'Biggest Loser': Jillian Michaels on why she's leaving, Bob Harper on why he's staying, and this season's curveball
"How many times can I scream last chance workout?" she said. "This job is all consuming. It's seven days a week. I want to start a family. It's time."
Michaels talked about her decision to leave earlier this year, when a media day was held at the new Biggest Loser Resort in Malibu, not far from the ranch were the NBC weight-loss show takes place. The media in attendance was barred from discussing the departure until Monday's formal announcement of Season 11. But that didn't stop Michaels from scooping everyone last week, when she tweeted that she was leaving.
"The Biggest Loser" has catapulted Michaels to fame and fortune: In addition to her job on the show, she has launched an online subscription fitness program, supplements, a clothing line, a fitness cruise and more. She's had her own spinoff show this summer, "Losing It," and is the new celebrity spokeswoman for Go Daddy.
"It's been a gift," Michaels said, but it's not enough. "There's still so much more that I need to be doing." She said her goal continues to be casting a spotlight on the country's obesity problem. She just wants to do it in a different way. Some examples: "I want [physical education] back in schools. I want better food in school cafeterias. We need to teach kids that wellness is fun. That's my calling."
Speaking of kids, Michaels plans to adopt, soon, from Africa. She was embroiled in a flap earlier this year when she was quoted as saying she did not want to have children of her own because it would ruin her body. Michaels says she was misquoted: In fact, she said, she struggles with lifelong medical issues that make it unclear whether she can have children of her own. (She said she preferred not to go further into details.)
She said she chose Africa because she visited there recently and immediately felt at one with the people. "I loved being there, I loved the people, I want Africa to be part of my life." Michaels kept mum about matters closer to the heart: She has said she's dated both men and women, but on the press day in late summer, she said she wasn't focusing on her personal life but her future son or daughter.
Michaels, who has been open about how therapy helped her deal with her own emotional issues after her parents' bitter divorce, joked that she's going to do everything she can to be the best mom possible -- but that she'll get a therapist lined up for the new addition just in case.
Bob Harper, meanwhile, isn't going anywhere.
"Bob will be here as long as there is a show," he said during media day. "It continues to be fresh for me." He said he will miss Michaels and understands his sidekick's desire for something new and different. But, he noted, everyone's job can be routine unless you look for the extraordinary. And that's what he does. "Every new group that comes in here consistently inspires me."
He says viewers get to see just a snippet of how obesity has devastated the contestants' lives. But he gets to see the whole thing. "I look in their eyes, and they're dying physically and emotionally. I look into their eyes and they're looking at me for help. They are desperate, they've tried everything. How can that ever get old?"
So, with all this trainer turmoil, what's next?
When the show's new season debuts Jan. 4, 2011, it's back to couples. And the contestants will have a difficult choice to make between the certain and the uncertain: They can choose to stay at the ranch and work out with Bob and Jillian -- and face elimination after the first week's weigh-in. Or, they can depart immediately to work out in a secret location with two unknown trainers. Why would they choose Option B? They will be guaranteed an entire month's worth of training before they return to the ranch and then face elimination.
NBC is keeping mum about the identity of the trainers -- a dramatic reveal is in the works. And no word on how or if those trainers will compete among themselves to replace Jillian, or whether both will stick around for Season 12. Guess we'll have to keep an eye on Michaels' Twitter account.
In the meantime, return to Show Tracker later Monday for a photo gallery look at the Season 11 contestants. Among them: Olympic wrestler Rulon Gardner -- he won gold at the 2000 Olympics -- and started piling on the pounds when he retired from competition, and identical twin police officer brothers who can be barely told apart.
We're just waiting for NBC to make the formal announcement and release the photos.
-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch
Photo credit: Los Angeles Times