The promotion for the new series of The Biggest Loser has been appalling, and if it is indicative of what we’ll get this season it’s setting itself up for an audience backlash the show has not seen in its seven year history.

With each new series there’s a twist and in 2012 it’s the delivery of 16 contestants who are all single and all seeking to lose weight. Not outrageous in itself as when you sign up for Loser your relationship status is noted but not necessarily drawn out as your motivation. Until now.

The assertion that people who are overweight cannot find “real love” is absurd. Yes obese people suffer from self-esteem issues, but no more than skinny people (given some of the images we see in magazines and advertising, some skinny people clearly have their own set of self-esteem challenges to deal with too). To anchor the program on anything other than people wanting to lose weight is a new low, & adding in the emotional manipulation that they’ve not found love due to their weight, while the contestants feel it may be true, sends a very strong and altogether absurd message (the first promo can be seen here).

Love is a choice. You choose to love someone, including yourself. What makes relationships work is the consistent choice to love/be in love with your partner. It’s not rocket science but it can be hard work. In the end, real love is about sacrifice.

Sure, we want to see how the inter-personal relationships of those involved suffer or progress. Such is the nature of the blow-ups by contestants with their trainers, and with others at elimination time. Conflict is core to the reality genre. It doesn’t help that in the promotion now coming out as “news”, we’re getting the inevitable some-of-the-contestants-have-hooked-up-who-woulda-thunk-it revelations. Hmmm… stay classy, Shannan.

Then there’s the advertising focused on the trainers, such as the title image to this article and the picture show to the side. They’re great to draw the punters in however the pictures entirely misrepresent the show. It’s not about the trainers – is it?

It’s not the trainer’s fault they’ve been represented this way. Sex sells. Given it’s The Biggest Loser why not use the contestants in these advertisements? Would it be that appalling? Aren’t we going to see them in essentially all their glory anyway? Wouldn’t it provide a great opportunity for advertising later in the series with silhouettes of the contestants in their new form in comparison? Has all creativity left the Biggest Loser camp in search of ratings now that they have a program up against them that may prove more popular? Why resort to lowest common denominator advertising when the show attempts to be anything but, fighting against fad dieting and celebrity-endorsed programs. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The newest series of ads has the trainers, again in all their glory, offering sage words of pseudo-psychiatry to inspire & promote the show:

It’s all gotten way out of hand. What happened to the show where we watched in awe at Bob’s amazing commitment and success? Or Lisa’s dogged determination? Or Adro’s glee at his personal triumph? Why has it fallen into the self-indulgent spiral of trying to make itself sexy when, at the start of each series, it’s anything but?

“Real love” is not guaranteed for anyone – skinny, tall, short, fat, morbidly obese, winner or second place of this series of The Biggest Loser, or whoever you are. Real love is about vulnerability, grace and sacrifice. Show me any show that embraces this understanding of real love and you’ve got my attention. For every episode.

The Biggest Loser – Mon through Thu 7pm, Ch10.
Starts Mon 23 January 2012.