Jillian Michaels is an explosive addition to 'The Doctors'
Within her first few episodes as a new co-host on daytime TV's "The Doctors," Jillian Michaels drops the F-bomb, confronts the mother of a pregnant teen by asking, "Where were you when she's having sex at 13 years old?" and says that women who dress provocatively are "inviting danger."
And she draws gasps from a studio audience when she throws down this challenge to a man whose addiction is slowly killing himself: "Why don't you be a man and blow your brains out!"
If you thought Michaels was outspoken and in-your-face on NBC's "The Biggest Loser," then she's downright explosive in her new role on the syndicated show that airs locally on CBS. The new season of "The Doctors," which starts Tuesday, should come with a tag-line: "It's Jillian, Unleashed."
Michaels said she left the hit NBC weight-loss reality show because "I couldn't have been more miserable," she said. "I just stopped growing and became complacent and I thought 'That job is done.'"
While she stresses that she is grateful for the platform that allowed her to skyrocket to fame and tackle America's obesity problem, she felt limited by the prime-time format. She praised the show's ability to inspire the masses to get up and move. But she said that the emphasis is on achieving jaw-dropping weight-loss figures week after week -- which she said is unrealistic for most viewers -- and diabolical challenges and temptations don't allow room to delve into the "how to" of weight loss.
She said "The Doctors" will allow her to do that as well as play the role of life coach -- not just fitness guru -- and help people grab hold of the tools necessary to transform their lives.
"Prime time is just not geared to inform the viewer," she said during a break in shooting last week. On "The Doctors," "we really dig in there and help people with the 'how to' of life transformation."
As part of her new gig, she's unveiling a multi-part special within the show called "The Doctors' Wake-Up Call with Jillian!" It launches on Friday, and will then air on consecutive Thursdays and feature Michaels working with three troubled couples who are struggling with destructive habits. One man lives on a fast-food and soda diet that leaves him so fat and lethargic he can't fully help his wife with their special-needs son. Another man survived leukemia only to binge drink and smoke. He's so addicted that he wakes up hourly throughout the night to light up. And a third man is addicted to chewing tobacco, and his wife is so repulsed she's on the verge of leaving him. (Don't be fooled into thinking that it's just the male counterparts in this relationship who are "the problem," either. Michaels soon turns the spotlight on the wives as well.)
Asked over lunch whether she crossed the line with her "blow your brains out" comment, Michaels is unapologetic. She said she did it to shake the man up and make him realize that he was slowly committing suicide while his family looked on helplessly. And while a doctor probably can't do something that outrageous, she can -- and will.
"Everyone is always telling me I went too far. I say, 'The proof is in the pudding.' The guy is dying. There's no line to cross.... I'll do whatever I can to take him back from that place." The comment, however, which was aired before a studio audience during a taping last week, ultimately did not make the final cut and will not be seen by television viewers.
As for her comment about provocative clothing made on another upcoming episode, she says on the show that women certainly should not be targeted for what they wear. But she suggested that they also need to recognize that there are Neanderthals out there who consider skimpy clothing a come-on.
If she has a rallying cry on "The Doctors," it just might be: Take responsibility for your own health and welfare, don't leave it up to anyone else.
The show's executive producer, Carla Pennington, said she has long had her eye on adding Michaels to the cast. Michaels has been a special correspondent for the show and a ratings spike accompanies every visit, Pennington said. "It was a no-brainer," she said. "Her goals are our goals, to give viewers the tools to make informed decisions about their health."
And when the show announced Michaels' "wake-up" call segment, it was deluged with a record number of viewers desperate to sign up for Michaels' tough-love approach -- the most the show has ever received for any special, host Dr. Travis Stork said.
As the only co-host who is not a doctor, Michaels said she also sees her role as giving a voice to the viewer. Sometimes, she does it by piping up and asking the doctors to translate the medical-speak. Sometimes, she does it by gagging. (While the rest of the doctors are accustomed to handling cadaver parts such as a diseased lungs as part of a segment on the dangers of smoking, the squeamish Michaels can barely keep her breakfast down.)
Now in its fourth season, the Emmy-winning show is also making room on the stage for psychologist Wendy Walsh.
"It's definitely not broken but we're fixing it anyway," co-host Dr. Andrew Ordon said of the changes. "This season it will be a significantly different show" with more in-depth consultations with real-life patients and more emphasis on psychological wellness.
He said viewers will be surprised by this different side of Michaels. "She's a motivator and a life coach of sorts, and you are going to see her playing that role in a number of different and surprising scenarios." One example: Helping a woman face her second mastectomy.
Michaels said she is still adjusting to daytime television, but says she is thrilled with the more expansive format. "If you want to get a message across, it's daytime," she said. "And for my message, there's no vehicle like 'The Doctors' to say ... 'Pay attention, empower yourself, inform yourself. And transform any aspect of your life that you may not be completely satisfied with, because you can."
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Photo: Jillian Michaels enjoys riding her horse, Buzz -- seen above -- when she's not in front of the camera. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times