Phil Keoghan pleased with ‘Amazing Race Canada’s’ success

Sheri Block

Canadians aren’t the only ones who are thrilled “The Amazing Race Canada” has become such a hit.

“Amazing Race” host Phil Keoghan, who has been at the helm of the U.S. juggernaut for 27 seasons, is also quite happy about the success of the show, which wrapped its third season in September.

“I’m so pleased that it’s worked in Canada and fans are happy because after making ‘Amazing Race’ in America successful you don’t want to have a blemish in the franchise and so we’ve had not just success but great success,” says Keoghan over the phone from the UK. 

“I think the Canadian (version) from what I’ve seen … it does definitely have a Canadian feel to it, which is great. Maybe it’s closer to what the Canadians want and some of the things they don’t like about the American show they’ll like more in the Canadian show. Ultimately I think people like to watch themselves, their own people, people that they can connect with.”

So what makes our teams so distinctly Canadian? 

“You hear ‘sorry’ from a Canadian a lot more than you do from an American I think,” says Keoghan with a laugh.

“It’s awesome that it’s worked and that Canadian fans are happy and don’t feel that somehow it’s not a match. It’s something that they’re really proud of and that they love.” 

Apply now to be on 'The Amazing Race Canada!'

The Emmy Award-nominated Keoghan, who is also a producer on “The Amazing Race,” says the success of the show – no matter which country is producing it – depends on three key elements: the teams, what they’re doing and where they’re doing it (in that order).

“A huge amount of credit has to go to our casting team over the years because that is the No. 1 most important factor in making any series a success: are the teams interesting? And then (when) we put them into an interesting situation is their reaction to that stimulus interesting to watch? The third layer is where are they and what are we seeing behind them?”

Keoghan says a really captivating team being lost in a taxi can surpass anything else in the show.  

“It’s about the teams. The focus is how do we get them to react to an amazing race? It’s imperative we get that right. We get that wrong then we lose out on having a great show.” 

It doesn’t mean “The Amazing Race” hasn’t tried new elements over the years though, including a family edition and bringing former contestants back for all-stars and unfinished business. They also tried a blind date concept in Season 26, with half the teams being existing couples and the other half meeting for the first time on the mat. 

Even though there were no love connections, Keoghan says there’s a possibility they’d do it again or something else like it.

“I loved it just to try something different. It surprised me, it surprised the fans. Who would’ve guessed that three out of the four teams in the final leg would be teams who had never met each other before? That certainly dispelled a lot of my beliefs about what teams do well and a lot of fans, too.”    

The current season of “Race” has returned to the show’s typical format (teams with existing relationships) but they are revisiting some familiar spots, including the Batoka Gorge in Zambia, the very first challenge ever on “Amazing Race” when Season 1 aired in 2001.

“I love going back and this season we’ve done it quite a bit, visiting some of the iconic spots, the switchbacks are always to me a lot of fun. We have such history to draw on and it’s great to have that history.” 

In the next episode, airing tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, teams will visit another familiar site – the Arc de Triomphe in Paris – the Pit Stop for the second leg in Season 1. 

“Next to the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids it’s right up there. It’s absolutely iconic on the Champs-Elysees, it’s absolutely stunning and beautiful and then they have some really interesting challenges – a rapping challenge, they get in some biplanes. It’s awesome.”

They will also be travelling to Poland and India later in the season, something Keoghan is particularly excited about.

“Those episodes through India are my favourite this season, just because of taking ordinary people or so called ordinary people and putting them in an extraordinary situation with vivid colours and culture and where they are a complete fish out of water … It’s a great finish. Lots of drama.”

“The Amazing Race” airs Friday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.