Lindsay Bravo, 13, front left, Sunny Chandrasekar, 16, and Noah "Blingo"… (NBC )
"The Biggest Loser" is back for Season 14. We could talk about Jillian Michael's return on sky-high heels. Or the jaw-dropping moment when Nikki said, "I'm gonna take the door." Or the fact that T.C. lost 15 pounds in one week and yet was still sent home for not losing enough weight.
But, really, there's just one thing to talk about: The kids.
The decision to add three teenagers to the cast this year has been fraught with controversy, condemned sight unseen. The National Assn. to Advance Fat Acceptance called the decision "appalling." The show's executive producer, Lisa Hennessy, defended the decision as a necessary first step to start a national dialogue about the growing problem of childhood obesity, and asked skeptics to hold their fire until viewing Sunday night's season opener.
The uproar hit such a fever pitch over the weekend, that the show took the unusual step of issuing a statement Saturday afternoon responding: "As you'll see, the kids are handled with great care, support and encouragement to help them live a healthier lifestyle."
So. You've seen the season opener.
There's certainly an argument to be made that reality TV has no business putting kids in the limelight. There is just no telling how it might impact young lives 20 years from now. (And don't we already suspect that growing up in the spotlight played a role in young celebrities who have gone off the rails, like Lindsay Lohan?)
But that train has long ago left the station, pulling railcars set aside for Honey Boo Boo, "Toddlers and Tiaras," "Kate Plus 8," etc.
Against this backdrop, how do you think the show did?
Do you have any trouble believing 13-year-old Biingo will follow through on his plan: "I'm here to change America!"
Perhaps the most troubling part of America's obesity problem is the toll it takes on children. By now, adults know the basic building blocks of weight loss: Curb the processed foods and sugary carbs, and find a way to move a little more each day. But kids? Especially young kids? They're eating what's put on the table in front of them (or what they find in the cabinets.) And the reality is that many kids will choose video games or TV over bike riding -- unless there's an adult to limit screen time. For 14 seasons now, "The Biggest Loser" has been trying to deliver a "wake-up" call to America.
After watching the season opener, it's hard to imagine a clarion call any louder.
Hennessy seems to be following through on her promise to viewers: The show seems to be proceeding sensitively, especially by keeping the kids away from the gym and by discussing their fitness journey in terms of being able to compete in cheerleading and baseball and tennis. And the kids were cleverly incorporated into this week's challenge, where they got to boss the adults around.
Does NBC get kudos for tackling such a sensitive topic? And did they do so with sensitivity? Or do you think this is all a bad idea, one that will traumatize the youngsters?