Few shows have had to adapt to the pandemic as much as “The Amazing Race,” which after nearly two years finally premieres its 33rd edition next month. And the show had to rework a lot of logistical staples to safely film the show amid the still-raging disease.
“We just had to make some adjustments. And I actually think some of those adjustments were things that we could implement for the future. So there were some silver lining moments that came out of the race and different ways that we adjusted the format just slightly,” executive producer Elise Doganieri said Friday during the show’s virtual TCA panel. “You’ll still have the same ‘Amazing Race’ detours and roadblocks, pitstops, check-ins, eliminations and an amazing cast. ”
The show was through three legs of the competition when it became one of the first shows to shut down production at the onset of the pandemic in early 2020. When they returned to filming in September, they picked up with the fourth leg. Two teams were eliminated before the shutdown, and a third was not able to resume.
“We did adjust, we did figure out how to do it without having more non-eliminations,” Doganieri said. “We figured out how to extend the length—we were very creative.”
Some of the other changes included everyone flying around the same chartered jet (though not at the same time), and the contestants were not allowed to use public transportation.
“We actually staggered the release times, so even though they were on the same plane, your check-in time from the leg before counted for the time you would check out the next day,” Doganieri continued. She said it “made for a very intense and exciting race, because the teams were actually closer together.”
Host and executive producer Phil Keoghan argues that the show has always had to reinvent itself over its 20-year run (the series often runs two seasons a year).
“If I was doing a studio show and I was going in and doing the same thing over and over again, rinsing and repeating the same format over and over again, I would definitely have gotten stale on the idea,” Keoghan said. “But ‘Amazing Race’ never feels that way. It feels honestly maybe more relevant today than it was even 20 years ago.”
Season 33 first began production in February 2020 at the onset of the pandemic and halted production a month later. It would not resume until this past September and wrapped filming in October.
“Maybe it’s improved in some way, and we can’t wait for everyone to see that,” Doganieri said. “But it was challenging for sure. But with the protocols and the things that were implemented, we started planning six, almost nine, months previously to leaving. I think everybody came home safe.”
“The Amazing Race” premieres Jan. 5, 2022, on CBS at 9 p.m. PT/ET.