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'Biggest Loser' producer looks ahead to new season, addresses contestant health

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From Tracey’s frightening trip to the hospital to the group’s special tour of the White House vegetable garden, it was quite a year on The Biggest Loser.  EW talked to creator-executive producer Mark Koops about the show’s most memorable moments and whether we’ve seen the last of the 400-pound plus contestants.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was this a milestone season by virtue of the fact you went to the White House?

MARK KOOPS: I think every year we gain momentum. There is no greater embrace of how far this show has come. In season 9, we’ll go to the Olympic training facility in Colorado. To be embraced by incredible organizations like the Olympic committee or the NFL or Michelle Obama’s office in the White House is a total validation. 

We saw Shay weigh in at 476 pounds, the heaviest contestant in the show’s eight-year history [Editor’s note: Thanks to a sponsorship by Subway, she’ll return for season 9.] Will you raise the bar come January? Will there be someone over 500 lbs?

Coincidentally we do, but hopefully at some point we tap out. Hopefully, no one gets bigger before they have to come be on the show. It’s a sad thing in terms of physical health. But I hope at some point the contestants begin to get smaller because they’ve begun to make the change without us. There’s only 16 Golden Tickets to come get help from Bob and Gillian. Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to hand out many more Golden Tickets for people but inspire people to do it on their own.

Watching what Tracey went through at the beginning of the season was scary, which is probably why the show invited scrutiny from media outlets, like the New York Times, over whether the rapid weight loss program was potentially dangerous. Is that fair?

Of course it’s fair to ask. We’ve always said these people who come on the show are not looking to lose 20 or 30  pounds; they’re looking to lose significant amounts of weight. They have a lot of excess of fat, they have a lot of medical issues. It is a boot camp. They are working with the best trainers in the world and the best medical professionals in the world while getting the best food and living away from the pressures of everyday life. The results aren’t normal, they are unique. We’ve never said to anyone that you should try to replicate this results at home because you are not living in the compound. That’s why we are working with Jillian on a new show. She’ll go into people’s homes and it will be much more relatable because she’ll show them how to do it at  home. The Biggest Loser is a unique place to come. For those who criticize the show, we say you’re welcome to come see what goes into it. They’ll see how hard these contestants work and how hard the trainers work…it’s not a quick fix. These people work their butts off, literally and figuratively.

When will Jillian’s show debut on NBC?

Next summer. We’re doing eight episodes. It shows the other side of what goes on here.

So how are you going to top the White House?

It was so funny, we were in the control room tonight and the package was playing with the White House and we were like, ‘Damn, it’s hard to beat it.’ Hopefully, next time Michelle Obama will be kind enough to grace us with her presence. That’s the only way we can top it, because really, there’s no where else to go.

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