Last week on "The Biggest Loser,"
remaining fans watched four players struggle to carry their lost weight to
the end of the challenge. It was a challenge to which many viewers could relate:
This season, a super-duper-sized portion of "The Biggest Loser" would have even
the most ardent audience members looking for the finish line. Why? The show's
stated mortal enemy: bloat. Tuesday's live finale, which airs at 8 p.m.
ET/PT on NBC, will mark this season's 21st episode, adding up to around 40
hours of weight-loss instruction, fitness challenges, Curtis Stone appearances, awkwardly
performed product endorsements and tear-soaked vote-offs. The previous season of
"Biggest Loser" managed to make do with only 13 episodes, eight fewer than this
year. Even "Celebrity Apprentice"
-- another oft-super-sized NBC reality show that seems like it has gone on
for forever -- closed out its season on Sunday with a positively svelte 12
At its core, "The Biggest
Loser" remains compelling television: Contestants undergo often miraculous
weight-loss "journeys," to use the show's own parlance. One look at last week's
video game-style transformations, which seemed equal parts "Avatar" and Super Bowl graphic, would prove that.
While the show has occasionally been criticized for promoting unhealthy
weight-loss techniques, lives have likely been saved by "The Biggest Loser,"
among both cast members and home viewers. This season, however, its core was too
often obscured by too many episodes, too many trainers, an ever-shifting
configuration of teams, and a seemingly infinite number of players: those on
campus, those working with the "mystery trainers," those competing from home,
those returned to the game after being kicked off.
Too many trainers
It's a sad fact that Jillian Michaels will be leaving the
show following this season. Love her or hate her and her
exercise-as-psychoanalysis strategy, Michaels is a bona fide breakout star and
often the show's leading voice of sanity. Replacing her was always going to be a
challenge, and it turned into a quagmire when newbies Brett Hoebel and Cara Castronuova were introduced as
"mystery trainers," their features bizarrely obscured until Episode 3. Their
specialties were weirdly similar -- mixed martial arts for Brett and boxing for
Cara -- and neither was able to muster much firepower, which was no surprise,
given their junior-varsity status relative to Bob and Jillian. The awkward
shuffling continued later in the season, as each trainer oversaw one of four
teams. Bret governed the green team, and when the last member standing,
Courtney, was booted out in Week 14, the drama of her exit was heightened,
because it meant that Brett went with her. This, however, was short-lived, and
he returned in Week 16. It was sort of like Redemption Island on "Survivor," but without
the hassle of a duel.
An inexhaustible number of teams
About those teams
... The first season of "Biggest Loser" had two: blue and red. Season 11 had
many, many more. As this was a couples-centric edition of the show, we began
with 22 players in 11 teams (ranging from the early-out black team to Hannah and
Olivia's reigning purple team). In Week 6, we consolidated into two teams, red
and black. Three weeks later, players had the chance to swap trainers (and
teams) again. Two weeks after that, two teams become one, the blue team. But
wait! There's more: One week later, we had four new teams: green, red, black and
blue. Finally, in Week 16, players were allowed to wear the individual team
colors they wore at the start of the show -- which is why purple will dominate
the season finale. Often -- as "Survivor" proves -- a consolidation of
multiple teams into one can offer a show's defining moment. Here, it just felt
like one more unpredictable and irrelevant step. The many shifts diminished
tension instead of piquing it.
Gameplay? What's gameplay?
Of course, with this
crew, we might never have gotten actual gameplay. There's a reason sister team
Olivia and Hannah are still around, and it has much to do with the fact that the
parents on their earliest team configurations kept throwing themselves on the
sword for their children, whether through impassioned vote shifting or just
throwing the weigh-in (see: Marci, Jesse, Deni and even Moses, who allowed
himself to be voted out not for his own daughter but for Olivia, and Justin, who
sacrificed himself for Courtney). "The Biggest Loser" has always trafficked in
sentimentality. Emotionally, this season was the very opposite of, say, "Survivor" (or even of
its own past seasons. The gameplay of contestants like Frado, from Season 10,
seemed entirely absent.) It's the worst outcome of "respecting [a player's]
wishes" -- instead of jockeying for position, also known as actually playing the
game: We had emotional arm-twisting. When an older player finally did try to
fight an elimination against a younger one (see Ken and Hannah), it came as a
shock, even if it shouldn't have.
No to celebrity stunts and spectacular sights (if we're just going to
end up where we started)
Considerable brouhaha erupted following
Olympic wrestler Rulon's decision to leave the game, which was declared the only
time a player had decided to exit voluntarily. What may be true in fact was not
at all accurate in practice: Throwing a weigh-in counts as well, and we had
plenty of that this season. Speaking of Rulon, please let this be a final
experiment in celebrity casting. The weird dynamic between Rulon and the other
players went largely unexplained, so it was little surprise (if narratively
underwhelming) when he just jogged up to the podium and said he was taking off.
His disregard for the show, his fellow contestants and the viewers felt obvious.
In another high-impact, no-drama move, a brief (but amazing-looking) field trip
to New Zealand led us straight back to the ranch -- even "The Bachelor" knows to
end its season somewhere spectacular. The following episodes lagged, with a
sense of just-back-from-vacation ennui.
The lean, mean fighting machine: Please!
Biggest Loser" will be back in September for its two-hour block, without
Jillian, and hopefully, producers are retooling the show with fewer episodes. No
celebrities. A manageable number of teams. Players invested in their own
success. Perhaps just one additional trainer, though Bob seems like he could
manage everyone quite handily. (Of the two candidates, Brett seemed more
engaging.) As a philosophy for exercisers, producers, and viewers alike, "lean
and mean" has much to offer.
I would have like to know what happen to Rulon, even though he decide to leave the ranch just before the headed to New Zealand...at the finale they could have mention that Rulon decided not to continue with the competition for whatever reason and his partner Justin didn't mention his best friend either...so to me it left me wondering?
Ana Kornikova is a tennis player than never won any major tennis tournaments...she is best know for her sexy looks on the tennis court and Enrique Iglesias girlfriend/wife than anything else....I don't see how she can be a trainer..Hell for that matter let me become a trainer for obese/overweight people that need help and motivation to lose weight and become healthier human beings.