Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On Product Placement, Emotional Manipulation, and Alternative Realities

I'm sure from the title of this post you've already figured out that, yes, this post is about The Biggest Loser (not me, the TV show). We've been watching the show fairly regularly this fall, as it is "the only thing on TV" on the one night we are more or less at home. So why don't we do something more constructive with life than watch reality TV? Honestly, after tonight's episode, I can't say that there is a very good reason. Three things put the show over the tolerance threshold for me this week:

1. Product Placement. I don't know about you, but I often find that just 3 or 4 commercial breaks during a half hour TV show leaves my consumer meter running just a little low. The Biggest Loser happens to run 2 full hours, so luckily the commercial breaks increase exponentially. What really keeps me coming back for more, though, is that with The Biggest Loser, you never really have to stop watching commercials, even while watching the show. Thanks to the ingenious marketing invention of product placement, I get 2 full hours of glorious advertisements. During a segment on controlling food cravings, I can always count on The Biggest Loser to come through with a quick Extra Gum plug from Bob, and the assurance from one of the contestants that it "it really tastes great." And, when that Extra isn't quite enough, Jillian is right there to discreetly remind me that Subway offers a Fresh Choice menu which is both fresh and tasty. My consumer meter thanks you all.
2. Emotional Manipulation. Now, I love a good cry as much as the next guy. But really, how many dramatic moments must we manufacture on a show about losing weight? When I step on a scale, there is no music, no flash-to-the-crowd-for-a-stunned-reaction-shot moment, and certainly no glorious 5 minute (5 minute!) commercial break in between the time I step on the scale and when it glares menacingly back at me in big red letters: YOUR METABOLISM AIN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE (or something like that). The physical challenges on the show are always fun, but again, the amount of suspenseful music would make even golf a legitimate spectator sport...wait, bad analogy. I mean poker. Er...
3. Alternative Realities. Today, as I finished my third cookie and second round of milk, The Biggest Loser told me that it is changing the world through making people want to lost weight. The truth is, The Biggest Loser is not changing the world. Trade winds, plate tectonics, and the release of the new Twilight movie are agents of global change. The Biggest Loser is not. It bills itself as "more than a reality show", that it is a movement of epic proportions. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to discount the experiences of people who have truly enjoyed a better quality of life because of lessons they learned on the show, either as viewers or contestants. But really, let's face reality (since it IS reality TV, after all). The Biggest Loser is not changing the world. Unless it becomes as big as Twilight, or plate tectonics.

So there you have it. And as you can imagine, I cant wait to see who gets voted off next week (double elimination week)!


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