NBC's The Biggest Loser returned for its fourth season last night with a new hostess, a new location, and an old friend returning to train the contestants.
Eighteen contestants were selected this year to compete for the $250,000 grand prize. But at this early stage of the contest it's not the money that matters as much as it is losing weight. This year's contestants are a diverse group ranging from a 21-year-old singer/songwriter (Isabeau) to 40-year-old identical twins (Bill and Jim) to a 62-year-old grandfather (Jerry). Although some of the contestants wondered aloud whether Jerry would be able to lose weight he astounded everyone by dropping an incredible 31 pounds in the first week which is the most any contestant has ever lost at one time.
Bob Harper and Kim Lyons return as trainers for the two main teams this year. In the opening episode, six of the eighteen players are seemingly eliminated from the game. What the remaining twelve don't know is that the six they thought were gone are actually being secretly trained by Jillian Michaels (who appeared in seasons one and two). They rejoin the rest of the players next week and the reunion will no doubt cause plenty of fireworks.
Allison Sweeney (Days of Our Lives) made a fine debut last night as the series host. She was honest about her own battles with weight issues and you could tell that she empathized with each of the contests.
The series location also changed from a million dollar ranch to a studio backlot aptly named the "Biggest Loser Campus". The setting feels a little more claustrophobic and it will be interesting to see how the producers adapt the challenges throughout the series to the more confined space.
The other difference between this season and previous season is the contestants themselves. This year's group is much more overweight than previous groups have been. Given the success of last season in which the winner, Erik Chopin went from 407 pounds to an amazing 193 pounds during the course of the show, it's obvious that they were trying to select people that had a great deal of weight to lose. It not only makes for great drama but is also motivating to the audience.
The one aspect of the show that sets it apart from other shows is the way that it has affected those who watch the program. Countless people who have watched (myself and my family included) have been motivated to become more active, eat better, and lose weight. Judging from last night's live chat with Bob and Kim, many folks are using the show as the impetus for changing their lifestyles for the better.
Season four looks like it could be the best season of The Biggest Loser yet. There is an exciting variety of contestants this year that will no doubt motivate viewers to lose weight. I also expect we will see big changes as the season unfolds. While I won't go out on a limb and predict a winner, I think it's possible that we will see someone top last year's record of 214 pounds lost during the show. In the end, it's not just about how much weight is lost. It's about how folks change their lives for the better. The motivation that provides to the folks that watch the show is tremendous. Here's hoping that many more folks will watch this year and decide this is the time to get healthy.
The Biggest Loser airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern time.