(Spoiler alert: Please don’t read on if you haven’t watched Thursday’s premiere episode of “The Amazing Race: 29”)
“The Amazing Race” returned to CBS’ in a new time-slot Thursday after a nearly 11-month hiatus — and it came back with a fresh new format.
For the first time in the Reality Emmy champ’s history, 22 total strangers paired up to form two-person teams at the starting line via a schoolyard-type pick in a park in downtown Los Angeles.
TheWrap was lucky enough to be there, and here’s what you didn’t see on TV.
1. This season wrapped a long time ago — back when Obama was still president
This 29th season of “Amazing Race,” titled “First Impressions,” began filming on Friday, June 10, 2016.
Back on that sunny 77 degree day, Hillary Clinton had a 68 percent to 32 percent “chance of winning” over Donald Trump and the Cubs still hadn’t won the World Series in over 100 years. One of those frontrunners made it to the finish line.
2. The “Race” braintrust knew their competition well
Back at this starting line, we were barred from talking to the cast or prying too deep in to the season’s schedule. Instead, we talked with Executive Producer/co-creator Bertram van Munster and Host/Producer Phil Keoghan about the 2016 Emmy landscape. Nomination voting was just about to begin.
As you can see in the video above, they saw “The Voice” as their biggest challenger. They were right. (Carson Daly and Mark Burnett’s shiny floor show would go on to win in September).
3. The spread between the first and last contestants in the starting line challenge was about 40 minutes
Through TV magic, everything is condensed. Not here.
Seattle cop Seth Tyler, Providence firefighter Olive Beauregard (above), and pro snowboarder Matt Ladley only needed about 25 minutes to sprint across downtown L.A., retrieve the correct suitcase, and haul it back to the starting line in Grand Hope Park. They were fast.
We were trying to keep up with them on foot to observe — with an address and Google maps — but they beat us there and back.
Meanwhile, the stragglers like Joey Covino (who had to go back for a second trip) returned about 40 minutes later than the early birds.
He took so long that producers had the camera crews stop shooting and sit down on the grass.
So did the cast.
Because this was before the schoolyard pick, they weren’t allowed to talk. They sat there in silence …
… baking, and preparing to pick a partner (or be picked in to an arranged marriage situation).
4. Sneak Attack
Shamir Arzeno (above), a 28-year old banker from the Bronx, slipped back in to Grand Hope Park through a back entrance passing all of the production gear. It was a legal move.
5. The “First Impressions” Twist had been percolating
“It’s been on the radar for years,” van Munster said. “We finally decided to do it.”
6. Phil rehearses the “Starting Claw”
Host Phil Keoghan’s starting line signature is a raised eyebrow and hand-claw thrust in the air (pictured top). After shooting it from various angles, producers immediately gathered around a monitor to make sure they “got it.”
7. Producers were watching the news
In between reviewing the introductory script with Keoghan, snapping starting line photographs, and directing nearly 25 cameras, van Munster was watching world events ahead of their 10 country, 35,000 mile trip to come over the next 21 days.
“I watch the news like an eagle,” he told TheWrap. “If anything goes on anywhere in the world, I (may) need to make a change (to the routing).”
Sadly, two tragedies, both in Orlando, took place within hours of this start. (For context on when this took place, “The Voice” alum Christina Grimmie was murdered at a meet and greet after her own concert that night. One night later was the Pulse nightclub terror attack).
8. Phil Keoghan and Eddie Murphy are “Trading Places”
Just this week, Keoghan revealed that show insiders make a $1 bet each season on the winning team, but that he has no feel for picking winners.
“Nobody I’ve ever played with has ever picked (the final) 1-2-3,” Keoghan told Matthew Cole Weiss and Theo Vonn on their podcast, “Allegedly”.
“In 29 seasons, none of us have ever picked a winner. We all suck,” Keoghan’s said during the hour-long cheeky sit-down that illuminated another side of the cyclist/host/documentarian.
9. Did any of the “Race” braintrust pick a winner this season?
“Way wrong,” Keoghan said.
10. Who looked shaky right away?
As we were driving away from downtown L.A., we spotted this duo (Kevin Ng, Rugby trainer from San Diego and Miss Korea California Jenn Lee) looking lost and angsty.
This was a block from the starting line outside the crew parking garage. Buckle up.
“The Amazing Race 29” is back. It airs Thursday nights on CBS at 10 p.m. ET/PT.