Wu-ing back viewers

AMERICAN-CHINESE actor and VJ Allan Wu had his big break in 2006 hosting the first season of The Amazing Race Asia (TARA).

Being a virtual unknown outside of Singapore then, Wu immediately drew comparisons to Emmy-winning The Amazing Race (US edition) host Phil Keoghan.

However, Wu has managed to carve out his own identity on the show, and is now one of the most recognised celebrities in Asia.

Sadly, TARA went on hiatus after season four in 2010. In the meantime, Wu stayed on with the franchise, hosting three seasons of International Channel Shanghai’s The Amazing Race: China Rush, and three seasons of Shenzhen Media Group’s Chinese edition of The Amazing Race.

Wu also recently displayed his not-so-great driving skills on History’s Celebrity Car Wars.

This year, Wu is back as host of TARA for a fifth season.

During a media session prior to the show’s premiere on Oct 13, Wu said he is excited about hosting the show.

He felt connected with the franchise, and it was like reuniting with a long-lost ‘friend’, adding that “over the past six years, fans kept asking me about it. It was a long gap”.

Wu is also happy that AXN approached him again to be the host. “I guess they thought that I still look good – that I would bring back a sense of familiarity and connection to the past four seasons.”

This year, for the first time, TARA will feature a co-host, Indonesian actress Tara Basro, who made her debut during the first leg of the race in Jakarta. She will appear only on certain legs of the race.

When asked at which point did Wu let go and let Tara take over, Wu jokingly said: “I never let go!

“For me, I have been doing it for so long. Tara is an actress, and this is her first time hosting a show like this.

“For the Roadblock [challenge] … she would explain one portion [and] I would explain another. She was willing to learn and she learnt quickly. There was definitely a whole new dynamic to the show.”

Before the race even got underway, Wu announced to the 11 teams that they had to undergo a quick elimination challenge. Their task was to find a compass showing the exact direction that Wu wanted.

The team from Vietnam failed the task, and it was heartbreaking to watch the pair go.

“I was shocked,” said Wu. “I felt bad for the 11 teams. I had to be the bearer of bad news.

“But then, who doesn’t know how to read a compass? It is not complicated. It was like a huge wake-up call that it could all end in an instant.

“Obviously, you have trained, and done your homework and watched the show. The challenges are physical, but also require thinking. You have to be cool and calm about it, or you will get eliminated.”

Wu said he also talked to those who got eliminated at the pit stops, and this year, the audience will get to see these segments.

“It’s more immersive this time. You can even hear my thoughts about what transpired on that leg. There are very interesting things that have happened on the pit stop mat [in previous seasons], and now you can see that.”

Because of the long gap, fans are especially eager to watch TARA on air again.

Wu agrees: “Not to be boastful, but this is the biggest show in Asia. It is unifying, and [representative of] Asia. It has the competitive element, plus it is a travel show.

“It is such a privilege and honour, and so exciting for me to do this.”

The Amazing Race Asia season 5 airs on Thursdays at 9pm on AXN Asia (Astro channel 701 and 721).