I originally got a streaming-only subscription to Netflix to see "Downton Abbey." Then I got hooked on "30 Rock." Then it was "Mad Men." Then I realized I had never watched the very first season of "The Biggest Loser."
My husband and I just finished watching that first season, and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts for other TBL fans.
The first thing I noticed was that the show was incredibly low-budget that first season. There were not standard weigh-in clothes. Contestants seem to have brought most of their own clothes with them.
The contestants seemed to be a rag-tag bunch of people the producers had hanging around. They had everyone from 400-pound Maurice to a couple of women who were only in the 170s. One guy was a television writer, so he may actually have worked for NBC and volunteered for the project. In later versions of the show, they seemed to standardize so that the contestants looked more similar at the beginning, with only one or two contestants who were much larger or smaller than the average. Weight losses were smaller too.
Many of the conventions, like "LAST CHANCE WORKOUT!" didn't really take hold until later. It was actually nice to see a more organic version of the show. There were no integrations, either (those in-show commercials) and repetition, so the shorter shows actually felt like they had more substance. With a little less polish, the show was more touching. It was obvious that everyone was surprised that they were able to do so much.
The yellow line didn't appear until the end of Season One, and "percentage of weight lost" as the measuring stick did not appear until Season Two. This meant that smaller contestants were at a huge disadvantage, and that contestants were also free to vote off anyone they wanted. There was a little more gameplay because of this -- contestants were as likely to be sent home for losing too much as for losing too little. Alliances were very important in determining who stayed and who went.
Temptation food was everywhere. In later seasons, I don't remember seeing piles of donuts and candy on the coffee tables in front of the contestants, but there was gorgeous and tempting food everywhere in the first season. Contestants seemed to be really good at ignoring it, too.
The contestant, Maurice, who most vocally opted out of the low-intensity cardio "homework" that contestants are supposed to do on their own was the one who under-performed the most on the scale. He was great at the strength training, but at 400 pounds he lost less than some of the smaller contestants. It was funny watching the show and knowing both that [name] was the winner and that he has since regained most of his weight. He seemed so happy and confident on the show that it's hard to believe that he had so much trouble later. He came across as a real leader on the show, and his ability to control the game was what made him the winner. He said in interviews that he was very motivated by the money, but I also read that he had a new job and became the father of twin girls not long after he left the show.
I think that the show is such a protective bubble for some of the contestants that they don't learn how to juggle their other responsibilities and maintain their self-care rituals. It may also be that the contestants who were most motivated by money used some unhealthy techniques to get rid of the final pounds, which sabotaged them for the long run.
I know that there are a lot of valid criticisms of the show, but I still find it incredibly motivating to watch and see people on television pushing themselves physically and learning to deal with temptation. I plan to watch the new season when it comes out, and might even resume my reviews.