The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan thinks the show will probably be renewed for two more seasons this year, returning to its normal filming schedule this year, filming one in the summer and one in the late fall and early winter.
That’s because The Amazing Race season 30 has been performing well on Wednesday nights, debuting with its highest ratings in five years. And while it has dipped a little, last week’s episode was the highest-rated broadcast TV show of the night, and the fourth-highest among viewers 18 to 49.
“Race is doing well. I think we’ll probably end up doing one, if not two, more seasons this year,” Phil told me the day that National Geographic announced that Phil was the new host of Explorer. That means he’ll likely be juggling production on the two globe-spanning shows. Explorer, he said, would be filmed “in-between—my first priority is Race, because I’ve committed to that. Thankfully, CBS agreed to me doing this. The world has changed a lot; I think they see this is a positive. If anything, it enhances my credibility for both, quite frankly.”
As to this season’s ratings, Phil said that both the scheduling—and the absence of the show—have helped. “The planets have aligned for us a little bit. We’ve got the Wednesday night timeslot, and I think the show, not having been on as much, I think also gave us an opportunity to come back fresh,” he said.
Trying out The Amazing Race in that timeslot—Wednesdays at 8, which is occupied by Survivor during the fall and spring, and by Big Brother in the summer—is thanks to CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl, who started with CBS in 1996 as vice president of scheduling.
Phil Keoghan called it an “a very audacious idea” to give Race Wednesday nights, and credited Kahl. “For a long time, I know that Kelly Kahl’s been interested in working a wheel with that Wednesday night of having Survivor and Race rotating in that timeslot, and I think he had an opportunity to finally do it—certainly as president of the network, right, he make those decisions,” Phil said.
Phil Keoghan credits fans with helping TAR escape cancellation
If the show is renewed for another season or two, Phil expects a return to the previous schedule.
“There’s no doubt what’s going to happen—if we shoot two races this year, they’ll more than likely shoot in the summer and next winter, because we just finished shooting in the winter,” he told me. “On the normal schedule. I have a feeling we’re going to go back to a normal schedule. CBS is very happy. Never say never, but I know this season is a good season, and we’ve got some great stuff coming up. We know we’ve got great stuff to share with the audience. Then you’re like, okay, fingers crossed they’ll stay with us.”
Phil isn’t worried about fans abandoning the show. “I just can’t say enough about our fans, because I’m telling you, fans do keep shows on the air through the tough times,” he said. “That has absolutely helped—there’s no doubt about it.”
Those tough times came over the last few years, as CBS tried other prime-time reality TV, though none of the shows were ratings successes.
I asked Phil if it was touch and go for The Amazing Race, and if cancellation was close, and he said, “Sure. At the time when CBS was trying some new shows—Briefcase, Hunted … if those shows had hit that would have had a hit on us. There’s only so much room, there’s only so much real estate. Look how hard it was for us to get to this opportunity to have Wednesday night.”
“And you know that if you don’t perform, you’re gone,” he added. “So, yeah, absolutely, we were at a place where they were wondering, Is there something bigger, better, bolder, louder that might rate better than Race? We were in a really difficult timeslot, and maybe they felt like, Let’s see if there’s another option. Let’s see if we can take that number bigger. I’m only speaking for myself. That’s my guess, that’s what was going on. There’s a reason that we didn’t do two in a year, and there’s a reason they were doing other shows. And I’m smart enough, and so are you, to know that had one of those shows gone through the roof, it may have had an effect on us.”
But The Amazing Race season 30 and the reception to it has proven otherwise, and Phil was quick to give credit for that.
“First of all, it took CBS giving us the opportunity,” he said. “But second of all, it’s not to be underestimated—the power of our fans, of Amazing Race fans.”