Why The Amazing Race Is Totally Fake

With more than two dozen editions since 2001, The Amazing Race is one of the longest-running reality shows of all time. It's also one of the most acclaimed, having won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program 10 times out of the 13 years it's been contested. Lacking the trashiness and backstabbing usually associated with reality TV, The Amazing Race is one part travelogue, one part scavenger hunt, and totally unpredictable...or at least mostly unpredictable. That's because, like most reality shows, The Amazing Race needs a little help and sweetening to make for good, consistent TV. (Not to mention to keep the contestants safe in far-flung lands.) Here are some ways the stuff you see on the series doesn't quite reflect reality.

Contestants aren't quite always on the move

The mere mention of The Amazing Race likely conjures up an image of a couple, each wearing a huge backpack, running through a bare-bones airport in a foreign country, desperately trying to catch a plane. Or desperately trying to catch a bus. Or desperately trying to catch a train. The truth: Contestants in a hurry is a dramatic image, so it's going to make for interesting television. The reality of the situation is that contestants spend a great deal of time waiting around for planes, trains, and automobiles to move them along. Just like in real, non-televised reality: if the plane isn't there yet, the plane can't leave yet. Which means contestants have to wait around in airports for hours upon hours.

The Pit Stops happen somewhere else

One episode of the show usually covers one leg of the trip, and its culmination in a rest-and-recovery period called a Pit Stop. It's also where they tape scenes with the show's host, Phil Keoghan, and the winners of the leg receive a prize. Generally filming takes place in one location, often a hotel, but that doesn't mean the contestants actually stay there. After recording is complete, the contestants are herded into vans and moved out to a different location for 12 hours of relaxation and treats. (And Keoghan flies out immediately, usually to the spot of the next leg's Pit Stop.)

"Blind date" contestants aren't made to share quarters

While the two-person teams on The Amazing Race are usually married couples, romantic partners, friends, siblings, or family members, the show has also involved "blind date" couples—two strangers the show set up to be teammates for each other who don't mean until the starting line. While some episodes have shown blind date teams sharing a room during their travels (as every other team on the show would), the show doesn't really force them to do that. Blind date couples get separate rooms.

Not every contestant applies to be on the show—some are recruited

The vast majority of the hundreds of The Amazing Race contestants got onto the show via the standard casting process: they filled out an audition form, made at least one or two audition tapes, met with casting directors, and beat the odds to win a slot in the game. However, it would seem that many contestants on the show were recruited. Reportedly, the show's casting staff recruits at restaurants, bars, and other public places near its production offices in Santa Monica, California. Also recruited: The cast of the show's 28th cycle, which was made up entirely of YouTube and Vine stars.

Contestants are never alone, and are never truly in danger

Each team on The Amazing Race is actually a four-person operation traipsing around the world. There are the two contestants, plus a camera operator and a sound person. They go where the teams go, and live the same adventures they live (including sleeping wherever they end up having to sleep). Not to mention, paramedics and other medical teams are always on standby, close by, should any contestant actually get bitten by a cobra, break their leg, or endure some other kind of exotic injury.