The Biggest Loser, Episode 1: He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brotherby Donna Reynolds -- 10/21/2004
After weeks of promotion by NBC, the premiere of The Biggest Loser is upon us. Can it live up to all the advanced hype, or is this a somewhat desperate attempt by the network to overshadow its recent blunder regarding the cancellation of Last Comic Standing? In any event, I believe in keeping an open mind, and, in that spirit, I will try to be fair in my assessment of this new series.
We are welcomed to the show by an announcer, who informs us that "these twelve people have one thing in common - they're fat." So much for understatement and not advancing stereotypes. The twelve contestants arrive, and, one by one, tell us how they feel about their weight. Lisa talks about how hard it is to find clothes, what with having to worry about her "chub-roll." Matt is somewhat fearful that if he loses weight, people will only like him for being cute. Ryan is concerned about living a long, healthy life, and Gary about some negative medical test results. David, who is already confident about his appearance, just wants to lose weight, and Kelly Mac longs for the day when she can buy anything she wants, anywhere she wants. Lizzeth is doing this partially to serve as a role model for others in her family, and "the other" Kelly, basically, is looking for a man. Dana, who is the youngest member of the group, is interested in learning how to live healthy.
Host Caroline Rhea, welcomes the contestants, and tells them that she knows there is no easy way out of this. There will be no stapling, sucking, or cutting; simply diet and exercise. She tells them that there will be temptations along the way, and, to illustrate this, they each must face their pasts. To this end, we see huge mounds of food, each labeled with a contestant's name. Caroline tells them that this is what they ate the previous week. Yikes! They bid adieu to their favorite foods and move on to the gym. The focal point in this room is an enormous scale with a jumbotron-like screen behind it. Andrea is already freaking out.
Ever so cutely, Caroline tells them, "Don't worry, you don't have to weigh in until, um... right now." She then instructs them to go and put on their bathing suits, which does not go over well at all. They return, in their suits, and I'll tell you what, I feel for them. I wouldn't want to be seen on national television in my bathing suit, that's for sure. And, to be weighed in public. Oh no - I still have flashbacks to junior high when we had to be weighed in gym class, and the gym teacher shouted out our name and weight to her assistant, who then confirmed and recorded this information. No wonder we had eating disorders! Sorry, it's just that all of this strikes a bit close to home.
Ryan says, "It's time to face the fat." He hates it when people see his "man boobs." Gary feels like a slab of meat! After the weigh-in, they are measured and have a body fat analysis. Lisa says she was humiliated. Honey, I feel you. Dana says she mentally prepared herself for this, and Matt, who weighs in at 310, says this is the heaviest he's ever been. This is so painful. Aaron says he's fat because he hasn't exercised, and eats like a pig. Kelly hopes she'll never see this number again. And then it's Maurice's turn. He wins the prize for the heaviest at 436. He's got a good attitude though, and his goal is to show America that, "just because you're large and in charge, doesn't mean you're lazy."
They move on to another room where they find twelve refrigerators with glass doors, each one labeled with one of the contestant's names. Caroline tells them each refrigerator is filled with their favorite foods, which are really their biggest enemies. In his, Aaron has a "French dip sandwich the size of his head." Maurice pines for the extra-crispy fried chicken behind his see-through door. The refrigerator scene also sets up the team dynamics. Caroline tells them that they will be divided into two teams - the Red Team and the Blue Team, and they split up according to the location of their refrigerator.
She explains the rules. In order to stay in the game, their team has to lose the most weight. The team that doesn't must vote off one person. "In the end, only one of you can be the biggest loser," she tells them. Then she lets them know that, along with losing weight and changing their lifestyle, the winner will also walk away with $250,000. Andrea says this gives her more motivation. Caroline tells them they've had a great first day, but warns that they should get some rest because, tomorrow, the trainers are coming. "The house is yours," she tells them.
Here are the team rosters:
Red Team - Maurice, Kelly Mac, Aaron, Dana, Gary, and Andrea.
Blue Team - Matt, Lizzeth, Ryan, Lisa, Dave, and Kelly M.
The girls are excited about their room. Kelly thinks the Blue Team's strength is that they are really laid back, and that the Red Team is too into their own thing. Lisa says if someone tells her she's fat, she's going to eat more. Maurice tells us that his weight makes the rest of them look skinny, and warns, "The overweight lover is in the house." But he also feels that he is the most competitive person in the room. Aaron realizes that Maurice can shed pounds like crazy, but he isn't worried, because he knows how to work it. Gary used to own a gym and knows how to work out. Ryan says that he has lost at least 400 pounds. in his life. His strategy is to focus on his own weight loss. Andrea tells us it's all about focus. They all think they are going to be the biggest loser!
Morning arrives, and it's a beautiful day. Or at least it is until the trainers arrive! As the contestants sleep, the Red Team's trainer, Jillian Michaels, arrives and gets them up and moving. Her approach is to work them like a drill instructor. Bob Harper, from Nashville will train the Blue Team. He has a different approach, feeling that burnout is not an option. While he wants to get results, he doesn't believe in pushing people beyond their limits.
Obviously, Jillian has a completely different philosophy. She tells us that that working out with her for the first time can be rough, and people often throw up. She has them doing aerobics and then pushups. Bob, on the other hand, sits the Blue Team down in an attempt to learn about each of them. Aaron likes this approach. As Jillian continues to force the Red Team into unfathomable positions, Bob seems to understand his group's insecurities. Meanwhile, the Red Team is running around the yard. Lisa can't take it anymore, and says she thinks she is going to be sick. Jillian tells her that this is as bad as it's going to get. "The worst is over," she says. I feel like crying. No kidding.
Bob has a totally different approach. He has them doing circuit training, and this workout seems a whole lot less painful. He thinks that Dana will be challenging because she is young and her attention span is short. She's kind of dingy! Gary is the oldest person in the house, and says he was very close to vomiting.
Team Red is outside, and silly Matt makes a comment about having a cigarette. Jillian is horrified, and immediately rips the pack out of his pocket, throws the cigarettes to the ground, and crushes them. No fooling, she means business. She tells him if she finds out he's been smoking, the rest of them will run a mile. He realizes that if he smokes, he will be voted off. Ryan rats out Dave who is also a smoker and Sgt. Jillian he's quitting too. "At the end of the day," she tells him, "it's about getting healthy."
Team Blue has its first vomit victim as Aaron goes outside, thankfully, to be sick. Although I am sure the others were glad that it was not them who puked on national television, they all rally around Aaron, and Bob is pleased that his group is behind him. I like the Team Blue.
Finally, it's time for dinner. Jillian explains the "Eat Less Diet." The goal is to burn more calories than you take in, and eat a high protein, high fiber, and low carbohydrate diet. They will be fed lots of vegetables, and this is supposed to fill them up. It's all about portion control but Lizzeth thinks it sucks. Jillian understands the hardest thing to overcome is portion control. She encourages them not to lie about it if they cheat.
Bob, on the other hand, believes in the "Eat More Diet." I like Bob's approach! His goal is to deal with hunger before it happens. They will eat four to six planned meals per day, and it's about high volume, low calories, and low carbohydrates. As they have their first meal, he tells them that he will be eating the same way. Andrea recognizes that she doesn't eat right, skipping breakfast, having lunch and then picking at dinner. Bob's plan includes small, planned meals and, as an example, he produces a huge green salad that looks like it also includes some grilled chicken. Maurice is not thrilled by the salad. Bob tells them that the hardest part of the diet is getting over the cravings. Maurice calls it the "eat not quite enough diet."
It's the day of the first challenge, and they are all really sore! Lizzeth legs hurt and her abs are in pain. Maurice says he's going to stick it out, no matter what. They all mosey on down to breakfast, and are amazed to find the table loaded with all their favorite foods - bacon, pancakes, French toast - you name it, it is there. Maurice loads up the bacon, while the rest of them looked on in shock. But when it came to the sausage, they drew the line. Remember, the total weight of the team determines which team will have to eliminate someone. So, sure, you don't want anyone piling on the food. But is it fair to place all this temptation in their path? I guess that's all part of the strategy.
After breakfast, they set off for the first challenge, which takes place on a car racetrack. Each team must pull a car to the finish line. One person will steer the vehicle, and, at each flag, they must switch drivers. The twist is that the car doors don't open. Ouch. The reward is five pounds of lard. Caroline explains that the team that wins gets to add the five pounds of lard to the other team's weight. It could be crucial when the final weight loss figures are tallied.
Ready, set, go. They begin pulling the cars, and it's okay until they have to switch drivers. This doesn't go too smoothly, but they make it to the next flag and help each other in and out of the cars. The Red Team seems to be suffering a little more, and, in the end, the Blue Team wins it. Maurice tells us that the loss has definitely affected the morale of the Red Team, and Matt is afraid that, when Jillian finds out that they lost, they are going to be severely punished.
They return to the house tired and hungry. Trainer Bob tells us that all the exercise is beginning to get to them. Lisa totally loses it. She's worried that she ate too much chicken, and just plain freaks out. She wonders if anyone else wrote down what they ate. She doesn't know what to eat, and cries. Jillian tells them that the next three days are going to be hell. Because she feels that they have to burn 3000 calories each, she orders them to do two hours of cardio a night and not go to bed. When someone complains, Jillian asks, "How bad do you want it?" With one day to the weigh-in, they are pushing it to the max. This is brutal. Matt wants to quit. He's exhausted. The longest he ever worked out at home was an hour. This was a five-hour workout. Bob's tactics seem to be much less punishing, although he's not going easy on them. They are working out competitively! We watch as they all go through "crunch time."
Weigh-in day dawns and everyone is anxious. Team Red is wiped out from having worked out for five straight hours. They are scared, nervous, cranky, tired, and hungry. Lizzeth is scared of going home and scared of staying.
It's time to weigh in, and Caroline says that the Blue Team started off with a total weight of 1537 pounds, while the Red Team started off at 1535 pounds. It's time to put the "Eat More" and "Eat Less" diets to the test. Each team alternates a member, who stands on the giant scale. Their starting weight is indicated at the top of the screen and there is a nerve-wracking (and reality show induced) pause before the new weight appears. Here's the "tale of the tape!"
We are at the halfway mark, and it's Team Blue at -38 pounds, and Team Red at -30 pounds. We continue on.
The Blue Team's total weight loss is 69 pounds. It all comes down to Ryan. To win, he must have lost 14 pounds. Does he do it? A dramatically placed commercial interrupts the flow but, in fact, he loses 19 pounds, thus ensuring a win for Team Red. Wow.
Ryan is thrilled, but Maurice can't believe it. Aaron says that this is what's so hard about this game. You build up a team and then you have to let someone go. Caroline gives them a few hours to decide who to eliminate, and their moods deteriorate. Lisa tells us that this is part of the game, and that they knew this. This is hard. Gary says this is an "emotion thing," and they begin the age-old process of trying to figure out who to eliminate. For Andrea, the determining factor is who wants to be there - who is most motivated. Kelly is psyched about having lost 13 pounds, says that she wants to stay; she needs to stay. We see some clips of them working out and Maurice, who watched his Dad die from being overweight, definitely wants to be there. Andrea is nervous but she feels that she has already stared her "life" change.
The elimination ceremony is held in the refrigerator room. Their votes appear to be under domed silver platters! Dana feels that she deserves to be there, and is proud of all of them. Andrea knows what she has to give, and can benefit her team. Caroline asks Kelly which player is not pulling their weight, and then announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to cut the fat." She goes around the table, asking each of them who they want to send home. Maurice votes Gary and Aaron, Dana. He doesn't think she has enough weight to lose! Andrea votes for Dana for the good of the team. Dana votes for Andrea. Gary casts the deciding vote, and Dana is eliminated. He's sorry. Caroline tells her she is not the biggest loser and casts her off the island - er, house. Sorry. Caroline tells them to stay focused and be strong.
Dana has "good thoughts" and respects their decision. She's going to stick to her diet and tells us that the next time we see her she is going to turn heads. We are shown her "today" picture and, since leaving the show, she has lost an additional 15 pounds and has a new boyfriend. She looks good.
So, what do I think? I know one thing, watching this show while sitting on my butt makes me feel really uncomfortable. I have this sudden urge to do pushups and sit-ups! Is it exploitative as some advocacy groups charge? Perhaps a little, but there is an element of inspiration to this show, and I think that, in the end, this may save it. We shall see. In the meantime, I need to decide whether I want to "eat more" or "eat less!"
Donna Reynolds is a self-proclaimed entertainment junkie and writes That's Entertainment, a daily column for syracuse.com highlighting events of local interest as well as her take on all things reality! She is also doing a weekly spot on a Syracuse radio station, commenting on the latest entertainment buzz. In addition, Donna does technical writing for a medical equipment company and is a part-time aquatic dance instructor. Whether you agree or disagree, Donna welcomes your comments and you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to sign up for our e-mail update so you can stay informed about new articles on the site! And take a look at the rest of the site. You can find out about some other popular shows at our The Amazing Race 5 page and our Last Comic Standing page; and don't miss The Reality TV Hall of Shame. You can even buy reality show stuff at our Reality TV Store!
For more news about reality TV, be sure to check out SirLinksALot!