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.