Never before, in the annals of Australian television, have we seen such a shift. Never before, in the tomes of family entertainments, have we seen such a transformation. Never before, in the history of Australian reality based television programming involving families of overweight people trying to lose weight, have we seen such a metamorphosis. Of course, I’m talking about ‘make over’ week on Biggest Loser Families. Not since that fateful day we all sat down to watch Home and Away when, without warning or a word of explanation, Pippa was being played by a completely different actress, have we come across such a change. Not since that day in June last year, when we all awoke to find that our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, had undergone a sex-change, died his hair red and had started dating a hair dresser, have we seen such a distortion.
But before we talk about the make overs, let’s cast our minds back a week to the last weigh-in. As you would recall, Meg’s immunity was on the line after it was discovered during a snap, mid week weigh-in, that she had put on weight. In fact, each of Lara, Leigh, Joe and Meg had immunity for this weigh-in, but if any weighed more than they did at the last weigh-in, they would be stripped of immunity.
Lara went first, followed by Leigh and Joe. All lost weight and kept immunity. Meg was next. She was able to not only get back the 4 kg she had put on during the week, but also lost more than 3 kgs more. This loss of weight was an enormous relief for Tiffiny, who said that her “heart was in my throat, next to my false eyelashes and over sized novelty teeth that I keep in a special combination safe in my bathroom”.
For the other four contestants there was to be no immunity, and after the weigh-in it transpired that two of the Moons, Rebecca and Sarah would be facing off in the face-off part of the show that is uncommonly known as the ‘Face-Off’.
However, before the vote, lucky viewers got a glimpse of Nathaniel Challenor’s journey on that part of the Biggest Loser vernacular that is commonly referred to as ‘the outside’. Contrary to popular belief, the images shown of Nathaniel indicated that immediately after he was eliminated from the show, he was not taken out the back, shot in the head and fed to ravenous wild boars. No doubt viewers would have found this state of affairs immensely confusing. After all, during each previous weigh-in and elimination episode, there have been tears and breakdowns and recriminations and discreet farting, as if the remaining contestants believe that once eliminated, the eliminated contestant no longer exists except in the remaining contestants memories.
And so to the voting.
Sharlene was the first to reveal her vote. She stated she was voting with her heart when she chose Rebecca. However, Hayley Lewis reminded Sharlene that the rules required her to write the name of the person she was voting to evict on paper in pen or pencil and that it was strictly forbidden for contestants to use hearts, lungs or any other organs or appendages to vote. On hearing this, Leigh pulled up his pants.
Joe was next. He said he was choosing to vote tactically in voting for Sarah. As he said this, the 12th Panzer Division hove into view as Joe re-enacted the battle of Toobruk between Rommel and Montgomery. However, Hayley Lewis, ever the killjoy, reminded Joe that the rules required him to write the name of the person he was voting to evict on paper in pen or pencil and that it was strictly forbidden to use weaponry any greater than a 2 HB pencil or a biro. On hearing this, Leigh pulled up his pants.
Lara was next to vote. She started by saying that she based her decision to vote for Rebecca on two things: who needed to be there more, and who was less likely to crack on to Leigh. On hearing this, Leigh pulled up his pants.
Leigh was next, and he began by pulling up his pants. He started by saying the exact same things that Lara had said, word for word. He finished by saying the exact same things Lara had said, word for word. So his vote was the same as Lara’s. A vote for Rebecca.
Kellie came after Leigh. She began by asking him to pull up his pants. She then explained that had thought long and hard about who to vote for. She elaborated further, saying that there was never any doubt that she would vote for Sarah, but that the producers had asked her to think long and hard about how she could make it look like she didn’t absolutely hate Sarah’s guts.
With the votes 3 for Rebecca and 2 for Sarah, whoever Meg voted for would be eliminated, on account of Sarah having lost less in percentage terms at the most recent weigh-in. She began by punching Leigh in the neck as he went to unfasten his pants. She then went on to say that she wanted to say how close she felt to each of them, mainly because it was a contractual condition of being on the show that you regularly state that you feel close to a certain person even if you wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire and you’d just drunk a carton of beer. However, feined closeness aside. Meg wanted Sarah to feel what she (Meg) had felt when she fell below 100 kilograms. What Meg failed to add was that she had felt Leigh’s bottom when she fell below 100 kilograms.
So with the voting over and Sarah closer than ever to being Biggest Loser’s answer to Steven Bradbury, the show moved into hyper-overstatement, otherwise know as the ‘make over’.
The ‘make over’ is famous in Biggest Loser lore for being part of the process of turning previously overweight and unattractive people into somewhat less overweight and unattractive people with lots of make up, expensive hairstyles and each of the contestant’s ‘dream’ outfits.
This time the make over was spread over two episodes. In the first episode, we saw part of the process. For example, Sharlene’s hair came in for some interesting treatment. The stylist informed her that even though she was 50, she had the hair of an 18 year old. Whether or not said 18 year old willingly donated the hair was not explained.
However, that moment of excitement aside, the contestants’ transformation proceeded as expected. The men finding their pants way too big. The women finding their dresses way too loose. The women fighting off tears. The men fighting off circus animals. The men getting a bit of a haircut and a shave. The women … well, the same.
Until eventually, when all hairs were cut; when all faces were made; when all crevices were filled with Selleys No More Gaps; and when all was said and done; the contestants got to strut the catwalk.
And I guess it is at this point that the contestants and the viewers alike discover the futility of existence, if that existence includes eating nothing but vegetation even the most desperate hippy would reject; if that existence includes running 20 kilometres a day; if that existence means shouting inane catchphrases and shallow platitudes at each other for the rest of their lives. Because, you see by having a part of the show where the contestants don make up and shiny new clothes and shiny new hair, they are confirming that without designer labels, without expensive hairstyles, without tonnes of make up, they are nothing. This is where Biggest Loser Families becomes what it loathes. This is where the Biggest Loser Families says to the contestants “It is not enough to better yourself. No matter how hard you work, how much you diet, how much you exercise, you still need to be fixed up. You need to be made better. And only we can make you better.”
Either that, or “Here’s some stuff. Make yourselves look purty.”
The Biggest Loser Australia: Families – Sun 6:30pm; Wed/Thu/Fri 7:30pm, Ch10.
Image sources: Channel 10.