We Canadians are a polite and reserved people most of the time. But when it comes to The Amazing Race, we were not going to sit quietly until we got what we damn well wanted: a version of the show that highlighted Canuck courage and competitiveness.
And nobody is happier about the success of The Amazing Race Canada than Phil Keoghan, the longtime host of the U.S. version of the globe-trotting, Emmy-winning reality show.
Canada’s pent-up demand to take part in The Amazing Race “was more than any other country in the world, I’ve got to say,” said Keoghan, on the phone from the U.K. where he was watching his New Zealand All Blacks defeat Australia in last weekend’s Rugby World Cup final.
“Any country likes to watch its own compete,” said Keoghan. “There’s a certain amount of patriotism, and there’s that rivalry between Canadians and Americans, and I think Canadians initially felt like they were left out.”
With Canadian Olympic gold medalist Jon Montgomery as host, The Amazing Race Canada kicked off in 2013 with a debut season that never left Canada’s borders. Some cynics snarked that it made the show a lesser version of its American cousin, but Keoghan disagrees.
“I think it was a really smart move to focus in on Canada, because I think it rallied the fans around the franchise, and I think it made Canadians – who are such a proud people, and such a great country – think, ‘Wow, we really do live in an amazing place,’ ” he said.
The two subsequent seasons have ventured outside of Canada – to China and France in Season 2, and Chile, Argentina and India in Season 3 – and there’s no reason to think next year’s Season 4 will be any different. (If you and a partner think you’ve got what it takes to win the next season of The Amazing Race Canada, head to theamazingracecanada.ctv.ca/casting to apply.)
“And then when they did go out (of Canada), it got everyone excited because it’s like, ‘Oh, OK, now we get to see the Canadian version go out into the world,’ ” said Keoghan. “It was a good move.”
Before The Amazing Race, Keoghan was a well-known TV personality in his native New Zealand, and he’s travelled the world crossing items off a very impressive bucket list, including making one of the world’s tallest bungee jumps and eating dinner at the edge of an erupting volcano.
But he comes by his love of Canada – and of rugby – very honestly, eh, having spent four years living in Ontario as a kid.
“My dad coached the University of Guelph rugby team,” said Keoghan. “There was a big match back in 1971 between Guelph and Queen’s (University), and my dad was the coach and they were a bit short on players. So my dad jumped into the game and they ended up winning it.”
Currently in its 27th season, the U.S. version of The Amazing Race heads from France to the Netherlands in Friday’s episode, where two-wheeled transportation is likely to factor into a challenge.
“We’re going to Rotterdam, an absolutely spectacular city,” said Keoghan. “It’s a country that is very advanced, they love technology, they love bicycles of course – any excuse to get a bicycle in the show is good with me, so you might see some pedalling – but it’s also one of the busiest harbours in the world.”
And while the Green Team – Philadelphia radio personality Justin Scheman and his fiance,
schoolteacher Diana Bishop – have dominated the race with strategy and cunning, previous seasons have shown there’s no such thing as an unbeatable team in The Amazing Race.
“At the end of the day there are still cancelled flights, there’s still a taxi driver that takes them to the wrong side of town, there’s still the possibility they pull a leg muscle or they ostracize themselves from the other teams and the other teams want to gang up on them and eliminate them,” said Keoghan.
“The people who win are not always the fittest, they’re not always the smartest, they’re not always the strongest.”
Sometimes, they’re not even the politest. Eh.
The Amazing Race airs Friday nights at 8 p.m. on CBS and CTV.