The Amazing Race
is back with its first all-star edition as 11 teams of competitors go on their second world trek.
CBS' three-time Emmy winner returns Feb. 18
(Sundays, 8 ET/PT
) with teams from seven of its 10 seasons, to be unveiled today. From among the 200 or so previous contestants, "it was very hard to pick favorites," executive producer Bertram Van Munster says. Producers chose partly "in terms of where their life went" since they left the show. "They're not necessarily the winners, but character-wise, they're all-stars in our book."
Only one team — Uchenna and Joyce Agu — was a past winner, in Season 7. But others are standouts: height-challenged Charla Faddoul and cousin Mirna Hindoyan; Joe Baldassare and Bill Bartek (the first season's "team Guido"); Rob and Amber Mariano, who parlayed their Survivor
stint into marriage and reality-TV careers; and Kevin O'Connor and Drew Feinberg, amiable, bald best friends from Season 1. Also repeating the Race
are two teams from the latest season: coal miner David Conley and wife Mary, and beauty queens Dustin Seltzer and Kandice Pelletier.
Also in the hunt: Eric Sanchez and Danielle Turner, who competed on separate teams in Season 9 but later became a couple; Oswald Mendez and Danny Jimenez (Season 2's "Team Cha-Cha-Cha"); John Pietanza and Jill Aquilino, a now-split couple from Season 3; and Teri and Ian Pollack, the oldest couple to finish as runners-up (she's now 53, he's 54), also in Season 3.
How did Race
challenge contestants who knew the drill? "We had to throw them curveball after curveball, because they all thought they knew what we were doing again," Van Munster says. So the 45,000-mile, 28-day race, which ended Dec. 19, sent them "from extreme cold to extreme heat," a desert in northern Chile to "borderline South Pole" in Antarctica.
Van Munster says he and co-creator Elise Doganieri had "reservations" about an all-star edition, but he's happy with the results.
"There is a lot of friction right off the bat" between teams, he says. "I'm confident we laid something on the table that will be very unexpected, and story-wise, there were plenty of fireworks."