I have been a pretty keen follower of the Biggest Loser in the past, mainly because of the voyeuristic car-crash cannot-look-away nature of the whole debacle. I finally caught up last night to watch the first couple of episodes. We will see if I can invest in this season and keep on watching, but for now I will give it a go.

But the format of this season dug completely into an absolute pet peeve of mine. I know that it is bloody stupid to point out the flaws in a reality TV production, but I can’t resist. If you haven’t seen it, the current season is built around families who compete against each other to lose weight. Each family has a trainer assigned to them. The twist is that the trainers go and live with their assigned family for a week, eating everything that they eat and drinking everything that they drink. Which hello? Is ridonculous. But good television yada yada yada and you get to see people spewing from eating bad stuff rather from lots of exercise.

However. What also makes good television is showing that the contestants in their ordinary lives are so over the top out of control with their eating EVERY SINGLE DAY and EVERY SINGLE MEAL that it was giving me the irrits. So you had the one family of sisters and cousins who is eating a lunch of basically eight varieties of baked carbs – home-cooked mind you. And you have the family who cracks their first beers at breakfast (though we later find out that breakfast is at 3pm). And you have the family whose idea of TV snacks is frankfurters, sponge cake and whipped cream.

Now this (just like the binge that they used to do in previous seasons) is obviously considered good television. But it just seems to completely defeat any attempt to genuinely prompt in the audience an attitude that will “change people’s lives”. I am sure that there are people who eat McDs at every meal and have the sort of appalling habits which are depicted in the show, and maybe even these contestants fit into that category. My bullshit detector says no though.

The family that they featured the least on this part of the show revealed two meals from the week that the trainer shared – one a BBQ with what seemed like a lot of food, but apart from a bit of potato salad and white bread, seemed like a meal that was fairly adaptable to more healthy eating. The other meal that they showed was bacon and eggs – hardly the rarest indulgence going around. Poor portion control, but if those are the two most disgusting or TV-worthy meals they can come up with then they don’t particularly scream that this family is a bunch of irredeemable gluttons.

Which is probably why the blue family barely featured in this segment, with them preferring instead to focus on the contestant who professed to eat microwave pasta with pasta bake sauce, sour cream and clotted cream every day for “breakfast”. It was all a set up job obvs but they couldn’t seem to decide which way they wanted to jump. The whole story was that *everything* that these people did was horrifying. Which led to one of the trainers being pictured crying after having to go through the terrible ordeal of eating a chicken parma and some bruschetta. Seriously – if that is enough to make you cry, maybe you should take a long cold drink of HTFU.

The thing that was frustrating me is that presumably we are meant to like these people on some level. And yet they set out this idea that these fat people are obscenely self-indulgent and greedy and slack and they only walk as far as the fridge and only to get another beer. It’s like that reality is so much easier to compartmentalise than the one where people who don’t eat eight types of carbs at every meal or four types of drive-through takeaway in a day can still put on too much weight and struggle to lose it. Or the one where most people who try to lose weight generally do try to make good food choices most of the time, even if unsuccessfully. Or the reality where some sedentary self-indulgent and slack people don’t for whatever reason end up massively overweight.

And this of all shows features an absolutely brutal diet and enormous amounts of exercise – so don’t be doing the knowing glance at the two pies for breakfast, when you know darn well to “transform” them you are going to be a darn sight more radical than just introducing them to vegetables and cutting out the chocolate.


PS Does anyone else find it vaguely endearing when after all this time reality TV contestants still seem a bit shocked when they are asked to do something they find humiliating? (What, weigh myself in front of my family and friends? I just thought I was going to do that on prime time television in front of anyone in the country who cared to turn the idiot box on!! I never imagined I would be asked to do this!!)