This season's finale was a stunning three hours long. I watched it on my DVR, and was able to start watching an hour after the show started, and finish about 15 minutes after it finished. That means that almost 45 minutes of the show was commercials.
Most of the extra hour of the show came from the producers' latest twist: They brought two potential contestants onto the show, introduced them, and Jillian and Bob worked them out live backstage while the rest of the weighing and crying and reminiscing happened. First of all, a real-time first workout is a pretty boring thing. There were some of Bob and Jillian's signature moves and a little bit of yelling, but mostly you had two smiley young women on the treadmill and an exercise bike, plugging away. The two contestants they chose were, at least superficially, identical twins. Two blonde women, one 19 and one 20, with similar smiling-brightly-through-the-pain personalities and wholesome girl-next-door beauty. The audience got to choose which one would be chosen for the show by calling in. I had no reason to root for one over the other, so that didn't add much interest to the show for me.
If they had wanted to make that angle work, they could have chosen family and friends of the current crop of contestants and let them audition for a spot on the show. Mike's brother Max would, of course, be the favorite, but Sione's sister also wanted to go to the ranch to lose weight. Aubrey's dad could obviously use some help, and maybe if he was out of her house, Aubrey's own weight loss might have been more on track... I might have had an interest in the first workout segment if there was some real, observable difference among the people auditioning.
The rest of the show was similarly lackluster. In past seasons, they showed us more from the contestants' new lives so we could see how losing the weight had made a big difference for them. This time, the only clips were ones that had already aired on previous episodes. We were supposed to just look at the before and after pictures and take it as self-evident that they were happier now. I would have liked to see the contestants talking about how their habits had changed, how they found new interests to replace their obsession with food, how they felt that exercise and healthy living had enriched their lives. It would have been more expensive to produce a show like this, but they do have the income from 45 minutes of commercials, plus the product placement cash for all the new "Biggest Loser" protein drinks and scales. They need to have something on the show for those of us who have faithfully watched every episode.
Of course there was the drama of the weigh-ins, the fun of seeing the contestants all glammed up, and the few surprises. Mike was, as he and Ron had hoped, chosen for the final three. He looked terrific and seemed ready to have a great life at college, hopefully one far enough from home for him to explore a new independent identity. Tara looked stunning. I am sure she could go back to modeling again if the plus-sized modeling industry hadn't evaporated. Finally, Helen was much, much thinner. I actually think she looked better at the previous weigh-in, because losing the remaining 15 or so pounds seemed to have aged her 15 years.
We saw that with the at-home contestants too. Jerry and Estella, the oldest contestants, had lost amazing amounts of weight. But the effect was sort of frightening. They had always had pleasant faces before, but now they look much older than their 63 years. There seems to be a bit of a conflict between getting thinner and looking young. Jerry had only one close competitor, Kristen, for the at-home prize. I was really rooting for her to steal the win, especially because she seemed to have more need for the money, but Jerry was the at-home winner.
The average weight loss among the at-home contestants seemed to be about 100 pounds. About half seemed to have just maintained their weight loss from the ranch. Aubrey even made a wry joke about it. That still seems to be an accomplishment to me, considering that at the ranch they had no distractions from their diet and exercise, and at home they had kids and jobs and other responsibilities. Nicole really made dramatic changes on her own and ended up looking gorgeous. It would have been interesting if the camera crew had followed her around on a typical day to show the viewers what a successful at-home-loser does. The contestant who had gotten the least out of the experience of being on the show was Dave, partner overweight high school student Dan. Dave was still smoking and hadn't seemed to make many changes in his diet or exercise routine. Even he lost a little more than 40 pounds, enough to have some health effects.
I had trouble staying awake during the finale, and I'm starting to wonder how much longer I'll keep watching the show. I think I'll stick it out as long as Jillian does, but not one minute more. My guess is that the producers are hoping to stretch things out for 10 seasons, which would be 3 more. Next season, 8, starts shooting almost immediately, according to Jillian's podcast. I will definitely give it a chance, but I hope the producers have learned from some of the mistakes they made this season. They went for the Biggest, Youngest, Oldest, Sickest... but what they got was Dullest. Instead of looking for artificial drama, they need to remember that the core of the show is dramatic enough: People who have lost hope find it again. Everything else is just distracting window-dressing