film / tv / politics / social media / web / celeb / pajiba love / misc / about / cbr
film / tv / politics / web / celeb

biggest-loser-review.jpeg

'The Biggest Loser' Is Still a Horror Show of Misery Porn

By Dustin Rowles | TV | January 31, 2020 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | January 31, 2020 |


biggest-loser-review.jpeg

I was aware that The Biggest Loser existed, but I had no idea that it ran for 12 years (and 17 seasons) on NBC. I’ve seen commercials for it, but I have never actually seen the series, which ceased to produce new seasons in 2016 after it came under criticism for focusing too much on weight loss instead of overall health. Apparently, an investigation into former contestants also revealed that they struggled to maintain their weight loss (probably because they didn’t have a trainer screaming at them all day long), and some had allegedly resorted to doping in an effort to win the $250,000 prize.

After a nearly four-year hiatus, The Biggest Loser returned this week on NBC-owned The USA Network. The show wants you to believe that it’s addressed the criticisms that arose around the earlier run, but it’s all bullshit. It’s still a series that is almost singularly obsessed with extreme weight loss, and the show’s focus is almost entirely on exercise instead of nutrition, which is where healthy weight loss begins. Why? Because montages of overweight people putting themselves through the wringer until they throw up while trainers look on and yell is more television-friendly than eating a goddamn salad. “YOU GOT 20 SECONDS TO PUKE NOW GET BACK ON THE BICYCLE.”

Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 3.14.00 PM.png

What’s that? A heart attack? You get three minutes to recover, but then I want you back on those free weights.
Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 3.20.05 PM.png
The show also stresses the dangers of obesity, while contestants in their confessionals stress that shedding a lot of weight is important to their self-esteem, their emotional wellbeing, their connections with friends and family, and their ability to not die. And so, after watching contestants struggle doing various exercises for an hour and hearing about how important the show is to their future, it feels cruel to eliminate a contestant at the end of each episode. The editors prime us for that heartbreak, too, stressing the importance of weight loss before yanking that opportunity away from the contestant, almost as though telling a cancer patient that there’s a cure, but you didn’t run hard enough on the treadmill so you don’t deserve it.

From what I understand, there are a few cosmetic changes since the original. The prize has been lowered from $250,000 to $100,000, which might be the show’s way of putting less value on the financial gain, or it might be because it’s on USA Network now and the budget is not as big. There is also a counseling component, where Bob Harper — who used to be a trainer but is now the host — leads a group counseling discussion. Harper, by the way, is not a therapist but he has his own weight loss stories to share so that apparently makes him qualified to lead this group.

I also understand that eliminated contestants also now get a one-year Planet Fitness membership and access to a nutritionist, which is kind of helpful, I guess. I have had a Planet Fitness membership for a decade, and I don’t think I’ve been in two years (if I were single, though, I’d probably go on the first Tuesday night of every month because there’s free pizza! At the gym! And donuts in the morning once a month!)

Point being: Having not seen the original, I don’t have anything to compare this against, but the new iteration is a horror show of misery porn, which mostly entails watching human suffering intercut with those same humans describing the suffering they are enduring with an aw-shucks attitude and a smile on their face, like Jillian Michaels is standing off-camera and threatening to break her arm off at the elbow and stab someone to death with it if they don’t toe the company line. “Tell them you love the pain. TELL THEM NOW.”

There’s one challenge where 16 overweight people are told to run a mile while the trainers encourage/berate them, and the team who runs the quickest wins. What do they win? Not a hamburger, or even a salad. No, the team gets to deduct 6 pounds from their weigh-in, which I am fairly certain is designed to be as garish and humiliating as possible, allowing for the viewers at home to feel smug while eating wings from their couches.

Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 3.00.10 PM.png

Meanwhile, after putting the contestants through the humiliation of being judged by millions of home viewers based on how many pounds the contestants are able to shed in a week, one unlucky contestant is basically forced to retract everything they said about how staying on The Biggest Loser is their only chance at a second life, their only opportunity to lose the weight and avoid an early grave. “I’m gonna come back slim and trim and sexy,” the departing contestant says, as he’s shipped off to the Planet Fitness factory, now forced to reckon not only with being overweight but the humiliation of failing spectacularly in front of a television audience. But hey! Free pizza every first Tuesday of the month!




Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.




Header Image Source: USA Network



Next Article


                The-Rhythm-Section-Blake-Lively.jpg

Review: Blake Lively Wigs Out In 'The Rhythm Section'