Biggest Loser’s cruelest elements: weigh-in outfits, two-hour episodes, more

The Biggest Loser returns tonight for its 12th season, and it has gotten its own makeover: Jillian Michaels and the show’s producers are out, and Justin Bieber’s trainer and Anna Kournikova are in.

It would be the perfect time for the show to dump its most egregious elements, primarily its offensive product placement and glacial pace, but I’m not holding my breath.

On his hilarious site 11 Points, my friend Sam Greenspan has listed the 11 cruelest aspects of The Biggest Loser, and his list turns out to be a list of what’s wrong with the show. Unlike me, Sam actually still watches the show, but about the only point I disagree with him on is the temptation challenges, which are somewhat cruel but are also a good approximation of the tough choices people face in the real world.

But otherwise he hits it all: the bloated, two-hour episodes; the increasing obesity of the contestants; the unrealistic expectations the show creates (never mind that it gave a contestant an eating disorder); the shameless whoring for products like gum. For the sake of the show, its audience, and its contestants, I hope at least some of that changes along with the trainers.

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.