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Series / The Biggest Loser

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The Biggest Loser (2004-2016) 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 February 2016, sixteen full seasons and two specials have aired in the United States, as well as 22 seasons in 11 other countries.

In July 2017, the show's doctor, Dr. Huizenga, claimed that the show had been cancelled due to allegations from a former contestant that illegal diet pills were being distributed with his permission; he has filed a lawsuit against the contestant making the claims and repeatedly denied that the allegations are true.

In May 2019, a reboot of the show was announced by USA Network, to premiere in 2020.

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.
  • Ad-Break Double-Take: Weigh-ins and eliminations are repeatedly interrupted by commercials and then repeat part of what has already been shown when the show resumes.
  • Broken Aesop:
    • The show wants you to know that being fat is bad, and being fat means you'll definitely become deeply unhealthy and die. Therefore, in order to save people from this horrible fate, contestants are screamed at and berated to the point of emotional abuse, publicly humiliated, made to exercise for up to eight hours a day, sometimes being forced to keep going even if they're having trouble breathing or have even vomited, while (allegedly, according to some former contestants) eating about a thousand calories a daynote , and sometimes pushed to the point of having to be hospitalized, all with no therapists or psychiatrists on-site. You know... for the good of their health!
    • The show in general equates fatness with bad health and thinness with good health, which is just not true. Even ignoring the matter of eating disorders and people who are severely underweight, nearly everyone knows at least a couple people who eat junk food and smoke and drink and never exercise... who also happen to be skinny. Similarly, nearly everyone knows at least a couple people who eat well and exercise and are generally in good health, who happen to be fat. Most of the time, you cannot tell someone's health by simply looking at them. But since the show only picks contestants who are: a) fat, b) happen to also be unhealthy, and c) wish to lose weight, it can portray the "fat = unhealthy", "thin = healthy" thing as a straight-up fact, which it very much is not. All this really undermines the message that the show is meant to be improving the health of its contestants. Alas, the complexities of the human body and the reality that some people are just built differently doesn't make very exciting reality TV.
  • 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 censor 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.
  • Confetti Drop: When the winner of every season is confirmed, a snowstorm of confetti is released all over the stage of the final. The same applies to the UK and Australian versions.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: During the Blue Vs Black Arc in Season 7, the Black Team manages to win all the challenges and weigh-ins. Despite Week Ten, which is possibly the Team's worst week.
  • Custom Uniform of Sexy: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: A competitor is usually eliminated if they lost the lowest percentage of weight.
  • Epic Fail: Daphne's plan to sabotage the teams in season 13 to seek revenge for what happened to her brother should qualify. To do this, she ate almost two thousand calories and all she did was exchange two members between the teams. She lies about doing this initially, but eventually commits social suicide by admitting she was the culprit well into the week. The fact that she was a "new" contestant who didn't have the same bonds that other members of her team had was enough of a roadblock, but this was the nail in her coffin. Predictably, her entire team throws the weigh-in, almost all pulling awful numbers (the net weight loss for this team of five this weigh-in was a whopping twelve pounds). Because her team lost, Daphne's only chance of survival was to become the biggest loser for the night. This doesn't happen; in fact, she ends up gaining two pounds. Everyone on the show was totally puzzled by the lack of common sense behind this decision, including the trainers, and in probably the least shocking elimination that entire season, Daphne was eliminated. And to make matters even worse for her, both of the people she switched ended up making it into the final 3, and one of them even won the entire game!
  • 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.
  • 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 of 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.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: Discussed by a married couple in one of the why-are-you-here segments. The overweight husband, who ran a restaurant, had bent over at work and split his pants, causing all of his employees to burst out laughing. It was part of what motivated him to go on the show.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Rachel winning Season 15. This was the first and only example to date of a contestant beginning the show morbidly obese and actually ending the show underweight. This victory received a lot of backlash, even from the trainers themselves, such as Jillian who appeared flabbergasted at the finale. Thankfully, Rachel gained back 20 pounds after the finale and says that the weight loss, was, indeed, healthy.
  • 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.
    • Sean and Antoine from season 8 also sacrificed themselves when Daniel and Shay, arguably the most desperate team in the game at the time, were up for elimination with them.
  • 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.
  • Humiliation Conga: Some contestants can't get a break. The Aqua Team in Season 13 died a very loud, painful, undignified death after 3 long weeks of being rejected by their teammates and multiple unsuccessful attempts to play the game, with both members being eliminated the first time that they were not immune.
  • 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.
  • Kick the Dog: Bob and Jillian will occasionally use variants of this on contestants who spectacularly fail to meet expectations. 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]".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Last of His Kind: Danni in Season 14 was the last/only member of Jillian's team after all 4 of her teammates were eliminated within the first 4 episodes.
  • 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.
  • Not So Above It All: While Bob can be strict, if the target of the contestants in Train The Trainer (or just general revenge, like dropping him and her in mud) is Jillian, he will willingly provide nasty ideas to make her suffer just because he can.
  • 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.
    • Matt from Season 2 pulled a similar stunt, but rather than being met with intense anger and animosity like Neil did, Matt's strategy was actually applauded by Caroline Rhea when he lost 26 pounds after intentionally gaining 12 pounds when he was immune the previous week.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: An infamous example occurred in the Season 13 Final Five. Twice. The remaining 5 contestants caught wind of the news that an eliminated candidate would be returning for the finale after winning a final challenge, and given their experiences with the Aqua Team they were furious and collectively quit in protest of the decision. 3 of the contestants wound up coming to their senses but Buddy and Mark quit for good and left the ranch, disqualifying themselves for the at-home prize. This, in itself, is a questionable move, but any basis for the action is totally negated when Jeremy, one of the 3 remaining contestants, was eliminated via the red line at that week's weigh-in and then brought himself back into the game via the aforementioned controversial challenge. Given the primary motivation was "someone who hasn't been here doesn't deserve it as much as we do", this was absolutely painful to watch in hindsight.
  • She Cleans 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 returned 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.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Season 13, where Conda makes it into the final three and ends up losing, but her brother ends up winning anyway, probably also significantly benefiting her in the long run. It doesn't help that the other candidate in the final 3 (besides the two siblings) also had a rather spotty track record with fans.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: (Obviously) Non-death examples: Jim (Season 4), Jerry (Season 4), Mike (Season 12), and Aaron (Season 1) were all exemplary, consistent contestants that were completely thrown under the bus by their (usually less capable) team members and eliminated early on, all for gameplay related reasons.
    • Virtually all of the nice and even the more neutral contestants in Season 13 were eliminated by the final 5.