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'Biggest Loser:' Is blood thicker than water?

September 16, 2008 | 10:25 pm

Jillian NBC is promising the "most amazing weight loss ever" on the sixth season of "The Biggest Loser." And it's easy to see why. The first thing you'll notice about this crop of contestants on the reality weight loss show is that they are all big. Like, really big. The "lightest" guy on the show is Tom, at 314 lbs.

This time around, the contestants are family members, with trainer Bob Harper heading up four husband-and-wife teams and Jillian Michaels -- who seems to have adopted the moniker "Jill" since last season -- heading up four teams made up of parents and children.

In other words, enablers and their enablees.

Will they be able to break lifelong eating patterns without killing each other first? Will they end up relying on each other -- or blaming each other? And which team will prove to have the stronger bonds? (As you might imagine, parents and children insist their blood bond will be thicker than the bonds of marriage, while the husband-and-wife teams insist they've got the advantage.)

With two notable exceptions, the contestants also fall into the "fit fat" category, for lack of a better phrase. Yes, they are morbidly obese. But they manage to traverse an uphill mile of rough road and are put through workouts that would seem to stress even the most avid gym-goer. This led to some truly astonishing numbers during the first-elimination weigh-in. But before we get to that....

Kudos to the show for mixing things up a bit, although they may have gone a bit too far in some areas.

Reality TV show fans love a surprise reaction, and we got it in spades as Bob and Jillian headed to contestants' jobs, homes, the local watering hole, even their favorite donut shop to deliver the news that they'd made the show. Among the contestants are Heba, 30, and Ed, 31, a couple who realize their obesity is standing in the way of their desire to become parents: Combined they weigh a staggering 629 pounds. Also in the race for the $250,000 grand prize for the individual losing the largest percentage of their body weight: Renee, 46, and her daughter, Michelle, 26. Together, they weigh 509 pounds. They hope that in addition to losing weight, they will also repair an estranged relationship.

Typically, the contestants go through a battery of tests and are given the bad news by UCLA weight loss expert Dr. Rob Huizenga. Learning about the onset of diabetes or risk of heart attack is always a stirring moment. This time, though, Dr. H, as he is known, uses some nifty graphics to, uh, graphically illustrate how some of the contestants' fat is encasing and slowly strangling their lungs and hearts. (If you are so much as 10 pounds overweight, these graphics alone will inspire you to put down the cheeseburger.)

Dr. H then went further, telling the contestants how their ailments and weight have aged them: One of the contestants, L.T., is 23 and weighs 357 pounds., but biologically he's 49 years old. We'll have to wait and see, but there was something about L.T.'s stunned reaction that makes me think this guy is going to go the distance: "If I make a change, that number changes?"

This analysis is a terrific new addition to the show, but I wanted to see it applied to all the contestants -- and I still wanted to hear all the other health stuff, too.

The workout scenes were better than ever, particularly Jillian -- whoops, Jill -- standing, sitting and otherwise pouncing on her team members as they squat with their backs up against the wall. Both trainers deviously concoct the toughest workouts possible, but I think I've determined a key difference: Bob yells at his underlings from across the room, while Jill gets so close to deliver her verbal abuse that she's yelling up their noses. "The only way you're coming off this treadmill is if you die on it!.... Unless you faint, puke or die, keep walking!" she says at one point.

The results of these grueling workouts were evident during the weigh-ins: Husband-and-wife Vicky and Brady, who had a 2-pound penalty for coming in last during the uphill climb, lost a total of 47 pounds and landed in first place. Falling below the dreaded yellow line -- and, as a result, ultimately eliminated -- were Adam and his wife, Stacey. (They were a bit cocky, feeling like they had the weigh-in, and the game, in the bag. But then Stacey only lost 9 pounds -- the least of any contestant. They can continue to diet and exercise on their own at home and still have a shot at a consolation prize.)

On a programming note: Is it just me, or is it incredibly annoying how the show goes to commercial break during a cliffhanger moment, and then when it comes back from break, instead of getting to the punchline, the key moment is relived all over again. C'mon!!!!!! NBC, if you need to fill some time, give us more footage of the trainers and their sadistic workout routines.

If you love this show -- and you know who you are -- all these elements, no matter how staged they might be, will keep you glued to the screen through the finale. (There are several people on this show who you just know are going to lose half their body weight, a mind-boggling feat no matter how many times we've seen it.) If you hate this show -- and you know who you are -- why are you even reading this?

-- Rene Lynch

(Photo courtesy NBC Universal)