Phil Keoghan explains why The Amazing Race shouldn’t withdraw from the Emmys

Prime-time Emmy awards will be handed out during the live telecast Sunday night, and if history is any guide, The Amazing Race will win its eighth consecutive Emmy for outstanding reality competition program. Eighth. This is getting so ridiculous that Jeff Probst said the show should withdraw and I get increasingly frustrated that the Emmys are failing to acknowledge other strong competition series while awarding a show that’s been largely treading water for the last few years.

Its host, however, thinks the show deserves its wins. I talked to Phil Keoghan a few weeks ago, and he addressed Probst’s comment last year. “So what about him, if he wins again as the host, do I tell him to [withdraw]?” I’ll have a conversation with him if he wins this year and say, ‘You won three years, you’ve got to pull out,’” Phil said. (Jeff subsequently did win his third Emmy for best host.) “It’s interesting, because some people have said that, and I’m like, ‘What about the Daily Show?’ How come nobody asks Jon [Stewart] about that?” Phil said.

As to withdrawing, he said, “I don’t think we should do that. We strive to make the show as good as we can make it every season, and I think it’s up to the Academy to determine whether the show deserves to be acknowledged or not.” Phil asked what I thought, and I told him among other things that it seems ridiculous that the show has won in years where it has weak seasons, such as the family edition.

But Phil pointed out, “They’re judging it based on the episode that’s put forward. … That should be what it is, right? Because it would be impossible to have people judge every single episode, right?” I’m not so sure, because how can a show be judged on a single episode? It’s like tearing a page or even a chapter out of a book and saying, “Oh, this book sucks” or “This book is great.” That’s nuts.

“Then I think it’d be a different competition. That would be hard to do,” Phil told me, and then discussed the category itself. “I also think it’s very hard to compare a show like American Idol with what we do. I think that’s a great show, by the way; my daughter watches the show, I think it’s very well-done. I almost think there needs to be another category for shows that are–to me it’s more of a variety show, I don’t know if I would call it a reality show, personally. Because I think it’s a great show; I think it deserves to be nominated, but I think it’s very difficult to compare what they do or what we do with what Survivor does. It’s very different. Or So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing with the Stars–it’s a variety show that happens to have a competition element.”

Phil told me that there are such major differences in the way the show is produced that it should be judged separately. Shows like American Idol, he said, are “in a studio, it’s 69 degrees, and there’s a studio audience. It’s a show with an audience. My daughter watches, she loves it, I watch those shows. But how do you compare that to what we’re doing or what Survivor does? We’re on location, it’s 120 degrees, it’s freezing cold, it’s raining, the train’s cancelled, the flight’s cancelled, there’s political unrest. Unless there’s a strike in Hollywood, they go to a studio.”

“I think all shows have challenges. I do think our show is very difficult to make. You’re adding so many different variables,” Phil continued. When you’re in a studio, the crew turn up on time, you know what the temperature is, you know what the union rules are, you know the parameters you’re working in, and then you make your show. We are in places where we can’t create our own world inside a studio or a set. We are subjected to the rules of the real world. If a guy says, ‘Don’t shoot here,’ we can’t shoot there. If the weather goes crazy, we have to deal with that. It would be like working in a studio where someone turned the air conditioning off and everybody’s drenched with sweat, everybody would walk out and say, we’re not working in here.’”

More from my conversation with Phil about the upcoming season as it approaches, including him telling me, “I want to get you back” as a happy fan, rather than a disappointed one.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.