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Tonight's edition of CBS' "The Amazing Race 8" should be of special interest to Utahns - and not just because it's the popular reality TV series' 100th episode.
Almost the entire show was filmed in Utah - the first time in its history that "The Amazing Race" has visited the Beehive State. Contestants dashed from Lake Powell to Salt Lake City, with some scenic detours through Utah's redrock canyons, alpine valleys and northern mountains.
"We're showing off the whole state," host Phil Keoghan told The Salt Lake Tribune in a phone interview from somewhere - he wouldn't say - halfway around the world. "I can't say exactly where the show went. But the whole state is featured prominently, and I think people will be very pleased. It looks beautiful."
One of the five top-rated reality shows on TV, "The Amazing Race" pits teams of contestants in a mad scramble across the globe. Teams perform tasks along the way to earn clues about their next destination, while stragglers are eliminated.
Among the show's biggest draws are its exotic locales, such as India, Peru and Africa, which serve as backdrops for the action. After seven seasons of showcasing international locations, the series' current season focuses on the United States. And unlike past seasons, which limited teams to two people each, "The Amazing Race 8" features competing families of four.
Of the 10 teams that started the season, four remain: The Bransens (a dad and three daughters) from Park Ridge, Ill., the Godlewskis (four sisters) from Des Plaines, Ill., the Linzs (four siblings) from Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Weavers (a widow and her three kids) from Ormond Beach, Fla.
On tonight's episode, the teams race their GMC Yukons from Monument Valley through Moab, Green River, Heber City and Park City before finishing in Salt Lake City, according to CBS-TV spokesman Mitch Graham. Contestants and crews spent three days in Utah shooting the episode last summer, Graham said.
Neither Graham nor Keoghan would reveal details about the teams' activities in Utah. But between CBS' Web site and the network's previews of tonight's episode, some clues have emerged.
The previews show a contestant leaping off a ski jump and face-planting into a pool, something that could only happen at the Utah Olympic Park near Park City. And the Web site hints at teams receiving clues from "an 1,100-pound grizzly bear," which suggests a possible rendezvous with Heber City's Doug and Lynne Seus and their trained grizzly, Tank, star of such movies as "Dr. Dolittle 2."
"There will be some prominent landmarks featured," promised the typically secretive Keoghan by cell phone from the set of the show's ninth season, now shooting "somewhere near the Middle East." Keoghan has visited Park City for the Sundance Film Festival and hopes to race a car someday on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
"Utah is truly a spectacular part of the world," said the well-traveled host. "I've always enjoyed going there."
"The Amazing Race" is the fourth unscripted TV show to visit Utah in recent months. NBC's "Three Wishes" was shot in Cedar City, ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" was filmed in Bountiful and the syndicated program "Elimidate" was shot in Salt Lake City.
Utah tourism officials are thrilled about tonight's episode, which they view as free, prime-time publicity for the state's natural beauty.
"We know the reach of ["The Amazing Race"] is extensive," said Leigh von der Esch, managing director of the state's Office of Tourism. "To have a show showcasing our locales is terrific."
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