Washington Post, DC
July 2, 2004

'Amazing Race': Location Is Everything

By Tracy L. Scott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 4, 2004; Page Y04


The Emmy Award-winning "Amazing Race" is an elaborate TV production --
contestants and crews traverse the globe in a trek that requires four
to five months in preparation alone.

Since its debut in 2001, the show's contestants have traveled to 62
different countries in hopes of winning the $1 million prize.

"We've gone to just about every continent," said co-creator Bertram van
Munster.

The show's fifth season, which begins Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on CBS,
follows 11 two-person teams -- including cousins from Maryland (see
sidebar, page 28) -- as they travel approximately 73,000 miles in 29
days and tape 13 episodes, van Munster said.

The show works like this: The first team to arrive at any designated
destination is the first team to leave -- thereby getting a head start
-- on the next day's journey. The last team to arrive at each location
is cut. Contestants also are allowed to use only a specific amount of
money during their journey.

It sounds easy enough, but along the way, teams may have to bungee jump
or enter a rat-infested temple to obtain further instructions and make
it to the next location.

Gaining access to those locations is an daunting task, and van Munster
said the show must receive permits for every place visited.

"It's a very ambitious project on a huge international scale," he said.
"It is very complex, but generally people are welcoming. [The show] is
very well-known worldwide."

No country van Munster's approached has refused to participate, he
said. This season the teams travel to Uruguay, Russia, Egypt and the
Philippines, among other spots.

Although the program focuses on the race, the show is as much about
relationships -- with people in other countries, as well as with family
and friends -- as it is about completing the challenge.

Host Phil Keoghan, who said no major international incidents occurred
as a result of the show, noted that some teams are more accepting of
different cultures than others.

"A lot of what happens -- if there's any incidences with local people
-- it's a result of how the teams themselves respond to the local
people.

"Americans have a lot of preconceived ideas of what the world's about
and how it operates," said Keoghan. The show "dispels a lot of people's
misconceptions about what the world is like," he said.

Everyone selected for the show has a preexisting relationship, whether
father and daughter, two cousins or best friends.

"I always thought preexisting relationships were more interesting,"
said van Munster, who described the show as a "reality soap opera."

Members of the teams talk openly with each other, van Munster said.

"Strangers feel each other out for the first three or four episodes.
They don't get the real thing."

Although the competition is physically challenging, van Munster said he
looks for applicants with interesting personal relationships as opposed
to brawn or athleticism.

"We tell them up front the show will change your life," said van
Munster, noting that the change isn't always for the better. The show
even contributed to a breakup. Chip Arndt and Reichen Lehmkuhl, last
season's winners, severed ties after they collected their $1 million.

Keoghan said the experience also has reunited couples.

"It does strange things to relationships. It is incredibly stressful
for these teams. They are pushed emotionally to places they haven't
gone before," he said.

Maryland Cousins Compete on 'Race'

Two Maryland residents will compete for the $1 million prize in CBS's
new season of "Amazing Race."

Charla Faddoul and Mirna Hindoyan are first cousins. Both were born in
Syria but now live in Phoenix, Md., and Towson, respectively.

The 27-year-olds describe themselves as "extremely comical and
aggressive," according to CBS press releases. To their advantage, the
pair speak several languages, including Armenian and Turkish.

Faddoul, a manager of a sports store, has a form of dwarfism and hopes
her appearance on the program will show the world that the condition is
not a physical handicap.

"We did not have to change anything for her," said co-creator Bertram
van Munster.

Hindoyan is a graduate of the University of Maryland at Baltimore
School of Law.

Host Phil Keoghan said the cousins "were a crucial part of making this
season really pop."