Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Biggest Loser Won Me Over

While home in February, Mom got me hooked on yet another TV show - The Biggest Loser. I initially watched one episode halfheartedly with her; 3/4 of the way in, I was a goner. Hooked (line and sinker). Now let's not be coy - I watch a lot of television - a LOT. Reality shows make up a good percentage of that viewing. So I could not figure out why another reality show grabbed me so quickly and so forcefully.

The Biggest Loser - or BL as TWP lovingly calls it - immediately went on my TiVo when I got back to Washington, and I've been following the participants' progress as if I knew them personally. Mom and I've dissected the episodes and drama (can you believe how off the reservation the black team went when they got the 24 hours of relaxation?!?), and as I was watching tonight's episode, I was trying to figure out why the show is so appealing...

1. It's voyeuristic. Be honest - watching overnourished people sweat is captivating. It's like those TLC specials about the 1/2 ton man. You know you shouldn't watch, you know you shouldn't stare in at this person's life and problems, but you can't turn away. The only times I've physically closed my eyes during the show is when Ron takes off his shirt to be weighed (the flapping man boobs are too much to take while eating).

2. It's inspiring. Unlike most reality shows, these contestants are actually working towards something realistic. America's Next Top Model is fun, but c'mon - have you ever seen any of the winners doing actual modeling after their win? No. But, BL participants walk away thinner, healthier, more confident, and hopefully with a new drive to live a healthy life.

3. The host and trainers aren't annoying. Allison Sweeny can get a little repetitive during the weigh-ins (does she need to remind us 83 times just how much weight so-and-so needs to lose?), but she at least means well, and doesn't try and steal the spotlight from the contestants. Jillian and Bob (the trainers) are priceless. Jillian is this hard-nosed bitch who would probably kill your dog and/or grandmother if it meant you could lose another pound; Bob is also tough, but brings a refreshing willingness to cry over anything and everything.

4. Probably the biggest reason for the show's appeal is the contestants. They're completely relate able. They look like many of us. They have families and lives and genuine fears about their health and ability to continue the weight loss after the show is over. They crave chips. And they're truly supportive of each other. Unlike Survivor or Big Brother or countless other shows, the contestants are not out to backstab each other. They're happy when people are successful. Of course, it's a game, and they're all trying to win - but they get it. They realize what the big picture is, and they focus on that. Refreshing.

Let's call this a guide for future television producers - if you can find a mix of voyeurism, inspiration, captivating personalities, and genuine goals - you've got yourself a TV goldmine. (If not, I'll still probably watch whatever crap you come up with.)


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