Say what you want about Dancing With the Stars. Go ahead and mock that Flavor Flav show and the inane lives of teenage rich kids as seen on MTV's The Hills. But don't you dare include any of those shows in the same breath as The Biggest Loser, possibly the most important show to hit primetime in the past 50 years.
Reality programming has become TV's version of crack. It's easy to make and equally addictive. Put a bunch of camera hogs with personality disorders together in the same house and watch the entertainment ensue. Just imagine if you could use the dependency for good rather than evil - that's right, healthy crack.
If you have not seen Loser, the basic premise is to get 14 morbidly obese people to lose as much weight as humanly possible in 100 days. They are divided into two teams and each team is given a personal trainer that works them like they have never been worked - and many of them really have never worked out. They are also taught important lessons about diet e.g. what is healthy and what is fat-inducing. They are taught how to order at a restaurant, how to prepare healthy family meals, how to count calories and so much more. Sure, there are blatant product placements and shameless ads for everything from low-fat turkey to exercise bikes but it's all in good fat, er, fun. And the best part about all these life lessons that the losers get is that they are televised and even charted for the millions of obese watchers at home.
America is the fattest country in the world with more than 45% of our population classified as obese. Our BMI's are only matched by our insatiable hunger for TV, and reality TV in particular goes together with couch potatoes like special sauce on a Whopper. Who better to make you feel OK about yourself than 15 semi-retarded women literally fighting to marry a 5'3" ex-rapper with gold teeth and a giant clock around his neck?
The Biggest Loser is more effective than any institution or individual physician in combating the growing obesity epidemic. Not even the best of academia can affect as many lives over the course of a month as Loser does in one night. What doctor do you know talks to millions of households every week and shows demonstrable evidence that simple diet and exercise does indeed bare out results?
Week after week, the losers drop weight and improve physically and emotionally. There is a minimum of 10 crying scenes, 12-14 shots of massively sweaty tank tops and 6-8 mentions of how they are "doing it for their children". As with any good reality show, there is bickering, badgering, complaining and just enough scheming to remind you that someone has to be sent home. But the proof is in the fat-free pudding for this bunch, as most often the person who lost the least weight is sent home to combat their eating issues alone.
Perhaps we like reality shows too much and are stretching to find the good in an otherwise crappy genre of TV. But if just one person at home learns that eating a short stack with two eggs on the side with bacon is not a typical breakfast then this show has succeeded in making people better. And isn't that what we all want to do?
Check out this website to see some great before and after action: http://www.nbc.com/The_Biggest_Loser/