Michael McKay, Melbourne, Vic
With its fantastic locations and fun challenges, The Amazing Race is one of TV's most unusual reality shows. Not surprisingly, it takes an army of technicians and producers to pull it all together. Here we go behind the scenes...
As the Executive Producer of The Amazing Race in Australia, Israel, Asia and the Philippines, I've done my fair share of travelling, and the key is to plan ahead. For example, I was thinking about season two when season one was still being filmed. We spend months preparing before the show starts, deciding on the locations and the challenges, as well as hiring staff to help in each country. Everything has to be worked out to the smallest detail. Of course, when the camera is rolling, not everything can be planned - such as cougar contestant Sarah's skirt suddenly flying up during the pig-catching challenge. I can still hear the gasps from the locals now!
SAFE AND SOUND
During the race, which goes for just under a month in total, the contestants' safety is crucial and we spend a lot of time making sure nothing can go wrong. Of course, there is always the risk of someone sustaining a sports-type injury from a challenge, but that's about it. I remember one team this season said that they didn't feel safe during the race leg in India. Our team of professional, undercover security guards, who closely watch each team during the race, were extremely pleased with this comment - because the contestants didn't even notice they were there! Basically, a contestant can't break a nail without me knowing about it.
BACKPACK TO BASICS
You might feel sorry for the contestants, seeing them run around loaded with their very heavy backpacks - but that's all the possessions they have during the race. Before they take off, we give them a list of suggestions and possible climates they may face but whether they take that on board is up to them. One contestant this season came with a backpack and then asked who was going to carry her extra-large suitcase. I had to laugh. Whatever you can carry is what comes with you on this race. It's not a holiday after all!
PIT STOP PLEASURES
After a tough leg sleeping in airports or bus shelters, the contestants get to relax during the pit stops, getting some much-needed rest in high-class hotels. Unfortunately, many of the crew members aren't so lucky. They use the contestants' downtime to pack up the one and a half tonnes of equipment we need to put the show together. Then it's on to the next destination.
LOOK THE CREW'S COMING TOO!
A cameraman and a sound person must follow at least one team at a time. This means that if there are four seats left on one flight, the first team to book it has to reserve all of them to allow a crew to come as well. And if there's a team following closely behind, they just have to wait for the next flight. They're the rules of the race and that's the reason it works so well.
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
I wouldn't put the contestants through a race I haven't already completed myself! Before each season, I do the entire journey to make sure it's okay and to iron out any hiccups. While I won't say I've completed all the challenges, I've done most of the food-related ones. I've eaten snake, scorpion, cricket, cockroaches, rat, worms and of course Balut, the fertilised duck eggs from the first episode of this season!
I'm afraid not. The prize money for winning is $250,000, so we want it to be a fair competition. Unfortunately this means no phone calls to loved ones as that could risk an exchange of information that could help teams during the race. This way, it's a level playing field.
THE WAITING GAME
The host, Grant Bowler, can get impatient when he's waiting for teams to arrive. There can be up to eight hours between first and last place! To entertain himself, he loves to have a chat to the crew. Sadly, the waiting time always seems to be longest when the conditions are extreme at the pit stop location - either too hot or too cold - so poor Grant has to wait in the car.
- 24: The maximum number of hours for a time penalty.
- 4: The penalty, in hours, a team incurs for forfeiting a challenge.
- 20: The number, in thousands, of people who applied to run the race.
- 65: The thousands of kilometres the race covers from start to finish.