Trials and Transformations: Reflections on Watching The Biggest Loser
June 1st, 2010
I don’t entirely know why I started watching The Biggest Loser this season.
It’s not like I was particularly interested in one of the show’s gimmicks, or that I heard some positive things about the series; in fact, my one clear memory of my first experiences with the show is that I wanted to be able to offer my own perspective on the series to see if it matched with James Poniewozik’s distaste for it. I wasn’t watching because I was interested in the show itself, but rather I was interested in how it was structured, and how it was balancing its various generic elements within its two-hour running time.
However, at a certain point in the process this sort of forensic viewing pattern would have revealed all that I really needed to know: every episode of The Biggest Loser is structured the same way, so if I was only in it to discover how this reality series compared with others I could have stopped watching after a couple of weeks. That I was compelled to keep watching indicates the ways in which the series, perhaps more than any other, pushes you to keep watching until the end in order to witness the transformations, to be able to say that you saw these indiviiduals’ weight loss journeys from beginning to end.
And yet, as much as this may be what kept me watching (beyond the fact that it was recording on the DVR and made for a lazy way to start my Wednesday), it’s also a quality which is largely buried in the mess which is the rest of the show. The decision to extend the series to two hours full-time is smart in that people keep watching and NBC keeps making money, but the decision to draw out each of its moments points out the contradictions inherent to the show’s premise and forces viewers simply interested in the contestants’ progress to sit through a lot of material they have no interest in.
Accordingly, I do know why I won’t be watching The Biggest Loser next season, and why tonight’s premiere of spinoff Losing it with Jillian (10pm on NBC) will be summarily ignored based on its relationship with its big brother.