LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) Kate O'Hare
When contestants on CBS' Emmy-winning reality competition series "The Amazing Race" sally forth on their globetrotting adventures, they retrace the steps of series co-creators Bertram van Munster and his wife and business partner, Elise Doganieri.
On Tuesday, Dec. 28, the show features expanded scenes and unaired footage from the first six episodes of the show's current incarnation, "The Amazing Race 6."
The show, hosted by Phil Keoghan, sends two-person teams who have some prior relationship, whether romantic, familial or friendly, on a round-the-world race. They negotiate trains, planes and automobiles -- along with buses, bicycles and horse-drawn carts -- as they rush to dodge elimination by not being the last team to arrive at designated "pit stops."
Threatening to trip them up on each leg are challenges ranging from the mental to the physical and the gastronomic. Competitors have had to scarf large amounts of caviar in Russia, assemble furniture in the world's largest IKEA in Sweden, wrangle goats onto boats in Egypt and lug huge cuts of beef in Uruguay.
"It takes between three and five months, realistically, to plan a season," Van Munster says. "This last one, season seven, I did in 10 weeks, which is incredibly fast. I go around first, lay the whole thing out with Elise. She does half the world; I do the other half. We do our thing, then we put the creative together.
"We also have to put together the basic logistics and money package, otherwise it doesn't fit. Then we go back to the office, discuss it with the team. Then I go around with my co-executive producer and do the whole thing all over again. We go through every detail again and again."
Van Munster does know what he's going to ask contestants to do before he chooses them for each race. "I know who my contestants are, and I know what challenges I'm going to put them up against," he says. "We know what we can ask them to do.
"These are regular people from all walks of life, between 21 and 69 years old. This is not a torture chamber. This is a race around the world for a prize of a million dollars. You make your way; you be as inventive and quick on your feet as you can. In the meantime, we have a couple of riddles for you set up."
One thing out of Van Munster's control is how racers behave as they encounter foreign cultures. Last season, contestant Colin got into a dispute with a Kenyan taxi driver over the fare, and the police were called in.
"It was typical colonial behavior," Van Munster says. "It was nasty. It's embarrassing. I tell people, 'Show respect; be respectful of the people you're meeting and where you're going.' But it goes out the window."
A native Dutchman who has lived in the United States for 35 years, Van Munster sees both sides of this.
"There's a great thing called the American spirit," he says, "and that's what these people bring to the table. They bring something unique and original and fun to the table, and that is fantastic. Everybody in the world can learn from that. What they also bring to the table sometimes is a certain crudeness.
"I've had moments where I've had to apologize to people, absolutely, for behavior which I personally had no control over."