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‘Amazing Race’ Creator Defends Blind Date Season, Reveals Why Show Is More Emmy-Worthy Than ‘The Voice’

Bertram van Munster tells TheWrap: ”It actually worked better and was more unexpected than we could have wished for“

“The Amazing Race” wrapped its 26th season and arguably one of its buzziest with fans who either loved or hated what producers called a “supertwist” in which it paired strangers as teams.

In a surprising move to fans, producers cast five “blind date” couples to compete alongside the race’s trademark casting – two people in a long-standing existing relationship.

The producers hoped to play cupid and spark romance, but they went 0 for 5 in matchmaking with all of their arrows missing. Nonetheless, “Amazing Race” creator Bertram van Munster defended the much-discussed twist in an exclusive season-ending interview with TheWrap on Friday.

“It actually worked better and was more unexpected than we could have wished for,” he said.

Co-creator Elise Donagieri’s had high hopes before production.”I think we have some real matches. If these people don’t fall in love, then there’s no hope for them,” she told TheWrap last November before the couples met.

To be fair, despite a .000 batting average in new romances, the producers notched several home runs for on-screen drama from the arranged partnerships (and one potentially insinuated morning-after “homer” on screen). Three of the four teams in Friday night’s final leg were blind date couples.

Also, the producers did not rule out bringing back “Blind Date” couples in the future.

In essence, “Race” producers are measuring their success by the same yardstick as Mike Fleiss and “The Bachelor;” not by the longevity or veracity of the showmances, but by the story beats of the journey along the way.

In its move from Sunday to Friday night this season, “Race” has improved the Friday 8 p.m. timeslot for CBS by 13 percent in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic. Next year’s pickup was announced this week.

For details on what happened to the “Date Night” segment that faded and then disappeared during the season, the unusual out-and-back quick trip to Africa, whether producers knew that a wedding proposal  was packed in one contestant’s bag, and why Emmy voters should again tick their box for trophies, keep reading:

TheWrap: Where are you right now?
Bertram van Munster: It might be disappointing to you, nothing exotic … L.A.

All three heads of the braintrust hydra — you, co-creator Elise Doganieri and host/producer Phil Keoghan — had such high hopes for the “Blind Date” supertwist at the outset. Did it work?
van Munster: It actually worked better and was more unexpected than we could have wished for.

One way to look at “Blind Date” is to say it didn’t work. None of the couples were a romantic match. Another way to look at it is as a producer and say, ‘One couple hated each other so much it drove them out of the race, another hysterical blonde girl drove her mild mannered partner crazy, and three of the final four teams were blind daters. It totally worked.’ How do you see it?
van Munster: I think it totally worked and the viewers got to see the unexpected.

Will “Blind Date” couples be back?
van Munster: Not going to tell you.

The “Date Night” segments you showed looked amazing, but they disappeared after a few episodes. Did you abandon them because there was no romance?
Van Munster: No, we did not abandon it. We just got so much rich reality material that we just stayed on that.

This season you went from Europe to Africa for two episodes, and then right back to Europe. This seemed like an odd interlude. What’s the backstory here?
Van Munster: We did this on purpose to throw everyone off.  We always aim for the unexpected.

Did you know Matt and Ashley might get engaged on the show? I was surprised that the most romantic thing to happen came from an existing couple instead of a newbie.
van Munster: I didn’t know. That’s the great thing about true reality TV!  It was a surprise to us as well! You produce in real time, you will get the unexpected!

It’s Emmy nomination season. What’s your pitch? Why should voters choose “The Race” over “Top Chef”, “The Voice” or anything else?
van Munster:  The Amazing Race is very different in every aspect from these shows.  It’s as big as it gets, I don’t know how to compare a well produced studio show with a global show that has drama, humor, emotions, and incredible locations.  Plus, our contestants have direct interactions with people all over the world!

The Amazing Race season finale airs tonight, Friday, May 15 at 8 p.m. ET/PT  on CBS.

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