‘Survivor’ or some of the shows that are out there on location.”
As for spoilers on what locations they’ll be visiting in Season 31, which started production on Sunday, June 10, Keoghan cannot say — nor can he comment on the widespread reports that it will be a cast of “Big Brother” alums (he did announce at the start line Sunday that it will be a “reality clash” between stars of “The Amazing Race,” “Big Brother” and “Survivor”). But he does think fans will like what they have planned.
“We’re absolutely going to be trying some new things,” he teases. “We’re trying some different casting options. All that I can tell you is that expect we will be doing something different to stir things up. And also expect that fans will get something of what they want based on the original format, us getting back to our roots [of ordinary people doing extraordinary things]. I think the fans are gonna be happy in the end. Look, every time we go out, we roll the dice because we’re trying new and different things and we can’t really guarantee that any of our gambling is going to pay off, but I’m feeling confident that we have the right ingredients to do something interesting.”
Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on July 12. And join in the fun debate over the 2018 Emmys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.