Series: The Biggest Loser
The Biggest Loser
(2004-) is a Reality TV
show on NBC
where a number of overweight individuals compete to lose the greatest amount of weight while living at a special ranch. The contestants are divided into two (or more) teams, each of which works out with a specific trainer, while facing temptations and reward challenges. At the end of each week, each contestant is weighed, and the participants vote out one of the two contestants who lost the least percentage of their body weight during the week. The final remaining contestant wins $250,000. A second prize of $100,000 is awarded to the contestant who loses the most weight after being eliminated as a motivation to continue to lose weight after elimination.
The show is currently hosted by Alison Sweeney from Days of Our Lives
(formerly, Caroline Rhea of Sabrina the Teenage Witch
). Bob Harper has been a trainer since the first season. Jillian Michaels was a trainer for 7 seasons, but left the show after season 11 finished. Two new trainers, Cara Castronova and Brett Hoebel, were introduced in season 11, but were not brought back for season 12. Pro tennis player Anna Kournikova and personal trainer Dolvett Quince were the new trainers for season 12, with Anna leaving at the end of the season, leaving Bob and Dolvett as the trainers for season 13. Jillian returned for season 14, with herself, Bob, and Dolvett as the trainers on 3 teams.
As of January 2014, fourteen full seasons and two specials have aired in the United States, with the 15th season underway, as well as 22 seasons in 11 other countries.
Tropes present in this series include:
- Abusive Parents: Season 10 contestant Ada has been the black sheep of her family pretty much her entire life, dating back to a brother's death when she was a toddler. Not only was she emotionally abused by her parents, her family did not make any contact with her while she was on the ranch. Jessica from the same season suffered abuse from her mother, as well. However, both Ada and Jessica reconcile with their parents by the end of the season.
- When Ada's mother was interviewed at the end of Season 10, what was subtitled was very different from what she actually said. While the subtitles made it seem like she was proud of her daughter, she was actually mocking how fat Ada was.
- Action Girl: Tara Costa in Season 7 (an 18 week season) won 12 challenges in her season.
- Ad Break Double Take: Repeatedly during weigh-in and elimination.
- All Psychology Is Freudian: Jillian.
- Anti-Hero: Jillian.
- The Commando from the Australian version, too.
- Badass Gay: Bob and Jillian, the original trainers of the US series.
- Bare Your Midriff:
- Standard procedure for the female contestants in the first half or so of each season is to have them in sports bras for the weigh-ins.
- Jillian does this for just about anything that's related to the show in terms of advertising or products (not to mention her own products) but almost completely averts this on the show itself.
- Captain Obvious: Allison, after every weigh-in, summarizes what just happened.
- Cluster F-Bomb: The reaction during week 14's weigh in from all four trainers and several contestants in season 11, when Courtney lost 1 pound, 2 pounds short of what was needed to keep herself on the ranch, therefore automatically eliminating not only her, but her trainer Brett, from the competition. The censorship bleeps were heard for about 30 seconds after the final number popped up on the scale.
- Commercial Break Cliffhanger: It would not be an NBC reality show without it.
- Confession Cam
- Curb-Stomp Battle: During the Blue Vs Black Arc in Season 7, the Black Team managed to win all the challenges and weigh in. Despite Week Ten, which is possibly the Team worst week.
- Downer Ending: Cracked says that the inability of some winners on the show to keep the weight they lose off is #5 on its list of 5 Depressing Realities Behind Popular Reality TV Shows. As they put it:
For instance, first season winner Ryan Benson lost a total of 130 pounds, which is roughly the equivalent of two Goonies (excluding Sloth and Chunk). Who wouldn't be motivated by that? We'll tell you who wouldn't be motivated — anyone who has met Ryan Benson in real life. Benson's current weight is around 300 pounds, which is just 30 pounds less than what he weighed at the start of The Biggest Loser.
Benson isn't an anomaly — almost every Biggest Loser winner has gained back a chunk of the weight he or she lost on the show. The worst example is Season 3 winner Eric Chopin. Chopin began the show clocking in at 400 pounds, and won after successfully dropping 200. Once the show was over, however, Chopin bounced (ahem) right back up to 370 pounds like he got stung by Earth's mightiest bee. It's like some kind of mummy curse the contestants can't escape.
The unfortunate truth is that people on The Biggest Loser don't do anything but train for the entirety of the season — the show's producers cover all their expenses during filming. It's not like they're going to work and then driving over to the gym to film some sit-ups. They aren't doing anything except training, under constant supervision, for however many weeks production lasts.
Once the show is over, they go back to their normal 9-to-5 lives, which typically do not include controlled diet and exercise. They cannot possibly continue a weight loss program as intense as the one on the show, and in all fairness, if you'd spent the past two months sweating through a purple T-shirt with the word "LOSER" written across it while punishingly in-shape people scream into your face about taking responsibility for your love handles, you'd probably drive straight home and order all of the pizza in the world, too, and not just because there's no longer anyone there to keep you from doing it.
Wait, it gets better. People who watch the show are more likely to have a negative view of physical activity. A recent study showed that the grueling way exercise is portrayed on The Biggest Loser actively discourages viewers from wanting to participate. Basically, overweight people watching the show see other overweight people crying, throwing up, and passing out during their exercise sessions while all of the thin personal trainers just yell and berate them. The end result may be inspirational, but The Biggest Loser seems to go out of its way to make the actual process of weight loss seem like thankless fucking misery.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty:
- Jillian Michaels' default training technique.
- Bob Harper uses this as well, but not quite as much and with a little less venom.
- From the Australian version, Commando's technique as well.
- Dull Surprise: Anna Kournikova. Part of it may be due to English not being her native language, but she's very monotone.
- Eliminated From The Race
- Elimination Statement
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Commando in the Australian version. While his real name (Steve Willis) is openly known, he's nearly always called Commando on-screen.
- False Friend: The nature of the game tends to see a lot of contestants become this.
- Fat Camp: A rare Real Life adult example.
- Fat Comic Relief: Todd Nester in The Biggest Loser Australia: The Next Generation. He is shown, within in the first minute of the episode pouring seven spring rolls into a deep fat fryer and then sitting down to gorge on them and later is shown greedily gobbling his way through a full English breakfast dripping in gravy and ketchup and playing on the Wii with his sister - the only problem? He's sat down to play it! He's also scared of heights, over exaggerates his facial expressions when exercising and learns nothing in the first eight weeks on camp as he makes a pig of himself on a temptation challenge to stay in the show.
- Fortunately, he averts this by being cute and actually learning in the later weeks; eventually, he and his father come in second place. Todd now plays professional baseball.
- Food Porn: Both in attempts to tempt the contestants, and when celebrity chefs give them cooking lessons.
- Foregone Conclusion: The eliminated contestants will return eventually, it's in the contestants' contracts.
- Genre Savvy: Subverted season after season when the contestants who claim to have watched several seasons before coming on the show completely freak out during the initial workouts.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Non-fatal variety: Some contestants, when a team must vote to eliminate someone, will ask to be voted off so that weaker or less healthy players can go on. Patrick in season 12 is a prime example.
- Hilarious Outtakes: In the 2011 Thanksgiving special, they showed a whole lot of these.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Many contestants have partners that are of normal weight; some of them also happen to be short, and that's how we get this trope. A fine example would be Season 4's Neil and his girlfriend.
- Inelegant Blubbering: Often occurs when contestants get a surprise visit from home, win something they really, really wanted, etc.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- Jillian. She may be an incredibly pushy trainer who can explode within less than a blink of en eyelid... but when it really comes down to it, even she has sat down with contestants and spoken to them and comforted them, being a former fat girl herself.
- Commando, in the Australian version.
- Kick the Dog: Bob and Jillian will occasionally use variants of this on contestants who spectacularly fail to meet expectations.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: How the trainers see it, as they're trying to break down and excise the habits that lead to such spectacular failures.
- Jillian pushes one contestant so far that, when pulling her across the room like she asked, he doesn't stop and actually drags her down the stairs, almost attempting to finish her off. Jillian later expressly states that she think he was "trying to kill [Jillian]".
- Large Ham: The trainers are rarely subtle or quiet. Of course this is done on purpose to get the contestants angry and energized to keep their adrenaline and energy up so they can finish the full workout.
- Licensed Game:
- A Exergaming game for the Wii, in the mold of Wii Fit
- One on the DS that is more of a diet manager.
- There is one being advertised as of 2011 for the Xbox 360-Kinect combo.
- Manipulative Editing
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: In a rare Reality Show example, The Commando from the Australian version. Justified by the fact he is actually an ex-SAS drill instructor, so the persona was pre-existing.
- Obvious Rule Patch: In Season 4, Neil threw a weigh-in by water-loading, gaining 17 pounds in one week, and then losing 33 the next week, 17 of which was the water. Come Season 5, weight gained in previous weigh-ins no longer counted.
- Pet the Dog: While the trainers ride the contestants hard during workouts, they have a good sense of when a contestant is about to hit an emotional wall and crack, and will take time to talk with contestants and work them through these moments.
- Precision F-Strike: You can count on at least a handful of these every season, mainly from Jillian.
- Product Placement: Like whoa.
- Pyrrhic Victory: Rachel Fredrickson in season 15 US, she won the show currently hold the biggest weight loss percentage, but couldn't really enjoy with the viewers because she kinda...pushed herself too hard for the finale.
- Rage Quit: Seems to have happened on Season 13, due to a twist with eliminated players returning.
- Romance on the Set: Some of them, like
- Matt and Suzy from Season 2 US
- Amy and Marty from Season 3 US
- Antoine and Alexandra from Second Chances US
- Daniel and Rebecca from Second Chances US
- Sam and Stephanie from Couples 3 US, though they were now separated
- Michele Bridges and Steve Wills, who were the trainers in the Australian version
- Gary and Carianne from Season 3 Australia
- Christine and Hafiz from Season 1 Asia
- Sad Clown: It's pretty much a guarantee that male contestants who have boisterous, jokey personalities are hiding major self-esteem issues caused by their weight.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money! / Executive Meddling: As of late the show has been the recipient of some severe backlash thanks to the network's obsession with breaking records (fattest contestant, most weight loss, etc.) without much concern for the health of their contestants. Critics have argued that proper weight loss takes time rather than be a race to the finish line.
- They Clean Up Nicely: The producers are pretty good at choosing contestants who are "cute for a fat guy/girl" at the start, and then very attractive or just plain smokin' hot once they achieve a healthy weight.
- She's Back: After a two-season absence, Jillian Michaels is returning for Season 14.
- She was also absent from season 3, so when she came back in season 4, we got this trope verbatim from Kim Lyons.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Arthur in Season 11. Tropes Are Not Bad in this case, though.
- Training Montage: Of course!
- Viewers Are Morons: Some viewers don't realize that the speed of weight loss seen on the show is the result of the controlled environment provided by a small army of doctors, personal trainers, and other assorted health experts as they guide the contestants through several hours a day of intense exercise. When these viewers, who are holding down full-time jobs and dealing with everyday life instead of exercising 50 hours a week, manage to lose "only" 3 pounds in a week instead of 13, they wonder what went wrong.
- One challenge in Season 12 addressed this by only giving the teams short windows in which to use the gym, simulating the time constraints faced by most people.