The 23rd season of CBS' competitive reality show "The Amazing Race" is already in production as the 22nd season prepares to launch on Sunday, Feb. 17. Despite crisscrossing the globe for more than a decade, the show has still not run out of cool things to do or cool places to do them in -- or cool people.
This year's diverse lineup of two-person teams includes twin Chicago brothers who are both husbands, fathers and OB/GYNs; pro hockey players from North Carolina; roller-derby moms from Colorado; father-son cancer survivors from Salt Lake City; pals and country singers, one descended from Daniel Boone and the other descended from John Wayne; and Los Angeles friends who are both hosts of their own YouTube channels.
Spouses and producing partners Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri take a break during a photo shoot at the "Amazing Race" headquarters, which shares an office building with an airline in El Segundo, Calif., just south of LAX. It's a rare chilly and rainy day in Southern California, pleasing van Munster, who says it reminds him of the East Coast.
He and Doganieri then discuss how this year's global adventure begins.
"We start here in Los Angeles at the [Griffith] Observatory," van Munster tells Zap2it. "They have to get in cars, and there's two ways out. One way is blocked, and the other one, you go straight out. Of course, four or five people are going to drive straight into the blocked street."
Then, after braving Los Angeles traffic to catch a plane, the contestants head off to Bora Bora in French Polynesia -- but there aren't exactly a beach chair and an umbrella drink waiting for them.
"They have to go up in a helicopter," says van Munster, "over the island of Bora Bora. The helicopter starts in midair, hovers, and then they have to jump out. That is very intimidating. They know nothing in advance. They realize it once they're up there.
"Going up in a helicopter, hovering at 10,000 feet and jumping over an island that's basically a dot in the ocean, not knowing where you're going to land with this thing, it's daunting. So, I must say, they all did it. They screamed their little hearts out on the way down. They fall like a brick out of this helicopter."
Adds Doganieri, "We were so lucky with the weather, too. The islands look stunning from the sky. You see white sand beaches and turquoise water and the deep blue sea."
After a couple of shows around French Polynesia, the 11 teams then head to New Zealand, where they participate in a shemozzle race. What, you ask, is a shemozzle race? If you've seen the movie "Babe," it may look familiar.
"It's the roadblock," Doganieri says. "It's a farmers obstacle course. Farmers run with their sheepdogs. So we had the contestants do this course with a dog, which was so much fun.
"It was muddy and rainy. They've got to climb up hay bales, slide down giant mud hills into pools of water. It's just hysterically funny. And they have to carry eggs without cracking them while doing this whole race."
Incidentally, there's one new twist this year. The first team to check in at the first pit stop will earn two "Express Passes" -- one to keep and one that must be given to another team by the end of the fourth leg of the race.
Says van Munster, "Again, we found another way to make our way around the world in a unique way."
Photo/Video credit: CBS