I was late to the reality show party, but at the same time I cannot stand it when a bunch of eggheads blather on about how reality shows are beneath them, and all that. I already have a job, so what I want from TV is entertainment. Mindless entertainment is much preferred over some high-brow nonsense that reminds me how much I hated all those books they made me read Cliff’s Notes for in English Lit classes.
So, once I discovered Survivor and The Amazing Race a few years ago, I became a fan of both. In fact, I bought bootleg copies of some of the old seasons that aren’t on commercial DVD.
I was even later to The Biggest Loser party. I started watching a year or so ago. First last season on TV (how awesome were Danny’s and Rudy’s final numbers!?), then a couple of seasons via iTunes, and finally some bootleg DVDs of other seasons.
Good stuff, and here’s why.
1. Physical Reality TV is My New Pro Sports
When I was a kid and a young adult, I loved pro sports. Football, basketball, baseball, I watched and followed it all. Somewhere along the way, it stopped being about the game and became about the bling and the money. That stuff doesn’t interest me. I still watch a lot of college sports, and a little Major League Baseball. But, other than the occasional game I attend for business purposes, I haven’t watched 5 consecutive minutes of an NBA game in close to a decade. After my fantasy football league folded last year, I didn’t watch one minute of an NFL game this past regular season. And only the second half of the Super Bowl.
Over time, reality shows that emphasize physical challenges have filled the void left by pro sports. Survivor (which also has significant outdoor and camping elements, which also appeal to me), The Amazing Race and The Biggest Loser have become my new pro sports.
And let’s not overlook the actual sports embodied in many of the challenges the contestants face. Marathons, rock-climbing, etc. The actual sports elements of The Biggest Loser are often more interesting that what passes for pro sports.
Which I guess makes Rupert, who I happily get to watch tonight, my new Kenny Stabler. I think that’s just fine.
2. It Generally Shows the Good Side of Human Nature
Sure, there’s a game element to it, and some people play the game full-on. But there are many more examples of people being supportive, and doing the right thing. Last season, among others, contestants actually asked to be voted off, because others needed more time with the trainers. People generally support each other, both physically and emotionally, which is uplifting. It’s nice to see people on TV making, for the most part, good decisions. Sadly, that’s a rare thing these days.
A related element I really enjoy are the emotional transformations people often go through while on the show. For many, weight gain is a symptom of some other problem. For others, weight gain causes emotional issues that further complicate recovery. I love to see someone get their head on straight while getting their body fit. Mark in Season 5 and Courtney in Australia’s Season 2 are great examples of this.
It’s really cool when these transformations are embodied in amazing feats. Consider Courtney, who faced- in epic fashion- a fear of heights.
3. It Promotes a Healthy Lifestyle
Without going into the rant that I could easily give, I think just about every single thing we see on TV these days promotes an unhealthy lifestyle in one way or another. So a show that teaches people how and why to exercise and eat right is a fresh and much needed change of pace.
I have learned a little about training, and a lot about nutrition from watching the show. My kids like the show for the drama and the excitement, but I have seen them, perhaps subconsciously, using things they learned from the show, in the kitchen and at snack time.
4. It is Great for Multi-tasking
One of my core approaches to life is to try to do more than one thing at a time, where reasonable to do so. I don’t have a ton of free leisure time, so what time I have needs to be used wisely. As a result, I watch the lion’s share of my TV in the garage, where we have set up a family gym. I can run on the treadmill and watch TV at the same time.
Some shows (think Lost) just aren’t conducive to multi-tasking. The Biggest Loser is perfect for it. Plus, you can’t help but be inspired to work harder when watching others working out.
5. I Really Like the Trainers
I really like Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels (even if she does make some interesting endorsement choices). I think they care deeply about the contestants, and I think they do a good job of being tough (in a world that needs a lot more of it) and supportive. I loved it when Jillian refused to back down from her statements this season about Melissa’s game-playing failure to lose weight while having immunity.
When I think of people who have positively affected a lot of peoples’ lives, Bob and Jillian always end up near the top of that list.
So, yes, I’m a Biggest Loser fan. Sure, there’s a lot of manufactured drama and a few too many tears shed, but for my money, it’s among the best entertainment out there.
And unlike most TV shows, it’s good for you.