Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"The Biggest Loser" season premiere review: Second chances

Last season I think every blogger reviewing "The Biggest Loser" expressed disgust with the excessive gameplay in the last few seasons. After watching this season's premiere episode, I think that the producers were listening. The season opener was the some of the best "Biggest Loser" yet.

This season, everyone started out as strangers. This eliminates the possibility of teams like Ron and Mike, where one player is obviously only there to help get the other into the finals. The trainers are also working together, at least to start, which may also keep things focused on weight loss and not on rivalry.

The biggest and most important change, though, is that we got to know more about the players' personal lives and reasons for wanting to lose weight. Because players had to get to know each other so they could decide who they wanted as their partners, there was a good reason for them to all tell their stories to each other and to the viewers at home. There was a lot of pain in the group, which I think helps viewers watching understand that a young woman doesn't get to be 476 pounds (again this season, the show is breaking its record for the biggest contestant ever) just because she likes ice cream. Last season there was kind of a freak-show feel to the way the first episode was put together, but this time, we were meant to empathize with the contestants and feel their pain. I was glad I had a box of tissues handy for a couple of the stories, which were the stuff of nightmares. Even Jillian got choked up talking about one woman's past. Her compassion didn't mean she was willing to let anyone off the hook in the gym, though.

The message this time was clear: Don't keep punishing yourself for other people's problems or tragedies. Give yourself permission to move on and live your life. The group went off to Dr. Huizenga's office for more medical tests. While he was talking with Shay, we could see her body scan in the background, which showed a surprisingly small skeleton in the outline of her big body, suggesting to me how much she had tried to insulate herself from all the things that had happened to her in her young life. We also found out that the contestants are taking part in research that Dr. H. hopes will help provide a better understanding of obesity and how to help people overcome it.

During an early challenge -- racing for one mile -- two of the contestants had to be taken to the hospital, including one who went by helicopter because her situation was so serious. We heard through the course of the show that Tracey was doing well but she did not return to the show. I wondered if this was because last time a contestant returned right before a weigh-in, the I.V.s had caused weight gain from bloating. I am hoping, at least, that they were just giving Tracey a break and that her situation is not serious. She seemed like a tough, determined woman and I am hoping that her efforts to sprint ahead early on did not cause her any actual harm. I don't enjoy seeing people carted off to the hospital on this show, and even though I know there are always medics right off-camera, I would hate to think they put contestants in danger just to make good television.

Overall, though, I still think the show makes a positive impact on the contestants' lives. Daniel from last season is returning for his second chance, and it is obvious that even at 312 pounds at the start of the show, he was far healthier than the other contestants because of his workout and eating habits. He also had a confidence that none of the rest of them had, and it was great to see him take Shay under his wing.

I know I sound a little loopy about this show, but it really hooked me. I remarked to my husband that I wished it had been a two-hour show and he said, "It was." I felt like I could have easily watched another hour. I hope things continue in the direction they started, because after feeling disillusioned with TBL, I'm now ready to give it a second chance.


  1. I haven't watched that Biggest Loser for several seasons because of how hard they drive the contestants physically. No way, could I endure those tough workout sessions. I'm always tickled to see the end results though.

    Today, the grocery store is running a special - 4 WW Smart Meals for $9.98, so I bought 8. I don't think they are delicious or anything but not bad either and helps to control my portions and easy to keep up with the points.

    Thanks so much for your blog.

  2. Great review Jen! I'm sort of new to TBL. Last year was the first season I watch the majority of it, & even then didn't start watching until episode 3. I am glad to hear you think this is good stuff, b/c *I* thought it was too, but I don't have much to compare it to.

    I cried several times last night. I was shocked at Jillian's tears & really glad that they included her explanation of why she was crying. They could have edited it out--it was VERY personal and brave of her to even say what she did, IMO. So, I thought that was really cool.

    I am head over heels with Coach Mo. I think it's his voice. He just seems like a great guy. I hope he doesn't prove me wrong! I was so proud of Daniel. I thought it a bit unfair that he got to race the others with his current fitness level, but hey, who ever said TBL was fair! It was super cool he chose Shay--no game play there. She'll slow him down with physical challenges, even though she's likely to lose big numbers each week, which I suppose IS a huge benefit--so maybe there was game play involved? Who knows--last night was a great show, either way.

    I was thrilled with how well the contestant that got sent home did at home. I really liked that person.

    & Bob & Jillian together is awesome. I'm sure they'll split at some point but this is a great way to start.

    How funny you thought it was just an hour. LOVE the DVR to speed through the recaps & commercials (which probably makes the substances of the show not much more than an hour anyway).

  3. This was a great review! I thought it was great last night too and am really excited for the upcoming season. I just hope the positive focus remains.

  4. This is going to be the best season ever. Hands down.

  5. I loved, loved, loved this episode, everything except the Tracy fiasco.
    I thought it was really irresponsible to start the season off with a mile-long jog in (what looked like) extremely hot weather when some of these contestants were clearly dehydrated and not prepared for that kind of strenuous exercise.
    It made for an interesting first episode, but it would've been much safer for the participants if they'd started out in the weight room where they could be monitored.
    Should they really have dragged her over the finish line when she was slurring her words and couldn't open her eyes? Not in my humble opinion.

  6. OH JEN this is such torture!
    Just last week Dr G & I finished watching season 7 - a friend had a copy of the whole season and we watched it over two weeks. I TOTALLY agree with what you said re gameplay. I am dying to see the season... sniff sniff. Looking forward to your recaps, woohoo!

  7. I loved it! I had to watch it again last night.

  8. Just found a source to watch this online - we seem to get all the other versions but not this one in NZ! Great review, I have some catching up to do. :)


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07