As reality TV hosts go, Phil Keoghan has always made the most with the least. He doesn't mug like Ryan Seacrest or impose himself on the game like Jeff Probst and he never broadly announces that the show is all about him, like Tyra Banks does. Keoghan's best "Amazing Race" moments are usually a raised eyebrow or a concerned episode-closing inquiry.
Keoghan's ready to move into the spotlight as he bikes across America, hoping to cover more than 3500 miles in 40 days. Along the way, he'll stop in 39 cities. He'll be promoting "The Amazing Race," signing copies of his book "No Opportunity Wasted," visiting CBS affiliates, plugging his NOW One Square Meal Bar at GNC stores and building awarness for Bike MS and the MS movement, participating in rallies for the National MS Society.
"The theme to this whole ride is really, the umbrella if you like, is really No Opportunity Wasted and everything that's happening really comes under this personal philosophy of mine, which is that when you pool resources and you look at making a change in the world, it's about using ingenuity and being resourceful," Keoghan told reporters on a conference call earlier this week. "One of my favorite quotes is from Sir Ernest Rutherford, who said, 'We didn't have money, so we had to think.'"
The journey came out of a conversation between Keoghan and a CBS publicist about ways to promote the new "Amazing Race" season, which many critics (including the one writing this article) have called a major comeback for the Emmy-winning series. In the course of their discussion, it became clear that this trip could be both promotional and altruistic.
"It has been an absolute adventure just putting this thing together," Keoghan said. "We haven't even left yet and all these people have come on and said, 'Yes, we will help you. We love this cause. We love what you're trying to do.' That's really how it evolved."
Keoghan and his wife have sponsored an MS Society-affiliated cycling team and participated in MS-affiliated cycling events for several years, so it was easy for him to target a cause.
"It seems like everybody you speak to know somebody who's connected with the disease in some way and it's always surprising to me just how many people are affected by it and it's not just the people who have MS," he says. "It's the people who live with others who have MS. We decided to get involved and the more I got involved with the MS Society, the more I warmed to their message and their spirit and the stories... I was so charged by their energy."
Keoghan will be joined by his father, a moto-rider, a veteran "Amazing Race" cameraman, an editor and at least one CBS publicist, allowing him to to update fans on his progress via video, a daily blog and a photo gallery at PhilRidesAcrossAmerica.com website. The trip begins on Saturday (March 28) and Keoghan is hoping to end in New York City in 40 days.
"To me, one of the most basic solutions to our situation right now is getting on a bicycle," Keoghan says. "It's makes for your wallet. It makes sense for your waistline. Forty percent of trips are under two miles in a vehicle. We have a tremendous obesity problem in this country. Everybody has gotten into this mindset of excess, of looking at all of the things we want -- 'I want this,' 'I want that' -- and we really need to get back to the needs, and essential needs."
And speaking of essential needs, since Keoghan was chatting with the press, my essential need was asking why he thinks "The Amazing Race" has been so good this season.
"The network made a conscious effort to really freshen things up, but in terms of the style of the show and the look of the show," he says. "They freshened up the music. They freshened up the graphics... They just sort of spring cleaned the show, if you like. And in terms of the cutting style, there's less sort-of process of in an airport... After a while, airports start to look like airports and if the background is an airport in Istanbul, it can look like the background of an airport in Houston. I think getting away from a little of that process in airports and getting out into the open and letting the show breathing a little bit more and then increasing the pace as the pace of the race increases has really given the show a fresh look."
Given that fresh look, why hasn't "The Amazing Race" followed the industry trend and moved into high definition?
"I think it should be in hi-def," Keoghan agrees. "The complication, or one of the challenges that we have is that we do utilize a lot of foreign crews when we're traveling. It's very difficult to just turn up in Siberia and say, 'Oh, let's call the local guy with the HD camera and he can come down and supplement our shooting.' It's a little bit more complicated than, say, facilitating an HD shoot on 'Survivor,' where you can fly all of the equipment into one spot and you've got all your technical support there, you've got a guy who can sit down every night and look after the equipment. We're moving at breakneck speed, 28 days, flying hundreds-of-thousands of miles, or at least anywhere from 75,000 miles in a given race, so we just don't have the same luxury of being an 'Idol' or 'Survivor,' where everything is brought to one place, it's 69 degrees, where the air-conditioning is perfect. We're out sweating in Botswana or anywhere else and that's been a huge part of the challenge. But, I absolutely agree with you. I'd love to see the show in HD. I don't think there's a show on TV that lends itself more to HD."
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