Welcome to the Biggest Loser, NBC’s newest entry into the reality TV fray – a weight loss competition show pitting 12 metabolically challenged Ample-Americans in a race against the scale, and each other. Quite honestly, the temptation here is to go for the easy, gratuitous fat joke – there are bound to be plenty of opportunities. But maybe this time a little sensitivity is in order. After all, who among us doesn’t at least partially share the pain and suffering of these 12 contestants? Though I’ve never reached the extreme gravitational mass of most of the players, I must confess that I’ve tipped the scales sufficiently to have experienced every low-carb fad diet that’s come along recently. I understand the lure of Cheez-its, pizza, candy, ice cream, and more candy. As I sit down to watch this episode, I’m armed with a Charms blow pop, some Starburst, and a handful of stale Life Savers leftover from Easter - two YEARS ago. They were the pastel kind – purple raspberry, green watermelon, yellow banana, and pink cotton candy. I got them for 25 cents at Walgreen’s after Easter, but I threw away the banana and cotton candy ones - they’re just nasty! The point is, deep down inside all of us there’s a fat person trying to get out, so maybe we should be nice.
From what I’ve heard, many hardcore reality TV junkies are hesitant to give this show a chance. Perhaps it hits too close to home, or they think the concept is too mean-spirited. I’m ready to give it a shot. Will it be a spectacle like Fox’s “The Littlest Groom”, or will it find a sincere side like NBC’s “Average Joe” franchise? Let’s find out together.
The twelve people gathered at this stately mansion have one thing in common – they’re all fat. Not pleasingly plump, not Reubenesque, not stout or full-figured. Fat. Fat. Fat. Screen images drive the point home – man boobs, stomach rolls, and bathing suits that unmercifully leave little to the imagination. The 12 contestants will be separated into two teams. They will be referred to as the red team and blue team, but, thankfully, they aren’t naming the teams at this point. i.e. – Lard Lovers and Butter Buddies! Each team is assigned a trainer who will push them towards weight loss, and each trainer comes armed with a different workout philosophy and diet philosophy, and we’ll see which ultimately proves to be more successful. At the end of the week, the team that has lost the most total weight is safe, and their opponents must choose a player to be eliminated.
There’s also a cash prize involved, as the biggest loser is also the biggest winner. Get ready to hear this clever little play on words over and over again. The last remaining player will become the biggest loser. The winner will leave with a thinner body and a fatter bank account, pocketing a cool ¼ million (cheapskates). The goal is simple – lose weight or face elimination.
Let’s meet the contestants – they seem to be normal people who really want to lose weight. This is no circus sideshow.
Lisa is a 26 year old salesperson from Orlando – she says it’s hard being overweight as you are limited in clothes and where you can shop;
Matt, 25, does marketing work in Pennsylvania – he’s never been thin and worries that if he loses weight people will just see a cute guy and not the real him;
Ryan, DVD production, Van Nuys, CA – food is a big part of his life – a negative part. He doesn’t want to die of a heart attack at the age of 65;
Gary, a 40 year old business owner from Brooklyn, has recently had less than desirable results at the doctor’s office. He wants to make sure he’s around for his wife and kids;
Dave, a 39 year old real estate developer from Massachusetts, has a lot of confidence. In his mind he’s 6’4” with a full head of hair, but he does realize he needs to lose weight;
Kelly Mac, 31 is a stand-up comic from Washington. She would like to be able to shake the insecurity that comes with being overweight;
Lizzeth, 26, is a childcare worker from California. She would like to look drop dead hot, but more importantly wants to become a role model for her family – if she can do it, they can do it;
Kelly M is a 28 year old teacher from PA. She says no man has ever come out and said to her “you’re too fat, I don’t want to date you.” There’s always another reason, but she wonders if her weight is the real reason;
Dana is a 21 year old receptionist from Nashville. She wants to prove to herself she can live a healthy lifestyle.
There are still three we haven’t been introduced to yet – Aaron, Maurice, and Lisa, but it’s time for our host, Caroline Rhea, to take the stage. She tells the group this isn’t one of those shows that will let you take the easy way out – no stapling, sucking, or cutting. It’s all about a new fad in weight loss – diet and exercise! Weight loss is the bottom line and temptations will be along the way.
She tells the players to take a look at the past, and points to a huge buffet table adorned with a feast of comfort foods. The feast piled on the table replicates all the foods they ate last week. Though it’s intended to shock the contestants, I think it really just makes them feel at home. In fact, Ryan actually grabbed a donut off the table and popped it into his mouth to the horror of his fellow contestants.
The Players Weigh In
The moment they’ve been dreading has arrived. The enormous scale is intimidating and humiliating. It looks like a device that’s normally used to weigh livestock. They are asked to change into their bathing suits, and Kelly M. says it reminds her of a friend – Hugh Miliating!
As I wolf down some Girl Scout thin mint cookies that I’ve had them in the freezer since March, the “bikini models” lumber towards the runway. Unfortunately, the network didn’t give us a warning about these upcoming graphic visual images. I pause the TiVo while I get up and discard the remaining thin mints, and across America, thousands of people choose this moment to begin new diets. As they head for the weigh-in, Aaron, a 29 year old writer from Los Angeles, admits that he is embarrassed about his man boobs. Ryan is also worried about America seeing his man-rack.
Here are the results of the weigh-in. These are the baseline weights by which the contestants will be judged:
Gary – 227 lbs.
Lisa – 236
Dana – 175
Matt – 310
Brunette Kelly – 242
Ryan - 330
Andrea - 215
Aaron – 261
Blond Kelly – 223
Maurice – 436
Lizzeth – 167
There is a special room in this house, that the contestants are hoping to see very little of. It’s the Biggest Loser’s answer to tribal council or the boardroom – the refrigerator room. Each player has a refrigerator filled with the things that tempt them most. Macaroni and cheese, fried chicken , spaghetti and meatballs, French dip sandwiches, Oreos, ice cream, cake, and much, much more. The refrigerators are lit brightly, but when your refrigerator is powered down, so are your chances of becoming the Biggest Loser.
Whichever team has lost the least combined weight on weigh-in day must eliminate a team member. In the end, the biggest loser wins a new body, a new life, and $250,000.
Note to self: New Life – this sounds like a really cool idea for a reality game show – a competition based show where the winner truly gets a new life - entry into the federal witness protection program!. Must submit this idea to Mark
It is in the refrigerator room that the contestants are separated into two teams- the blue team and the red team. Here are the teams and the starting weights of each team member:
Lisa - 236
David - 250
Matt - 310
Kelly - 242
Ryan - 330
Lizzeth - 167
Total - 1,535
Aaron - 261
Maurice - 436
Kelly - 223
Dana - 175
Gary - 227
Andrea - 215
Total - 1,537
The players are dismissed to find their living quarters and choose sleeping arrangements. Aaron finds some contraband sour patch kids in someone’s bag – maybe his own? Note to self – go to Ralph’s and get some more sour patch kids and sour gummi cola bottles. Get some sour tropical fish while you’re at it.
Kelly Mac tells us everyone on her team seems laid back and that’s a good thing. Lisa tells us that people better not tell her what to eat and not to eat – “tell me I’m fat and I’m going to eat more”. Maurice says there’s no competition. His weight is so high, he can easily outlose the others. He also proclaims to be the most competitive player in the world. Other players seem to agree he has an advantage.
David used to own a gym and be a trainer, so he knows what to do. Ryan tells us that fat people know better than anyone how to lose weight. During his life he’s LOST over 400 lbs. He tells his teammates that he thinks the person who loses the least weight each week should be kicked out. Of course, the relatively slender Lizzeth (167 lbs.) doesn’t think that’s fair – they should get rid of who’s not working as hard as the others.
Meet The Trainers
Now its time to meet the trainers. The red team’s trainer is Jillian Michaels. Her philosophy is to push people hard, but to me it looks like she just enjoys seeing people in pain.
The blue trainer is Bob Harper. His philosophy is to make working out and weight loss fun. Don’t push people beyond their limits. He doesn’t want them to burn out. The two styles are quite different, so it’ll be interesting to see which is ultimately most effective.
Jillian takes the red team through their first workout. Her mantra to her team is “you’ll feel sick, you’ll cry, you’ll puke, then move on!”. She wastes no time putting her team through hell, making them actively use muscles that to this point have done little more than support the fat surrounding them. She is both a task-mistress and a cheerleader, encouraging them to finish every task they are given.
Bob, on the other hand, starts by holding a touchy-feely group therapy session, where everybody shares their feelings about weight loss and their personal body image. He wants to learn about each individual. Bob eases his team into their workouts, starting with the treadmills set at about ½ mile per hour! No reasonable person could even be breaking a sweat at this pace – heck, just pretend you’re walking down the grocery store aisles!
Back to Jillian. She learns that Matt is a smoker when he tells her he can’t workout until he’s had his morning cigarette. Jillian decides its time for him to quit right now. Cold turkey. Matt tattles to Jillian that Dave smokes too because, let’s face it, misery loves company. Jillian has decided Dave is quitting too.
Back to Bob and the blue team, where the workout has stepped up a notch. We get a close up glimpse of the first player to record a verified weight loss – Aaron. We are treated to the sight of Aaron losing about a pint of “weight” through his mouth, outside the workout room, behind the bushes. Bob says his team got the feeling of success.
Jillian’s team is on the Eat Less Diet. The goal is to burn more calories than you take in. Low carb, high fiber, portion control. The team members are worried because they feel they cant’ eat anything. She tells them “if you cheat, don’t lie to me. I will find out”.
The blue team is on the Eat More Diet. The goal is to deal with hunger before it happens. Four to six planned meals a day. High volume, low calorie, low carb. Bob will be on the same diet. Maurice is especially unhappy about the diet. He calls it the “eat not quite enough diet”, and wants to know where the meat is.
As they awaken on the morning of Day 2, pretty much everyone is in agreement that they have pains in muscles they didn’t know existed. Even their pains have pains! Their pain is pushed aside temporarily though, as it’s time for breakfast. Here we get a sense of the temptations that are likely to come. The table is set with all kinds of breakfast foods; mostly forbidden ones. There’s bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes, syrup, French toast and more. Maurice bravely avoids the French toast and pancakes, opting instead for the bacon – and lots of it. His team isn’t too happy. The trainers aren’t around to keep them from this tempting bounty.
Yes, there will be reward challenges in this game, and today, they prepare for the first challenge. Since they can’t really have food as a reward, or pampering because they are not there to be pampered, I wonder what they could be playing for. The first challenge takes place at a racetrack. Each team must drag a race car down the home stretch to the finish line, taking turns hopping in and out of the driver’s seat at specified intervals. This will be no easy task because there are no doors, so the team members must climb through the tiny window openings. What are they playing for? Five pounds of lard. Woohoo! They are excited! Actually, they get to add the five pounds to the other team’s total at weigh in – it’s not for personal consumption (damn!). The blue team wins the reward challenge. Maurice tries to eat the lard, but the others manage to stop him. The red team worries that Jillian will punish them for losing. I agree, she’s going to love this!
Jillian figures each team member must now lose an additional 0.8 lbs. per person and so they embark on an all night workout. No sleeping and 2 hours of cardio per person. She won’t let any of them quit. Over the course of the next few days – remember, it’s a week between weighings - both teams are working out like crazy. It becomes like a tug of war to see who can workout the hardest. They know the weigh-in is coming up, and no one wants to face elimination.
Lizzeth sums things up nicely saying that she’s nervous about weigh-in day because she’s scared of going home, and she’s scared of staying here. For the weigh-in ceremony, they alternate turns on the scale. First a blue team member, then a red team member until all 12 have been weighed. It’s all about the number of pounds each team member has lost.
Round One: Gary vs. Lisa. The lard penalty will be deducted from Lisa’s weight loss total.
Gary - lost 12
Lisa - lost 10
Lard Penalty (5)
Blue Team ahead by 7 lbs.
Round Two: Maurice vs. Lizzeth. This is a total mismatch. Maurice should kick Lizzeth’s butt. Indeed, Maurice loses 13 pounds to Lizzeth’s 3. Maurice and his team are both disappointed, because they were expecting more from him. Lizzeth is also unhappy because she knows 3 lbs. a week isn’t going to keep her around long.
Maurice - lost 13
Lizzeth - lost 3
Blue Team ahead by 17.
Round Three:Kelly vs. Matt. Kelly is excited because she’s lost 13 lbs., but Matt outdoes her with a whopping 22 lb. loss – remarkable since he’s also giving up smoking simultaneously. Red is right back in it!
Kelly - lost 13
Matt - lost 22
Blue Team leads by 8
Round Four: Dana vs. Dave . Dana is disappointed to learn that she’s only lost 5 lbs., but host Caroline encourages her, saying “one pound or five ponds, every lost pound is great”. Dave is next and he’s down from 250 to 240 – a 10 lb. loss. The red team is only 3 lbs. behind now.
Dana - lost 5
Gary - lost 10
Blue Team leads by 3.
Round Five: Aaron vs. Kelly. Aaron sets a high standard with a 20 lb. weight loss. Kelly dips from 242 to 227 for a very respectable net loss of 15 lbs., but the red team loses ground.
Aaron - lost 20
Kelly - lost 15
Blue Team leads by 8.
Round Six: Andrea vs. Ryan. Andrea weighs in at 209 lbs., only a six pound loss. This means Ryan , the final red team member must lose at least 14 lbs. for his team to win. Form a start weight of 330, Ryan now tips the scales at 311 lbs. for a net loss of 19, and the Red Team wins – even overcoming the lard disadvantage! Maurice and his fellow blue peeps can’t believe it.
Andrea - lost 6
Ryan - lost 19
Red Team wins by five pounds!
Who Shall Go
The blue team meets to decide who to eliminate. They gather as a group to discuss who should go home, quite a departure from most reality contests where the voting discussions are kept secret. Predictably, the heavier people want to eliminate those who lost the least weight, which will almost always be the smallest person on the team. On the other hand, the smaller ones, or the ones who lost the least, think the decision should be based on who is trying the hardest and really wants to be there the most – and it’s always them of course. Kelly tells us she could easily be going home, but it rings hollow as she is one of the bigger ones and she lost a lot of weight. No one is ready to go home, but after much deliberation, its time for elimination. The team meats in the refrigerator room, and each brings in a covered platter. The platters contain their votes for elimination. Caroline does her best Jeff Probst imitation, grilling them with hard questions – Dana, you lost the least amount, do you deserve to stay? She says she does because she’s proud of all of them for what they did. HUH? Andrea – you only lost one more lb. than Dana. Why do you deserve to stay? Andrea replies that she should stay because she has a lot to give that will benefit her team. Just give up your fat layer, girl, and you’ll stick around. The questions seem out of place since they’ll have no effect on the votes, which were cast before they came into the room. Caroline declares, its time to “cut the fat”.
Maurice – was going to select one of the two who lost the least, but instead chose Gary.
Aaron – thinking of what will lead to a win next week. Chooses Dana because she doesn’t have enough to lose. She’s young and can do this at home.
Andrea – says it’s based on what will most benefit their team. She also chooses Dana.
Dana – wasn’t going to base it on who lost the least, but couldn’t think of any reason anyone should go. She wasn’t going to choose herself, so she chooses Andrea.
Gary – team decision again ; Dana. Dana is gone and they don’t even reveal Kelly’s vote. This doesn’t seen quite fair
Caroline tells Dana “I’m afraid that you are NOT the Biggest Loser.” It doesn’t have the same impact as “the tribe has spoken”. Hopefully, she’ll come up with something better for the next episode. The light in Dana’s refrigerator is turned off as she leaves. She doesn’t get to raid her refrigerator on the way out, which would have been kind of funny.
In retrospect, Dana thanks trainer Bob and tells us he changed her life. To the team she says she respects their decision though she doesn’t necessarily agree with them. Um, yes you do! You said yourself, you just chose Andrea because she lost the least - except for YOU. She has every intention of sticking to her diet and remembering what she learned. Indeed, we find out that since appearing on the show, she has lost an additional 15 lbs., and there’s a picture to prove it. WOW she’s looking pretty hot! Good job Dana, now keep it off. We also learn she has a new job, a new boyfriend, and a new lease on life. Okay, so she didn’t WIN a new life, but at least she was able to lease one!
Next week: Lizzeth – the smallest remaining contestant is working out in another gear, going the extra mile while the others are sleeping. Also, Lisa is insane, and David is slacking off. Plus, they must bake and sell some really yummy looking goodies – without succumbing to temptation!
The Biggest Loser is a fun show that most of us can identify with. Are there many people out there who don’t worry about shedding a few pounds? The contestants are interesting and likeable, and they’re mostly pretty good looking people despite the extra baggage they’re carrying. It will be fun to see how they manage from week to week and which diet/exercise philosophy ends up being the most successful. It will also be interesting to see how the contestants fared since they left the show.
If you aren’t already watching The Biggest Loser, give it a chance. Watch if you can, then come back here to Reality TV World to find out what really happened. Be sure to check out next week’s summary by Volsfan. Thanks for reading, but right now, I’ve got a date with a with a bag of white chololate covered pretzels that have been in my fridge since last Thanksgiving!
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