The New York Post and Reality Blurred posted articles about an interview with the producer seen in the ‘walk off’ episode of Biggest Loser. Some revealing tidbits that, honestly, confirm some of my suspicions.
In the episode they portrayed the contestants as having a clear understanding all along of exactly how the game would play out regarding eliminated contestants, setting the viewer up to sympathize with mystified production staff who were just going along with what they had said they were going to do all along. The same producer’s comments in the interview, however, suggest something else:
Lubin acknowledges that the contestants “made one good point: We should have been clear from the beginning [about the returning-contestants twist]. We did that last season, on Day One, but this season it was only implied and then happened so late in the game.”
‘Only implied’? Late in the game – later than has ever happened before? Implied is a world different than the ‘clearly stated’ portrayal they gave in the episode.
In addition, he talks about how both Mark and Buddy are forbidden to do any media/interviews about the walkoff and their reasons for doing so. Some might speculate, what difference does that make? They broke the contract once, what stops them a second time? Simply that the show never has financially punished someone for quitting; it’s not even the first time this season (remember Joe Messina?). However, it is clearly stated in the contract that they will sue if a contestants’ actions threaten the value of the show (in other words, profitability), with the penalty being in the million dollar range.
The thing is, the fact that they are tightly enforcing that, and what we saw in the episode was so clearly staged for the cameras after the real conversations had already taken place, gives more weight to the idea that there is more to the story than we saw. It wasn’t just about returning eliminated contestants.
I’ve heard it from so many different corners now that I really do believe one of the issues behind the conflict between producers and cast is the portrayal of the cast on the show. Lubin even mentions in the interview that how they were being portrayed was an issue particularly significant for Mark and Buddy as pastors. The general reaction from cast members is shock to find out their season has come across as one of the most drama filled to date – their perception was that it was a great experience, not the conflict we have seen. I know as a pastor I went into my season very nervous about the potential damage bad editing could have on my ministry – it was something I had in the back of my mind as something worth walking over.
I know the response has been consistently been from some quarters, ‘it doesn’t matter how much editing does, they still made the faces, said the words, and had the moments.’ The problem is, things can be taken wildly out of context. I remember being disappointed at the portrayal of one of the women on my season; she was deeply religious and NEVER swore. Yet she was bleeped repeatedly in just about every episode she was in. Why? The story written for the season before any of us had ever shown up had her on the ‘evil’ team, part of the villainous trio of women they wanted viewers to hate. So innocent words were bleeped to give the perception that she was foul mouthed.
On another reality show, another deeply religious woman and church leader was portrayed as watching other contestants skinny dip in the pool. Just staring away. Only thing was, the first she ever knew of the skinny dipping was when she watched the episode at home – editors had spliced together footage of her sitting by the pool one day, with the footage of the other housemates skinny dipping. But the damage was done; people were shocked to think she was some sort of dirty gawker.
I love the video before – it shows some great tricks to the trade:
Here’s the thing, I love Biggest Loser. I had an amazing experience. I would do again in a heart beat. I made incredible friendships, learned volumes about health and myself. But I feel bad when good people get hurt because of the realities of a tv genre that survives on conflict, fan reaction, and drama – whether there was any or not. For me, that means I will always give contestants on any reality show the benefit of the doubt. Because there are always two sides to any story, and the cast are not the ones sharing their side. Especially in this particular instance.
I keep telling myself I’m done blogging about this episode. I think I really am this time!