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Amazing Race Boss Speaks Out

by DeAnn Welker September 24, 2008 2:45 pm
<I>Amazing Race</I> Boss Speaks Out

Season 13 of The Amazing Race premieres Sunday, and the Emmys were last Sunday. But in the middle of all of that madness -- just a couple days before the show's sixth Emmy win for best competitive reality programming -- The Amazing Race creator and executive producer Bertram van Munster took time to chat briefly with us about the show, Phil, and all those Emmys.

Oh, and we also talked about Television Without Pity, of course. When asked if he knows about the site, van Munster replied, "Of course I do. Please have mercy on me."

But, really, no mercy is needed with van Munster. He's an open, honest, passionate guy who was happy to talk freely right past the time when he left the office for the day. At one point, he apologized for the noise, but said he was arriving at the dry cleaner. The Emmys, after all, were only a few days away.

Speaking of the Emmys, van Munster said he's not upset that Phil wasn't nominated for best reality show host in that award's first year in existence (after the debacle that was the reality hosts hosting the Emmys, he's probably even less disappointed). He said, "Of course I want my guy to win it," but then he acknowledged that there is "phenomenal competition." Sadly, he actually singled out Howie Mandel, who van Munster said, "deserves a lot of credit." More appropriately, he said Jeff Probst does, too -- after all, "He was the first one to do it. We were the second, but he was first."

He then, of course, acknowledged all of those Emmy wins. After Sunday's sixth award in the category, The Amazing Race still has not lost as competitive reality, after all. "We get so much respect from the Academy and from our viewers. We owe them a lot of gratitude."

He went on to praise Phil profusely, though, saying he deserves all of the adoration he gets at TWoP, and then some: "He's a great guy. No pretense. He hasn't changed from the day he joined my team."

And that was a long time ago -- 13 seasons, and about seven years (van Munster mentioned the show premiering right after Sept. 11, 2001, having a negative effect on the ratings because no one wanted to think about traveling, yet alone racing around the world). But the show went on, through many changes, many versions, and many competitors. Van Munster said there's no way he could ever keep in touch with 300 people, but that he does keep in touch with almost everyone from season one, especially Joe and Bill (the Guidos), and Margaretta.

But he loves all of the past competitors, even if he can't keep in close touch with everyone: "I salute them all. I love them."

Don't mistake his enthusiasm about past teams as his love for the All-Stars edition, however: "I'm not crazy about all stars. In reality, the word 'star' is not applicable. ... You should always have new people. A reality show should always be fresh. To have experience in reality is not what I'm looking for. This is my personal opinion. I'm not crazy about it." Though he did then say that Rob and Amber are "phenomenal competitors," so no disrespect to them.

As for this coming season, Van Munster said that it's a fun, exciting race, with an excellent group of teams. He also said they're already hard at work on season 14. When asked how long the show will go on, he said, "It goes on as long as CBS will tolerate me and we get good ratings... It has evergreen potential. It is evergreen. We have steady, very young viewers."

One important element that sets the show apart and really keeps those viewers returning season after season, according to van Munster, is that it's one reality show that is actually real, rather than scripted, set up, and edited into something else entirely (as opposed to so many other reality shows).

"We don't interfere," van Munster says. "I have a standing rule: Nobody interferes with what goes on on-screen. We're bystanders too, just like the people at Television Without Pity, watching what happens and saying, 'Oh my god! Oh my god!'"

Here's hoping for lots of those "Oh my god!" moments as the new season kicks off, and for years to come.

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