The Biggest Loser is inspirational, but only because it’s secretly the bleakest show on television. Sean, a youth pastor, began the season 8 premiere explaining that he was on the show for his children – “If I go, they won’t remember me.” Death is a vivid danger for the unhealthy contestants, which makes Loser, in my opinion, a more tensely exciting viewing experience than a show like Survivor, where the only real danger is that the contestants (mostly model-perfect wannabe actors) might not last long enough to become D-list celebrities.
The season premiere began with a surprise challenge for the contestants. (Sean, this season’s quote fountain, described his feelings: “Nerves and excitement wrapped up in the unknown.”) The challenge: run the last mile of last season’s Biggest Loser marathon. “You’ll be following in the season 7 finalists’ footsteps,” said host Ali Sweeney. The cast lined up at the starting line and then…”Hold It!” said Ali. “We’ve got ANOTHER surprise.”
Yes, as part of this season’s Second Chances theme, season 7’s Daniel Wright was back to finish what he started. (I think he actually said that.) I have mixed feelings. Bringing in someone who’s already experienced the Jillian Michaels Boot Camp is patently unfair to the newbies, which became even more obvious when Daniel blew threw the mile-thon in 13 minutes while everyone else wheezed along. I’m not denying that Daniel has an amazing personal drive — between seasons, the exuberant Loser beat diabetes and lost over 100 pounds. But is it me, or did that exuberance start to seem a bit smarmy next to all the other, brand new contestants?
The race began with supermom Tracey speeding off to beat Daniel (henceforth known as Agent Orange.) The mile-thon quickly became a slow-motion music montage as the contestants struggled to keep going, climaxing with Tracey’s dramatic collapse on the shore. The other contestants carried her over the finish line like a fallen Viking queen, before a helicopter flew her away. (Also hospital bound: Coach Mo, the oldest participant.)
Back at the ranch the other participants swapped backstories. Social worker Shay had been homeless and living on the streets with an addict mother and spent her teens in foster care. Dina can’t get pregnant “because of my weight.” But Abby, a high school teacher, had the most tragic story: her family died in a fatal car accident. Tears flowed. (Sean, in the understatement of the year: “Abby’s story punched me in the face.”)
The Losers paired off in teams (bad sign: Alexandra and Julio were the last ones picked), then went to the Biggest Loser Gym for a weigh-in which prompted Jillian to point out, ruefully, “We’ve never had a crew of contestants this big.” Sure enough, Shay entered the record books as the biggest Biggest Loser ever at 476 pounds. “That’s 476 reasons why I’m here,” she cried out. Hooray! She’s my number 2 seed.
NEXT: Medical intervention