The Biggest Loser Casting Call
Last weekend, I ran down to 30 Rock for The Biggest Loser casting call. The ad called for people with "100 lbs to lose and... want to change your life forever." I was dying to see who would show. No matter that a Nor'easter was raging with floods and power outages, 700 people stood in line.
The Biggest Loser is conducting auditions in cities across the United States to find next season’s contestants. They are looking for “outgoing personalities” with a “want, desire and a competitive edge.” TBL hopefuls came to New York City from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Upstate New York. The line wrapped a half a mile around the city block, and the wait lasted at least 4 hours. Unusual for a weight loss program, half of the crowd was male. Everybody there was morbidly obese and all had a dream.
And so the hopefuls inched along in the weather and filled out the paperwork when they got inside. With a dozen others, they slowly climbed the stairs to enter the audition room. A single unimpassioned casting director asked a question or two like, “Why are you overweight?” and “Why do you want to lose? Or “Which trainer do you prefer and why?” The group interview was over in all of 10 minutes, unless you came at the end of the day, when it lasted only two. That casting director must have known her stuff. How else could she choose so quickly?
One man said it was like choosing a puppy from a litter: Big but healthy enough to exercise, alert and attentive but not overly aggressive, bright and clean (of course) and pretty and young enough to look fabulous for the camera when he/she wins the prize in the end. But dominant vs. submissive, sensitive vs. thick-skinned, dependent vs. independent - it was anybody's guess. Ultimately, it matters who else is chosen for the teams, blue, black, red, yellow, and brown. One woman thought a crier would bode well since somebody cries on every show.
After the audition, folks seemed tired and bewildered - it had all happened so fast. The aspirants were promised a Yes-or-No call by 9:00 PM; “Yes” meant another round and “No” was good-bye; however, everyone could submit a video in one last ditch effort to convince the judge.
Except for one group of women who bonded in the rain and vowed to try harder, none of the hopefuls I talked with had a Plan B lined up. With long histories of diet failures, doctors were pushing them towards gastric bypass and they were scared. They saw TBL as their only hope. It made me sad. There is always next season, but the odds remain the same: tens of thousand of contestants for 14 slots. The good news is that I told anyone who’d listen about Calorie Count, and for most, it was the first they’d heard. Now, if they would stop wishing for a rescue, they could roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Why do people see The Biggest Loser as their only hope?