The Biggest Loser is losing me

Even though I prefer to get my reality show fix from the Food Network and HGTV, I've been watching The Biggest Loser for several seasons now. There's something fascinating and uplifting about seeing these overwhelmed, unhappy people battling their personal demons and transforming their appearance as well as their lives. Although every now and then there is a mean, manipulative contestant or two, and even though annoying cliques and alliances inevitably form, most of the contestants are genuinely nice people who openly support each other and grow to care about each other. The show is often heartwarming and it's usually fun to watch.

And then there's this season. [Note: This was written in April, 2012.]

One couple -- a sister/brother team, Daphne and Adrian (photo above, wearing blue) -- were eliminated in the first episode before they even had a chance to walk through the front door of the ranch. Several weeks later, after losing a lot of weight at home, they earned their right to come back. A contestant named Conda, a young single mother, decided that she didn't want Adrian on her team, and she started a nasty campaign against him, talking trash with other contestants behind his back and even worse, ragging on him in public about -- get this -- keeping his mouth shut and knowing his place, since he was new to the group. Conda succeeded and got Adrian eliminated in only a week. Adrian's sister Daphne was understandably furious and hurt and made an attempt at retribution against Conda the following week, and after the same sort of nastiness, was eliminated as well.

What made it worse was that Daphne and Adrian were the only black contestants this season. Whatever their real intentions, what Conda and her clique of buddies did felt uncomfortably like schoolyard bullying with a side helping of racial prejudice. I could almost see the producers sitting down afterward and talking about how to save the situation (which obviously included having First Lady Michelle Obama as a guest a couple of weeks ago. Look at how thrilled Conda was at meeting the black First Lady! See? We're not prejudiced! Even though Conda has also disrespected trainer Dolvett Quince several times, too.)

If the producers encouraged Conda's behavior for the sake of ratings, shame on them. The comments on the boards about Conda and the elimination of Adrian and Daphne were universally negative. (I almost never read the boards, but I did this season.) There have been some obvious efforts in the past few weeks to make Conda more likeable, probably because it was apparent that she had an emotional stranglehold on most of the other contestants and was unlikely to be eliminated before the finale. It seemed obvious to me in last night's episode, as well as earlier, that trainer Bob Harper saying he admired Conda despite her mouth was something he might have been ordered to say. (That might be why they had Bob make Conda tow a car all by herself in last night's episode, a la Tara. Poor Conda! See? She's suffering, too! She's not mean!)

To top off an already unpleasant season, there was the highly publicized contestant walk-out that happened weeks ago and finally aired in last night's episode. Apparently, the five remaining contestants -- Mark, Buddy, Kim, and the only remaining pair, Conda and her brother Jeremy (pictured, in green), who is only marginally less irritating than she is -- were told that all of the eliminated contestants were coming back to compete in a challenge one more time, and one would win a place back on the ranch and most likely in the finale. This has happened before, nearly every season. It's a standard "twist" in the show that *everyone* knows is coming, and it's even in the contestants' contracts as well.

Although we weren't shown whose idea it was to walk out in protest, I suspect that Mark was behind it. He's shown more than once that he was a power behind the scenes; no one voted against him, even when he lost little to no weight. (When his son Chism was eliminated weeks ago, Mark went on a tirade, yelling at host Alison Sweeney that he was going to leave and his son was going to stay and they'd better make it happen. It didn't.) So in last night's episode, after the contestants talked with the show's lawyer and with trainers Bob and Dolvett, Mark and Buddy packed their bags and left, giving up their chance at winning the competition as well as the at-home prize. Buddy had a real chance at winning, too. I wonder if their families were thrilled to hear that they passed up a chance at a quarter of a million bucks in order to "stand on principle" against something they had previously agreed to in their contracts.

As much as I dislike her, and have actively rooted for her to be eliminated every week for quite awhile now, I shouldn't demonize Conda (whom the fans are referring to as AnaConda). She's young and immature and has let her emotions guide her actions, and it's possible that the powers that be behind the show encouraged her negative behavior. I bet when she's older and wiser, she'll look back at her fifteen minutes of fame and feel regret. Or maybe not. Maybe the core of selfishness that seems to guide her actions will insulate her. Whatever.

Because of the walkout and this week's elimination, which was a red-line elimination and not a popularity contest that Conda could control, Conda's brother Jeremy was eliminated and Conda and Kim are now the only two finalists. (Conda had the nerve to sob and say it wasn't fair that Jeremy was eliminated, when it was a straight up percentage of weight loss.) If Conda and Jeremy had managed to force out Kim, the one remaining contestant I can stand, I would probably stop watching right now. As it is, I am hoping that next week, one of the eliminated contestants I actually like will return, and lessen the chances that Conda will actually win this thing.

Wouldn't it be poetic if it were Adrian or Daphne?

[Note from later: unfortunately, Jeremy was brought back and he won the thirteenth season. And I stopped watching The Biggest Loser.]
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Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

TBL and Top Chef are the only reality shows I watch, but, while they're exploitative (all of these kinds of shows are), they are not nearly as horrific as other reality shows (Teen Mom or Toddlers and Tiaras, anyone?).

I completely agree -- this season is agony. And what happened to Adrian and Daphne did seem to be tinged with racism. I thought Mark and Buddy leaving was incredibly stupid, although the way Alison and the lawyers explained what was in their contracts made me laugh out loud. (You're about to sign away months of your life and you don't bother to read your contract all the way through?) Overall this season I am really disappointed with the way many of the contestants have been behaving. Even Bob trashed some of the contestants in an interview after the walk-out.

I'll keep watching, but only because I want to see Conda lose. I hope they do a better job with casting next season.

And I wonder: could we be related somehow? We seem to watch all the same shows, even non-cult ones.

KAM (always lurking -- just really, really backed up in my DVR viewing)

Billie Doux said...

Hey, KAM -- I watch Iron Chef and Chopped regularly, and TBL is the only big network reality show I watch. You're right that they're all exploitative, but somehow the cooking shows tend to be more fun and have less manufactured drama.

Good to hear from you! You always post great comments, KAM.

Jess Lynde said...

I don't watch them regularly, but whenever I catch Iron Chef or Chopped, I get sucked into the entire episode. There is something fascinating about seeing what creations they come up with. The cake challenge shows are pretty hard to resist, too. And you are right that the manufactured drama on those tends to be far lower than on shows like Project Runway or Top Chef (examples of other creative competition shows). I think the shorter time frame of the competition nips that in the bud. When they stretch the whole thing out over weeks and throw in sleep deprivation and incredible pressure, it leads to all that other nonsense, when the really fascinating part (for me anyway) is the creative process and results.

Nice to see a piece on so far outside our normal coverage, Billie!

Billie Doux said...

Totally agree, Jess. Dan and I joke that we absolutely cannot watch the first minute of one of the baking competitions or we have to watch the whole thing. Those shows just suck you in.

I know The Biggest Loser is way outside our bailiwick, but the show has really gotten to me this time. If Conda wins, I will absolutely stop watching.