Tonight we happened to be loafing on the couch after dinner. While my husband was showing me how to make a whistle out of an empty raisin box, The Biggest Loser Finale Live (Season 10) came on. Awesome.
But before the show begins, this teaser from K5 news: “A foot washes up in Puget Sound. Tonight at 11.”
Confession: I watch hardly any TV. The only time I’ve watched the Biggest Loser was part of the first season back in 2004. I remember thinking it seemed uncomfortable and exploitative. Also, there was one middle-aged white guy who called all the black contestants “dawg”. Anyway, let’s see what I’ve been missing for the past six years.
9:03 Blonde lady presenter looks vaguely familiar. Soap actress? She can’t have been on Passions, I would have remembered. It’s Alison Sweeney.
9:17 I’ve been waiting for the show to start. I realize this is the show.
9:25 The contestant with the largest documented weight loss by percentage wins $100,000. There’s a scale in the middle of the stage, and the leaderboard above it shows the top two contestants by percentage of starting weight lost. Elizabeth’s wearing a yellow tank top. She has lost 71 lbs.
9:27 Adam’s in blue. He needs to have lost more than 116lbs (I think ““ they say the numbers really fast) to keep up with Elizabeth. He’s gone from 402lbs to”¦ a much lower weight. He’s down 44% and change. The crowd goes wild.
9:30 Allie went through bypass surgery at fourteen (sad!).
9:31 Before BL, Tina could barely run a mile. She has a fear of flying off the treadmill backwards. I strongly sympathize. She lost lots of weight too!!! They flash the numbers on the screen too quickly for me to write them down. She’s not on the board, anyway.
9:33 Brendan, Lisa, and another lady come out on stage. They’re wearing their civvies so I guess they’re out of the contest. Lisa feels like she’s a role model for her daughter: “I’m the best person for her to look up to now, instead of the worst.” (sad!)
9:35 No wait, they’re all going backstage to get changed. Perhaps I’m not cut out to liveblog this show.
9:36 Teaser for the next season: a woman in a blue shirt keeps miscarrying. Her doctors tell her it’s because she’s overweight. Sad!
9:37 TJ Maxx commercial shows shoppers gleefully singing their way through the mall. Happy! Why can’t you be more like this ad, Biggest Loser?
9:40 Adam’s still in the lead.
9:41 More weighing of people.
9:44 Pink tank top lady was crying in the gym. But now she’s smiling! She’s lost 97lbs.
9:46 Maybe they all cry in the beginning because they make them pose under fluorescent lights in sports bras and bike shorts. Theater of cruelty.
9:47 Bow-tie guy feels amazing. Blonde lady explains that being skinny involves getting up at five in the morning.
9:48 More commercials. That’s 7 minutes of show to 3 minutes of ads. No wonder I don’t watch TV.
9:53 “We’re back with more weigh-ins!” I feel like this statement is somewhat unnecessary.
9:55 Jesse: [in the gym] “I love you Bob, but I don’t have f*** to say to you right now.” Bob: “If I disrespect you, you can disrespect me. But until then, you can’t disrespect me.” Tautology win.
9:57 Despite his smart mouth, Jesse lost 160lbs.
10:00 Some more people come out. Guy in a tuxedo tells the story of his wife taking him tuxedo shopping.
10:02 I am so bored.
10:03 More commercials.
10:06 Red, lemon, and green tank tops on stage. Flashback to fat dude in crop pants explaining, “We can’t forget what we’re here for ““ to lose weight.” This show is not friends with the irony.
10:08 Non-ironic dude sneaks into first place.
10:10 I like Aaron because he doesn’t cry in his flashback, he just sweats a lot. Way to have some self-respect, Aaron.
10:11 Has he lost more the 222lbs he needs for the win? No, only 172. Bye Aaron.
10:12 Mark comes out. Not only is he thin, he’s tan. He explains that he’s been out in the desert. Alison Sweeney semi-flirts with him. Then he starts crying. Then we go to commercial.
10:17 It’s Mark versus non-ironic dude.
10:19 Mark lost 213lbs. He is the Biggest Loser. Uh”¦ that’s the end of the series.
10:20 Biggest Loser runs a charity program with Feeding America. 49 million Americans went undernourished this year. Sad.
10:25 Why isn’t the show over?
10:26 There are more people to be weighed? Oh. There’s another prize for the three finalists. Fredo’s in the lead. He’s loving himself.
10:27 Patrick does the walk and twirl. He’s from South Carolina, therefore automatically my favorite. He explains that he has a new job at a school for fat children called “Extreme Academy” (I may not have heard this part correctly).
10.35 [My husband covers for me while I take a bathroom break] Flash back fat guy falls down on running machine ““ is funny.
10:37 [I’m back] Fredo used to be in the Mafia. There’s no other explanation.
10:39 Another commercial break. I thought I spied Ellen Degeneres in the How Do You Know spot, but it’s actually Owen Wilson.
10:43 Next season they have martial arts trainers. They’re going to beat the fat people up!
10:48 Montage of Ada exercising. There are twelve more minutes of this.
10:50 Go Patrick! He weighed 400lbs. His kids are cute.
10:56 Patrick is excited and talking really fast. “Means to me”¦ family”¦ freedom.” Everybody claps.
10:57 Has Patrick lost more than 176lbs for the win? Holy crap, he has. 181lbs down. Crazy. Ticker tape falls from the ceiling.
10:59 The end. Next season starts in three weeks.
Watching the Biggest Loser, I thought I would gain insight into a certain cultural phenomenon, one that combines anxieties about the body and self-production in a sort of chiasmus of representational apprehension. However, what I mainly got was bored. The salient quality of the show was the dissonance between spectacular presentation ““ fast edits, bright lights, stage effects and music cues ““ and the extreme banality of the action. The contestants and the host repeat the same message over and over: I used to be fat and unhappy. Now I’m happy because I’m less fat. While the transformations are incredible, one wonders what effect such intense weight loss will have on contestant health. The constant crying alone gives me concern about their blood sugar levels.
Maybe it’s unfair to draw conclusions solely from the finale. I know on the regular show you see more – the dieters working out, sitting down for emotional discussions with their families, racing to capture the immunity flag. But even then, why are we interested in watching? What makes the narrative of weight loss so compelling despite its essential prosaism? The Biggest Loser offers a fantasy of change, where the contestants ““ and the viewers ““ all get a happy ending.
* * * * * * * * * *
Update on the foot:
King5 News at Eleven reports that a foot in a boy’s hiking boot washed ashore in Tacoma today.
What the hell.