NBC's "The Biggest Loser" show returns this Fall for Season Three
It's no secret to anyone who reads my blog that I'm a HUGE fan of the hit NBC reality show "The Biggest Loser." I started watching this show from the very beginning when it debuted in 2004 while I was still in the midst of becoming a "big loser" myself and have continued to keep up with the progress of the contestants from Season One. Of course, when Season Two rolled around in 2005, my infatuation with the contestants and their amazing before and after pictures did not wane and I am so proud of what these contestants have been able to accomplish.
The incredible transformation they have made has been an enormous inspiration to so many as they attempt to duplicate these efforts for themselves. The impact has been so far-reaching that it inspired an Australian version of "The Biggest Loser" that is currently being aired in that country to an enthusiastic Aussie viewership! Sweet (I only wish we could see it in America)!
Although I have shared my concerns that "The Biggest Loser" is likely creating an unreasonably high expectation level for weight loss among the viewers at home, I still see the show having redeeming value as a powerful motivator in the battle against the bulge.
Now that the application process for Season Three came to a close last Friday, I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at the official application for "The Biggest Loser" to see what the show's producers are looking for in terms of contestants.
Before I get into the application itself, I have to share with you a humorous story that still makes me laugh every time I think of it. A couple of months ago, I received an e-mail from someone who had read one of my articles about "The Biggest Loser" and she must have made some assumptions about who I was. The reason I say this is because she wrote the following:
"Can you tell me how you got on 'The Biggest Loser' show as a contestant? I thought you were great on the show and I'd love to know the secret to being selected to be on there. Thanks a lot!"
Um, how do you answer an e-mail like THAT one? For the record, I was NOT on the show "The Biggest Loser" and had already lost over 100 pounds before the show was even on the air in Season One. Don't get me wrong, I would have LOVED to have been considered for the show, but my success on the low-carb lifestyle has made me my own "biggest loser." :) Now, even Season One "Biggest Loser" winner Ryan Benson keeps his weight off by livin' la vida low-carb! Maybe she thought I was Ryan or something. Who knows?! :-~
Anyway, although I was not a contestant on the show myself, this e-mailer poses an interesting question. How DO you get on the show and what exactly are those producers with "The Biggest Loser" looking for in contestants for their show?
While I'm not even gonna pretend to think I know precisely what a bunch of television producers looking for high rating want, I think the show's official application reveals quite a bit about what they are looking for.
The 9-page application I got from "The Biggest Loser" web site before the deadline passed on February 17, 2006 has all the usual requests for info and disclaimers that come with applying to be on television, including your contact information, education, birthday, acting experience, criminal background, etc.
But what sets the contestants who make it from the ones who don't make it are the answers to questions like these:
What would motivate you to lose weight?
What's the hardest thing about being overweight?
How competitive are you?
What was the last unusual, exciting or spontaneous thing you instigated?
What do you think would be the best thing about being thin?
I can tell you now, they don't want the same old answers that EVERYONE gives to questions like these. The producers are looking for people with personality, charisma, and people who have a grip on who they are and what they want to become. The only thing "wrong" with the people who apply for shows like "The Biggest Loser" is their failure to get their obesity problem under control. That's all.
Or at least that's all the producers want to be "wrong" with them. Believe me, they don't want to have to deal with any mental cases or psychos who snap right in the middle of the taping process!
For the most part, the contestants who end up on the show are just like everyone else. It's sad that weight issues too often cover up the unbelievable talents and gifts that people have to share if people would only notice them. But fat gets in the way of that and the silent discrimination against the overweight population continues. It's an unspoken discrimination, but it does exist. Nobody can deny it!
Looking around the rest of "The Biggest Loser" application, the producers want to know who the people applying are, including their best and worst qualities, what their dieting history has been like (obviously it will be dismal if they are trying to be on "The Biggest Loser"), what annoys the heck out of them (to see how tolerable they will be with other contestants, no doubt), as well as what the contestants think about food, eating, exercise, and their weight.
These are all extremely important to the producers as they want to find contestants who will be interesting and provide a good storyline for their show. The appeal of "The Biggest Loser" is that these are real people with a very real problem trying to overcome that problem once and for all. Deep heartfelt emotions are usually involved when you talk about these kinds of issues and the contestants who are willing to open up in their application will undoubtedly do the same once they are on camera all for the benefit of the viewers who watch and make the ratings soar for the show.
Case in point: I can remember very early on this past year when eventual Season Two "Biggest Loser" winner Matt Hoover broke down on camera in the second or third episode and started crying in the arms of Jillian Michaels when he talked about how he used to be an athletic wrestler in high school and now had allowed himself to become an overweight and unhealthy man.
It was a powerful image of a man who just a few months later would be crowned the champion of the show's biggest prize and, more importantly, reach the goal that he had set for himself during that emotional outburst on the show itself. THAT is why we keep watching, right? I know it was a compelling reason for me to keep watching to root him on to victory.
Other questions on the application that the producers want the contestants to consider include:
Describe your most embarrassing moment or experience.
Do you have any bad habits you wish you could change?
What are you like in a room full of strangers?
How important is money to you?
Describe a major issue that has affected your life?
With questions like these, the producers are getting into the nitty gritty of the thought processes of their potential contestants to see what they are made of. Are they just wanting to be on the show for fame and possible fortune or are they committed to putting forth their best effort to work hard at losing weight to make the show look good and successful and to sincerely do something permanent about their weight?
"The Biggest Loser" must have contestants who continue to keep their weight off long after television viewers forget their names in order to have credibility as a genuine weight loss show that is changing people's lives. When I saw Drea and Gary from Season One in "The Biggest Loser Workout DVD," I was convinced that they made "The Biggest Loser" principles work for them and stuck with it.
But not all of the show's contestants have necessarily made that mental switch. When one of the Season Two contestants chose not to participate in the final weigh-in, it was proof that not everyone who goes through this experience loses a lot of weight. That doesn't mean the show failed, it simply means the weight loss message either did not work for them specifically or they didn't commit themselves fully to making it work for them. In the end, it is all about the individual making it happen.
The producers with "The Biggest Loser" want people with passion, vigor, energy, and a deep desire to change -- FOREVER! It makes them look good as well as the show itself. That's the magic behind making a show like "The Biggest Loser" work. There needs to be the exact chemistry of plot, personality, and proven success for it to continue to be successful as a public image on television and in other subsidary products such as their bestselling book.
These final set of questions on the application can make or break a potential contestant:
How competitive are you?
How athletic are you?
Do you smoke?
Do you drink?
How much weight do you want to lose?
If the answers to questions like this are weak and wimpy, then don't expect that applicant to go very far in the application process. But the people you will end up seeing in the Fall 2006 on Season Three of "The Biggest Loser" will exhibit all the qualities I have described in this post. They will have exactly what the producers of the show are looking for and will become household names because of it.
Ryan had it, Matt had it, Drea had it, Suzy had it, as have most of the other contestants who have been on the show. Look for a new set of contestants to "have it," too coming to NBC in a few months! Even now, the producers are mulling through hundreds of thousands of potential contestants to narrow it down to a handful. We may not know WHO they will choose at this point. But one thing is for certain, they will have the qualities and characteristics I have described for you here.
And that is the official "Biggest Loser" application exposed! Don't you feel so enlightened now?! :)