Phil Keoghan on ‘Amazing Race’s’ ‘fantastic’ reality showdown and being ‘heartbroken’ by initial Emmy ineligibility [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

For its 31st trek, “The Amazing Race” fulfilled the request of many fans who’d been clamoring for years for a showdown between alums of CBS’ holy trinity of reality shows, “Race,” “Survivor” and “Big Brother.” But Phil Keoghan admits he wasn’t always on board with the idea. “I was a little skeptical about it, to be honest with you, in the beginning because I’ve always had a preference for ‘Races’ that have people that have never been on the show before,” the host tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview (watch above). “And we do have a big portion of our fans who prefer that approach with ‘Race.’ They like racers who have never been on the show. But you’re never going to make everybody happy. You’re never going to get a total consensus.”

Now, a year after they filmed Season 31 and with it still airing, Keoghan is happy they went through with the reality throwdown. “It’s been fantastic,” he declares. “A lot of people who weren’t into this idea have enjoyed it. People who maybe love to hate some of the teams as well have enjoyed the entertainment factor.”

Season 31 pits three “Survivor” teams, three “Big Brother” teams and five “Race” teams against each other. Producers looked at which “Race” duos fans “talked about the most” in determining who to invite back, according to Keoghan, though, of course not everybody was available for one reason or another. He is glad that one of the most notorious “Race” teams was able to return, Season 5 runners-up Colin Guinn and Christie Woods, who are a far cry from their high-strung, highly combustible selves from 15 years ago. They’ve gone from giving us the greatest “Race” meltdown of all time — “My ox is broken!” — to meditating and defusing fights by telling everyone to “hold hands and literally feel the love of the universe.”

SEE Heads-up: The ‘Amazing Race 31’ finale is 2 hours and will have a new (but old) time slot

“It does go to show you that people do change. And who would’ve guessed that Colin yelling ‘My ox is broken!’ would ever be the guy talking about centering himself and being in the moment and being present? I mean, not in a million years did I see that transformation!” Keoghan exclaims. “But it works for them and they’ve been consistent racers from the beginning, and having kids and working on their relationship has gotten them to a good place, so it’s kind of cool to see that. … It’s yin and yang. It’s Jekyll and Hyde. So I would suggest for people who haven’t seen Season 5, if you want to see a different Colin and Christie, go back and look at what can happen with a little patience and meditation, and sometimes being spiritual can be good for people.”

A 10-time Best Competition Program (formerly known as Best Reality-Competition Program) Emmy winner, “Race” nearly sat out this Emmy season, which would’ve marked the first time the show, which has been nominated every year since the category’s inception in 2003, missed a cycle. Season 31 was originally scheduled to premiere May 22, nine days before the eligibility cutoff date of May 31 (which also happens to be Keoghan’s birthday), so it wouldn’t have met the six-episode minimum requirement. But CBS moved up the premiere to April 17, replacing its new series “Million Dollar Mile.” Keoghan admits that “it didn’t feel good” when Season 31 was initially ineligible.

SEE It’s gonna be another long wait before ‘The Amazing Race 32’ premieres

“We pride ourselves on being nominated and we’ve been lucky enough to win, but just being nominated is a huge honor, and I’m not just saying that,” he says. “It is something that we take very seriously, so the idea that we were going to miss out by a few days because of scheduling, yeah, we were heartbroken by that. And then when we found out we got moved up, that comes with its own challenges because suddenly the lead time is less than we had wanted … so we had to rally very quickly to get the word out. … Thank God we live in an era now where people can go back and catch up.”

Keoghan — who’s also eligible in Best Reality Host, where he’s been nominated four times — is currently in post-production on Season 32, which was filmed last fall and is slated to bow midseason. Of that installment, he would only tease that the show “went back to basics.” “We’re wanting to get back to a lot of the core elements of ‘Race,’ having come off this season where we pulled in people from various seasons from different shows,” he shares. “Everybody always says, ‘What’s new and different?’ But at the end of the day, fans like the fact that there are certain things they can expect from the show and they want to see those things again and again.”

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