How The Amazing Race outpaced the pandemic
JUST getting this year's season of The Amazing Race Australia off the ground was an epic challenge worthy of the show itself.
As borders shut and flights were grounded due to coronavirus, host Beau Ryan tells The BINGE Guide, it looked like the adventure series might need to scale back its ambitions.
"People started joking 'what … are you going to do it around Cronulla?' And in all honesty, the way borders were closing, it probably looked like that at one stage … just do 50 laps of Cronulla," the former NRL star says, with a laugh.
But thanks to some extraordinary planning, and a few logistical nightmares, the Race's production team were finally able to outrun a global pandemic and get the show on the road.
It wasn't without a few false starts, as Ryan explains, but the determination and agility of Channel 10 and Eureka Productions to keep rolling with the punches finally saw the race get off the ground.
Of course, that involved locking down the entire cast and crew in a 14-day quarantine as soon as they all landed in Queensland - the starting line - from all parts of COVID-affected Australia.
While originally scheduled to film back in May last year - at the peak of the pandemic here - producers were forced to abandon plans to take filming on a global adventure, including through coronavirus-ravaged Europe, the US and Brazil.
For Ryan, a travel enthusiast, having his wings clipped was made even more difficult as he took on homeschooling responsibilities for eight-year-old daughter Remy and three-year-old son Jesse, with wife Kara.
While the tight-knit family pine for each other when Ryan is away filming for his blossoming media career, he admits his wife was more grateful than most to see the show get started and her husband to get out of the house.
"My wife says it's much easier when I'm not there because I sort of become another kid she has to look after," he admits, "so she ran things really smoothly when I was away."
Still, his absence makes the heart grow fonder.
"The first month away was hard, I'm not going to lie, because you can't really see the light at the start," the doting father of two explains.
"But just being away with a large group of people … everyone was missing their families, or their partners and loved ones at home," he says adding, "when you're all working together, you go in the trenches together and you get a lot of strength from that."
The COVID protocols meant Ryan began the latest season keeping his distance from contestants, resisting the urge to celebrate with each team of two as they made their way from one checkpoint to the next.
"I remember the first few teams checked in and I looked at the producers and said 'do I elbow here? or do I hug? what do I do?' By the third team, it went from the elbow, to a handshake, to a hug and by the end, it was group hugs all round," he laughs.
We'd both been tested, so they didn't have it and I didn't either so it was fine."
The scheduling upheaval meant some of the teams had to be recast before filming begin last September, as some contestants found themselves unable to compete due to work or family commitments.
On the upside, his experience with season one gave Ryan the confidence to stand tall in the role as host this time around.
"I've been in a lot of high pressure situations, in both sport and live TV and live radio, but I felt last year when we were doing the show a lot of us didn't know what we were doing," he admits.
"Channel 10 and Eureka were great, they just gave me the freedom to be me. We obviously have a structure of the show that they allowed me to say what I wanted and put it in my words and my terminology. But this year I felt so much more comfortable."
"And it was good for all the teams," he says, "as they only knew me as the host of the show."
When restrictions lifted, the show was able to skip from one state to another without quarantining multiple times - opening them all up to the majesty of our own country.
For Ryan, it was an eye-opening gift.
"I've always been a Queensland guy," he admits. "My wife's from up there and we've got friends and family there so we holiday there a lot and I knew it was going to be great. But the middle of Australia, I didn't realise was that good and, you know, full of wild animals. I think we do take it for granted as Aussies. We don't really know much about it. We see the pictures, but until you get to Alice Springs and see all that stuff first hand, it made me realise just how lucky we are."
* The Amazing Race Australia, 7.30pm, February 1 on 10.
Originally published as How The Amazing Race outpaced the pandemic