‘Amazing Race’ Host Phil Keoghan – “(It’s) The Most Extreme Blind Date on Earth”

"The Amazing Race" (CBS)

“The Amazing Race” is coming back for its 26th season tonight with a pair of Olympic medalists, a New Kid on the Block, and an intriguing twist…

What if half of the teams were made up of couples on a blind date?

I had a chance to speak to “The Amazing Race” host Phil Keoghan and ask him if the blind date teams were at a disadvantage, where the Race is headed, and if he has any early favorites…

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Gordon Holmes: I’ve been on some bad blind dates in my day…
Phil Keoghan: I think a lot of people have. (Laughs)
Holmes: But I’ve never been on one that’ll take me through a series of high-stress situations and dozens of countries. This sounds horrible. What are you doing to these poor people?
Keoghan: Well, let’s remember they signed up for this.
Holmes: Fair enough.
Keoghan: These are people who will do anything to find love. They’ll try anything. It just so happens that they’re about to try the most extreme blind date on Earth.
Holmes: Is that what you guys are calling it?
Keoghan: That’s what I say to them on the starting line. It’s the most extreme blind date, period.
Holmes: Match.com has nothing on this.
Keoghan: This makes Match.com look like a cup of coffee.
Holmes: I’m trying to imagine how bad a date would have to be to get me to walk away from a shot at a million dollars.
Keoghan: Yeah. But think of your worse date, then think that even though it’s terrible that you have to hang with that person for 21 days and 35,000 miles around the world.
Holmes: How did we end up with this twist?
Keoghan: Some people were worried that we were becoming a dating show. That we were changing formats. We had a format change when we tried the family edition. We did it because people wanted us to try something different. We did, and it didn’t work. Fans told us to stick with what we do well. We’ve listened to our fans. It’s not a format change. We’re not a dating show. It’s “The Amazing Race” as you know it, but we’ve said, “What would happen if we put single people into the race.” The idea for that really came from our fans. For years and years we’ve had singles come to us, this idea is not new. The fans have been talking to us about it for years. They’ve said, “Why don’t you try bringing people who don’t know each other to the starting line to switch it up.” Ultimately this was the fans’ idea.

Holmes: If I were to do “The Amazing Race,” I’d partner with my fiancée. She knows my strengths and weaknesses, she knows when I’m on edge. I’ve got to think these blind date couples have a serious disadvantage.
Keoghan: You’d think that, but sometimes when you first meet someone and you like them, you’re on your best behavior.
Holmes: They say you’re the best version of yourself.
Keoghan: Maybe you’re a better listener. Maybe you’re more trusting. Maybe you’re so naïve about what you don’t know about that person that you allow them to take more control. You fall into patterns with relationships where one person does one thing and the other one doesn’t.

Holmes: Who are our early favorites this season?
Keoghan: I never picked the Sweet Scientists to be the favorites to win considering who they were up against, including the Dentists who were the winningest couple last season. So, it’s impossible to have an early favorite. Do you pick Matt and Ashley because they’re super fit and strong and from New York? Do you pick Jenny and Jelani who are both very bright and also very fit and quite worldly?  It’s impossible. That’s why the race works. You’d think a professional athlete who is fit and an ultra competitor would just blitz the field. And that hasn’t always been the case.

Holmes: Where are we going this year?
Keoghan: One of the things we really pride ourselves on is always going to new locations and always having new and interesting challenges. Right out of the gate they go over the Pacific Ocean and fly to Japan. Japan is just a wealth of great opportunities to try new and interesting things. Then they go to Thailand, and it’s so rich with ideas. We go to Europe…we have three or four new locations that we’ve never been to. The cool thing is we’re 26 seasons in and we still have places we’ve never been to. We get down to Namibia and the southern part of Africa.
Holmes: Oh wow.
Keoghan: We were actually there in season two. Haven’t been back there for a long time.

Holmes: Are we going to see more of those shots where you’re standing there as the contestants run by?
Keoghan: Oh yeah. The fans loved that. They thought it was like a sideline report. It’s difficult to do when you’re shooting 12 shows in 21 days as I have to stay ahead of them. It’s hard to be there when they’re there. And if they do run in, we’re not sure which direction they’re coming from. And you get one shot at doing it. We can’t stop them. In the last episode this season, every piece I shot was shot live. And I was barely ahead of them. It was a tight finish.

Holmes: “Survivor” is your lead in tonight. It’s their 30th season. You’re on your 26th season. What is it about these formats that lends itself to still being fun after so many iterations?
Keoghan: It’s fresh because the locations, people, and challenges are all fresh. This is not the same people singing the same songs on the same stage. What I love about it is we have a diversity with our cast. These are not singers, or dancers, or designers, or cooks who all have something in common. They couldn’t be more different. Having someone like Jonathan Knight, who’s a huge fan of this race, it’s been a dream for him.

Holmes: People from my generation in particular are probably very excited to have a New Kid on the Block on board. Do you have a particular favorite NKOTB jam?
Keoghan: (Laughs) I used to host a music show when I was 21, and I interviewed a lot of these guys. I did not interview New Kids on the Block. I interviewed all the bands that came to New Zealand. That whole boy band era was…how old are you?
Holmes: I’m 38.
Keoghan: OK, I’m a little older than you. But, that whole era was huge. It was what I grew up with. You had Marky Mark doing his whole thing.
Holmes: So you’re more of a “Good Vibrations” fan than a “Hanging Tough” guy.
Keoghan: (Laughs) Yeah, I actually loved Red Hot Chili Peppers. I liked stuff that was a little harder than the boy bands.
CBS Representative: Gordon was probably really into the boy bands.
Holmes: Quiet, you.
Keoghan: (Laughs) Gordon was probably eleven and he had all of their CDs. And you would’ve known all the songs. I was more about UB40 and Seal and KLM.
Holmes: It’s not every day that CBS outs your music tastes.
Keoghan: That’s true. But they were huge. It was global.

Don’t miss the 90-minute premiere of “The Amazing Race” on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 9:30 pm ET on CBS.

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