The Biggest Loser

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The Biggest Loser (original run 2004-2016) is a Reality TV show on NBC where a number of overweight individuals compete to lose the greatest amount of weight while living at a special ranch. The contestants are divided into two (or more) teams, each of which works out with a specific trainer, while facing temptations and reward challenges. At the end of each week, each contestant is weighed, and the participants vote out one of the two contestants who lost the least percentage of their body weight during the week. The final remaining contestant wins $250,000. A second prize of $100,000 is awarded to the contestant who loses the most weight after being eliminated as a motivation to continue to lose weight after elimination.

The show is was hosted by Alison Sweeney from Days of Our Lives (formerly, Caroline Rhea of Sabrina the Teenage Witch). Bob Harper has been a trainer since the first season, until the seventeenth where he took over from Sweeney as the show's host. Jillian Michaels was a trainer for 7 seasons, but left the show after season 11 finished. Two new trainers, Cara Castronova and Brett Hoebel, were introduced in season 11, but were not brought back for season 12. Pro tennis player Anna Kournikova and personal trainer Dolvett Quince were the new trainers for season 12, with Anna leaving at the end of the season, leaving Bob and Dolvett as the trainers for season 13. Jillian returned as a trainer for seasons 14 and 15, and then replaced by Jen Widerstrom for the final two seasons. Dolvett Quince remained a trainer for the show from Season 12 until the show went on hiatus in 2016.

As of February 2016, seventeen full seasons and two specials have aired in the United States, as well as 22 seasons in 11 other countries. In May 2019, the show was announced to be rebooted, and will premiere in the US some time in 2020.


Tropes used in The Biggest Loser include:
  • Abusive Parents: Season 10 contestant Ada has been the black sheep of her family pretty much her entire life, dating back to a brother's death when she was a toddler. Not only was she emotionally abused by her parents, her family did not make any contact with her while she was on the ranch. Jessica from the same season suffered abuse from her mother, as well. However, both Ada and Jessica reconcile with their parents by the end of the season.
    • When Ada's mother was interviewed at the end of Season 10, what was subtitled was very different from what she actually said. While the subtitles made it seem like she was proud of her daughter, she was actually mocking how fat Ada was.
    • Doubles as Asian Rudeness
  • Ad Break Double Take: Repeatedly during weigh-in and elimination.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Jillian
  • Berserk Button: Mostly the trainers have these, but some contestants have one, too:
    • Generally, all trainers aren't too fond of any contestant who doesn't put in the effort. Don't give 100%, and you'll face their wrath.
      • Bob hates it even more if you insist on telling him you're giving it everything you have when you clearly aren't; ask Joelle from Season 7!
    • Jillian has a searing hatred for people who place their hands on her treadmills, and won't let the offender hear the end of it. Justified though, as holding on to the treadmill reduces fat burn.
    • Don't cop an attitude with Dolvett when he tells you to do something. Expect to be kicked out of the gym in a heartbeat for doing so.
    • She and Bob also don't like when contestants sandbag on the scales when they are immune from elimination, but they really hate it if the offending player tries to lie about it, as Season 9's Melissa quickly found out.
    • A more petty example, but Conda will hold a grudge against people who call her brother Jeremy harmless nicknames, such as Mike calling him "Tank" in one instance, and it wasn't even an insult.
  • Bare Your Midriff:
    • Standard procedure for the female contestants in the first half or so of each season is to have them in sports bras for the weigh-ins.
    • Jillian does this for just about anything that's related to the show in terms of advertising or products (not to mention her own products) but almost completely averts this on the show itself.
    • However, Jen Widerstrom, the female trainer for Seasons 16/17, often plays this trope straight.
  • Captain Obvious: Allison, after every weigh-in, summarizes what just happened.
  • Celebrity Cameo: popular sports personalities often make an appearance on the show to give the contestants words of encouragement, or even train with them.
    • The contestants have even seen Celebrity Appearances amongst the cast. The most notable ones being American Idol Season 2 winner, Ruben Studdard in Season 15, and later Survivor: Borneo winner, Richard Hatch in Season 17.
    • Olympic gold medalist, Rulon Gardner starred as a Season 11 contestant, as did Olympic weightlifter, Holley Mangold in Season 15.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The reaction during week 14's weigh in from all four trainers and several contestants in season 11, when Courtney lost 1 pound, 2 pounds short of what was needed to keep herself on the ranch, therefore automatically eliminating not only her, but her trainer Brett, from the competition. The censorship bleeps were heard for about 30 seconds after the final number popped up on the scale.
    • Jeremy from Season 13 also swears a blue streak when a twist happens, usually resulting a few censor bleeps being used consecutively.
  • Commercial Break Cliffhanger: It would not be an NBC reality show without it.
  • Confession Cam
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty:
    • Jillian Michaels' default training technique.
    • Bob Harper uses this as well, but not quite as much and with a little less venom.
    • From the Australian version, Commando's technique as well.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The percentage based results format was first implemented in Season 2; the first season used pure weight loss numbers to decide the winners and losers. The change was made to balance the playing field based on individual performance capability.
  • Eliminated From the Race
  • Elimination Statement
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Commando in the Australian version. While his real name (Steve Willis) is openly known, he's nearly always called Commando on-screen.
  • False Friend: The nature of the game tends to see a lot of contestants become this.
  • Fat Camp: A rare Real Life adult example.
  • Food Porn: Both in attempts to tempt the contestants, and when celebrity chefs give them cooking lessons.
  • Game Changer: For a show a long-standing as The Biggest Loser, there were quite a few of these over the years.
    • In Seasons 1-4, a contestant with immunity could deliberately gain weight by water loading, then landing a huge loss the following week. After Neil's stunt in Season 4 however, the rules regarding immunity were changed; starting from Season 5, immunity is lost if the player gains weight, and if the contestant survives elimination, said weight gain is incurred as a penalty the following week to prevent players from gaming the system.
      • For example, if a player gains 2lbs one week, if they survive elimination, then that 2lb weight gain is treated as a 2lb penalty the following week.
    • In Season 14, elimination was decided by a red line that eliminated the lowest scoring player on the losing team, as opposed to voting. This was likely a measure to cause less drama during the elimination process, and possibly to reduce the number of Elimination Houdini's from reaching the later stages.
    • Season 17 brought voting back for the eliminations, the big difference being that only the two lowest scoring team members can be voted for instead of the whole team.
  • Genre Savvy: Subverted season after season when the contestants who claim to have watched several seasons before coming on the show completely freak out during the initial workouts.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Non-fatal variety: Some contestants, when a team must vote to eliminate someone, will ask to be voted off so that weaker or less healthy players can go on. Patrick in season 12 is a prime example.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: In the 2011 Thanksgiving special, they showed a whole lot of these.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Jillian. Yes, really.
    • Commando, in the Australian version.
  • Kick the Dog: Bob and Jillian will occasionally use variants of this on contestants who spectacularly fail to meet expectations.
    • Kick the Son of a Bitch: How the trainers see it, as they're trying to break down and excise the habits that lead to such spectacular failures.
  • Large Ham: The trainers are rarely subtle or quiet. Of course this is done on purpose to get the contestants angry and energized to keep their adrenaline and energy up so they can finish the full workout.
  • Licensed Game:
    • A Exergaming game for the Wii, in the mold of Wii Fit
    • One on the DS that is more of a diet manager.
    • There is one being advertised as of 2011 for the Xbox 360-Kinect combo.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: In a rare Reality Show example, The Commando from the Australian version. Justified by the fact he is actually an ex-SAS drill instructor, so the persona was pre-existing.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Believe it or not, Allison. You'd expect this of Jillian, but her attire on the show isn't nearly as skimpy as what she wears in the show's peripherals (see Bare Your Midriff above). Michaels' replacement in Season 16, Jen Widerstrom, is also this.
  • Pet the Dog: While the trainers ride the contestants hard during workouts, they have a good sense of when a contestant is about to hit an emotional wall and crack, and will take time to talk with contestants and work them through these moments.
  • Precision F-Strike: You can count on at least a handful of these every season, mainly from Jillian.
  • Product Placement: Like whoa.
  • Rage Quit: Happened with two contestants in Season 13, due to a twist with eliminated players returning; while all five remaining contestants threatened to leave, only Buddy and Mark actually up and left in protest of the condition.
  • Sad Clown: It's pretty much a guarantee that male contestants who have boisterous, jokey personalities are hiding major self-esteem issues caused by their weight.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money / Executive Meddling: As of late the show has been the recipient of some severe backlash thanks to the network's obsession with breaking records (fattest contestant, most weight loss, etc.) without much concern for the health of their contestants. Critics have argued that proper weight loss takes time rather than be a race to the finish line.
  • They Clean Up Nicely: The producers are pretty good at choosing contestants who are "cute for a fat guy/girl" at the start, and then very attractive or just plain smokin' hot once they achieve a healthy weight.
  • Viewers are Morons: Some viewers don't realize that the speed of weight loss seen on the show is the result of the controlled environment provided by a small army of doctors, personal trainers, and other assorted health experts as they guide the contestants through several hours a day of intense exercise. When these viewers, who are holding down full-time jobs and dealing with everyday life instead of exercising 50 hours a week, manage to lose "only" 3 pounds in a week instead of 13, they wonder what went wrong.
    • One challenge in Season 12 addressed this by only giving the teams short windows in which to use the gym, simulating the time constraints faced by most people.
  • You Look Familiar: Twice invoked in Season 15; during the casting process, Bob quickly recognises one of the applicants as Olympic weightlifter, Holley Mangold. The second occurrence was during the initial walk down the driveway, as one contestant, Chelsea, tells the confession cam that she spotted someone that looked familiar to her: "It that Ruben Studdard?!"