I think the producers got a little mean with this season of "The Biggest Loser." There were a few twists this time that I did not like at all.
First of all, in the opening sequence, when they ask "Do you have the guts? [to lose weight]," they showed the gut of one of the "Half-Ton Twins"(this is not my phrase, by the way). Mean, mean. "The Biggest Loser" never used to do the "headless fat people trick," so why start now?
Second, the contestants weighed in for the first time not in front of other contestants, but in their hometowns in front of friends, family, and, I would imagine, nasty people who used to eye their carts in the supermarkets and wonder why they were so fat. Daris actually weighed in in front of a crowd in his former high school's gym, which I imagine was the scene of plenty of other humiliations. I know these numbers will be available on national television, but because the show is taped months ahead, many of the contestants would have already lost the first fifty pounds by the time the show aired, which would take away some of the sting. The biggest contestant, Michael, even weighed in (at more than 500 pounds) with a pizza parlor in the background. I checked the profiles for him and for his mother Maria to see if it was their family's business, but it doesn't seem to be. They are Italian Americans and perhaps the producers wanted to highlight this and couldn't get any more creative about how to do it (or Michael wouldn't agree to say "Mama Mia, thatza spicy meatballa!" when he saw his weight). The only other justification would be if the pizza parlor was the scene of the crime, the place where Michael and Maria put on all the weight. But why would the pizza parlor agree to that kind of publicity? (By the way, I have to say I'm a little offended by the whole Italian American=fat storyline here. Sure, a lot of us have weight problems. But so do a lot of regular old white-bread Americans.)
By far the meanest twist was eliminating two whole teams on the first day, before they had even met the trainers, with a physical challenge. Even Allison looked sickened when she explained to the contestants that two teams were going to be asked to leave the ranch immediately. In pairs, contestants had to pedal the total of a marathon (26.2 miles) on stationary bikes. That sounds like a simple challenge to someone who is active, but some of these contestants had never ridden a bicycle before. Cherita got a cramp and had to be carried off her bike (she wanted to continue competing), which meant that she and her daughter Victoria would not have the chance to continue. The other team that was eliminated was the almost 400-pound, and apparently sickly 51-year-old O'Neal and his daughter Sunshine, who weighed in at almost 300 pounds. Watching the two teams hugging and crying as they left the ranch in the limo broke my heart. Imagining them going right home to a community that had just watched them weigh in was just sickening. Of course there was another twist -- Bob and Jillian each stopped one of the limos and jumped in with news: The teams would continue competing at home and come back in 30 days to weigh in for a chance to come back. This seemed to cheer up the contestants, but I was still mad at the producers on their behalf for putting them through that pain. Seriously, just recruit one less team instead of playing with people's dreams like this. Contestants really believe, like Jillian said at the beginning, that the Biggest Loser ranch is "The Last Stop." They have tried everything already and don't know what to do. Every person who makes it to the show should get at least a week at the ranch to learn a few things before getting sent back home. The good news is that the show seems to provide better resources now for the at-home contestants. In the first few seasons, it seemed like they were left to their own devices. Obviously, anyone who qualifies to be on the show needs some serious help to lose weight.
Of course, someone always goes home at the end of every show, and this was no exception. In a final odd twist, twins John and James were the team below the dreaded Yellow Line. The other contestants had a hard time distinguishing between them to know which one to send home -- they even weighed within 1 pound of each other at the initial weigh-in and lost the exact same amount of weight in the first week. I think they made the right decision to send home James, who had a bad knee injury and really could not compete in the challenges or participate fully in the workouts. He also said that he had more resources at home to help him. He must have been serious, too, because we find out that he lost an amazing 100 pounds in two months at home. He and his wife seemed very cute together, and I was really happy to see he did so well.
OK, producers, but consider yourselves on notice. No more nasty tricks!