The first original episode of the weight-loss series “The Biggest Loser” since 2016 airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday evening on cable’s USA Network with several changes from the original.
“We did want to take a look at the format and make sure that it was reflective of health and fitness today,” Heather Olander, USA Network’s senior vice president, alternative series development & production, said earlier this month at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour. “2020 is very different than what it was more than a decade ago when this show first came on the air.
“One of the things we did look at is the competition element. What we decided is that the competition is only part of the storytelling in the show. It’s a motivating factor for the contestants, but we found it’s part of their story and their transformation as well, the failures and the successes both. And we saw it impacted who they were from the start of the show to the end.”
Changes from the original version which ran on NBC from 2004-16 include giving eliminated contestants a gym membership and the services of a nutritionist because “we wanted to give those people who did maybe go home early on in the process the best chance possible to continue a healthy lifestyle,” Olander said.
A support group where “everybody gets to share their stories and feels sort of a part of something, feels like they’re not alone,” is also part of the series, Olander said.
“This journey is much better when you can do it with someone else versus when you do it alone,” Olander said.
The support group “not only does it help the contestants, but the viewers will get so much inspiration and hope from their stories,” said Bob Harper, who returns as host, a role he had in the final season of the NBC run after being a trainer for the first 16 seasons.
Another change is that instead of a vote deciding what contestant is eliminated, the elimination is based on the contestant losing the least amount of weight for the episode.
“We decided that it shouldn’t be a popularity contest,” Harper said.
A goal in the development of the new version was making “a bigger connection between weight loss and health,” Olander said.
Contestants sought to be on the series primarily “because they wanted to live a longer life,” Olander said.
“They unanimously talked about health issues that they are having because of the weight and just beyond that,” Olander said. “The message in the show is, yes, being thin and fitting into skinny jeans, if that’s what you want, fabulous.
“But that’s not the end-all, be-all. It’s not about getting thin at all costs. It’s about getting healthy and setting these contestants on a healthy lifestyle path.”
The 10-episode season of “The Biggest Loser” is not just about losing weight but “all of these nonscale victories that you are going to experience when you watch the show,” such as contestants managing diabetes and lowering their blood pressure, Harper said.
Because accompanying online content is a larger element in television now than during “The Biggest Loser’s” original run, recipes and workout information will be available, part of the effort “to send the message in this show that it’s not just about losing weight and getting skinny, but it’s giving people the tools to be healthy,” Olander said.
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