While there is something inherently silly about a television show that espouses the virtues of diet and exercise that commands that you sit on your couch for two hours while they tell you all about it, NBC’s The Biggest Loser is one of the few reality television shows worth a damn. Like any reality show it there is an element of judgment involved, and it’s comforting to be able to stealthily pile on those pounds immersed in the soothing notion that we’re not nearly as fat as these guys. But at the end of the day instead of being just another empty popularity contest, this show makes a genuine difference to people’s lives and witnessing these remarkable transformations year after year is nothing short of inspiring.

Having gone through several format shifts, both here and in Australia the show has now settled on the idea of couples who combine their overall weight loss each week for an overall percentage score. This encourages teamwork by inviting them to support each other (read promotes conflict by inviting them to get frustrated with each other). Speaking of which, the show’s been a little light on the drama since Joelle and Carla were eliminated earlier in the season. The somewhat overdone storyline of the dad with the bum knee being carried by the brave son is all well and good, but it’s got nothing on two overweight black women screaming at each other.

Of course, Bob and Jillian can always be counted on for provoking a good tantrum just when you need one and this season is no exception. Jillian as we all know used to be overweight in her youth and watching her week in week out barely able to mask her disdain for the inadequate work ethic rivals the best network comedy has to offer. In another life, Jillian would be a Henry Rollins figure, giving spoken word tours that devolve into rants about weakness! As it is, she’s a fitness trainer and her drill sergeant persona is the perfect foil for Bob’s metrosexual hippy that promotes yoga and is never afraid of a good cry.

One problem that has arisen as a biproduct of the new format is that in an effort to have every kind of pairing imaginable (sisters, mother/daughter, grandparents, etc.) it invariably left a pair of guys in their early thirties that would run away with the challenges week after week. Nice to see then that both the blue team of Sione and Filipe, and the black team of Blaine and Dane seem to downright suck, leaving the girls to pick through the prizes for once. While making us watch them hike to Subway is still a little shameless they have thankfully toned down the sponsor plugging which last season became downright gratuitous – “Hey Bob, what’s going on?”… ”Well Dan, I’m chewing this Wrigley’s gum.”

Of course, if you took out all the commercials, the product placement, and the melodramatic montages that cue up a commercial and are then repeated directly after said commercial, then this show would run to half an hour, so The Biggest Loser is nothing if not a great advert for TiVo. But in a culture so pathologically obsessed with physical appearance as ours, it’s pleasing that this show simply opts to ignore the concept of beauty. This show couldn’t give a toss about how people look, before or after. The Biggest Loser is about getting healthy and staying healthy so as to prolong your life, and for that alone it should be applauded.

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