Now that "The Biggest Loser" is available in high-definition, it seems that the producers and editors have made the decision to change the direction of the show from entertainment to educational, at least for this first "real" episode. This time, when we see the contestants on the ranch for the first time, there isn't much focus on their personal stories. We got that all in the premiere. As Jillian said, "I don't need to hear a speech, I want to see what they can do." The contestants are hustled onto the treadmill to start their workout with no preliminary niceties.
We also find out that the contestants who were eliminated in the casting call got a second chance. Bob and Jillian each got to pick one person who didn't make it to come to the ranch as part of the Yellow Team. (One thing I found out when looking at "The Biggest Loser" website was that the others got to go to the new Biggest Loser resort to learn how to get healthy.) It was interesting to see the two trainers' different priorities: Bob chose the almost-500 pound man from Detroit, and Jillian decided that she wanted to bring the girl who passed out during her challenge.
The way the workouts are covered was different this time. The way the scenes are spliced together, we get more of a sense of time passing during the workout, and I really was wondering as a reasonably fit person if I would have been able to do the workout these very large, out-of-shape contestants were doing. I was more impressed with the contestants' hard work. There was less focus on drama. When someone fell off the treadmill, we saw a medic help her up and she was almost immediately back on it. There is definitely a no-BS feel to the new format, which I really like.
We also got more insight into the food philosophy of "The Biggest Loser." As contestants sat around the kitchen talking about "eating healthy," Bob and Jillian emphasized over and over that the real emphasis of the TBL eating plan is portion sizes. When some of the guys talk about the mega-sandwiches they used to eat, from foot-long prime rib hoagies covered in french fries to a giant burger Brendan used to eat called "The Gravedigger," Bob and Jillian point out that though the food itself is bad stuff, the worst problem is the size of them.
On Day 2, we do get a little of Brendan's backstory. He had been engaged to a woman who really seemed to love him despite his weight, but he said he did everything he could to push her away until the relationship ended. Bob works with him and really pushes him through the whole workout. We get some scenes from a few other people to know that the rest of them are also working just as hard as they did on Day 1. Afterward, all of the guys who described their huge sandwiches get a "special delivery" in the gym. When they see the food after working that hard, they seem mostly sickened by it. Brendan, especially, seems broken up by the reality of what he was doing by eating a sandwich called the Gravedigger with a large french fry and a 2-liter of soda. He doesn't come out and say "Why was I trying to kill myself?" but that is the impression we were left with.
I had mixed feelings about the segment with Dr. H. I felt like he was badgering the contestants a bit, and the photos showing their bellies larger than life seemed particularly cruel. Again, though, this segment seemed designed to drive home the deadly seriousness of all that fat. Fat doesn't just sit there and make you look bad, he explained, it pumps hormones into your body that cause serious problems like diabetes and heart disease. After hearing the bad news about their health, contestants were connected with their families via teleconference to help them realize that their health problems weren't only impacting them. Allie had weight loss surgery when she was only 14 years old, and Dr. H. was angry not with her, but with her parents and her doctors for letting a child get such a serious surgery without following up on the physical and psychological effects later. "Did that doctor who took your check monitor your weight after the surgery?" It was also clear during the teleconference with her very overweight mother that Allie was going to be completely on her own when she got home. It was hard not to be angry with a parent who had let her child get a life-altering medical procedure but wouldn't provide even the most basic support to follow up and help her be successful.
As part of the new Serious Regime, contestants were not competing as part of teams this time but as individuals, and instead of getting a Last Chance Workout, the weigh-in came with no warning. I think both of these changes are in response to abuses in last season, with people either water-loading to strategically gain or purposely dehydrating themselves. A pop weigh-in will keep them honest. My guess is that contestants must be getting weighed every day now, because we know that the scale is just a big prop. Contestants were told that the weight losses should be pretty big, since two weeks had passed since their first weigh-in at home and they "should have started your journey right away after that." Anyone who had partied their way through their last week at home was going to be held accountable.
This time, half the contestants were under the yellow line instead of just two. Unfortunately, most of the women were below the line and most of the men were above it. The "Biggest Loser" of the week got to choose one person to get immunity, and contestants were able to compete their way to immunity in a race that was designed to bring the eight vulnerable players down to just two. There was a little bit of drama between Jessica and Burgandy in the first heat -- it was obvious that Jessica cheated by pushing Burgandy back to keep her from winning. I respected Burgandy for standing up for herself, and was not impressed when instead of admitting she was wrong and apologizing, Jessica got angry with Burgandy for speaking up. I hope that this was a temporary thing in the heat of the moment and not foreshadowing of a future feud between the two players. I have to say I was disappointed that Jessica didn't end up being one of the two eligible for elimination.
I was disappointed with the players' choice for who to send home, and hope that the player ends up doing okay on her own. It looked like she was being proactive and trying to seek out support when she didn't find it at home.
What did you think of the show (if you watched it)?