Shrewdly positioned as a brand extension of “The Biggest Loser,” the suggestively titled “Losing It With Jillian” clearly won’t exhaust the supply of overweight American families, which is also why the show has a reasonably good shot of tipping the Nielsen scales in NBC’s favor. Of course, to consume an entire hour without experiencing indigestion, viewers will need to overlook the careful manipulation involved, which is why the program’s strained format is generously seasoned, in its premiere, with a steady sprinkling of tears.
Trainer Jillian Michaels, who perhaps wisely doesn’t appear to own any garments that cover her stomach, is given a mere five days to invade the lives of a corpulent clan and try setting them on a healthier path.
“If I had weeks to work with the family, I would have a completely different game plan, but I don’t,” Michaels says at the outset, conveniently ignoring how the tiny window is an arbitrary construct of the producers, not a papal decree. Besides, without a faux sense of urgency — dispensing with any approach that might allow for a sensible regimen — well, where’s the show in that?
The extended brood acts like they have won the lottery upon discovering Michaels is coming to town, though her tough-love routine isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, she threatens to leave when the morbidly obese dad won’t do more jumping jacks for her — again, seemingly putting drama ahead of the guy’s well-being, inasmuch as he looks like he hasn’t jumped toward anything but a box of donuts in years.
Michaels enlists other family members to join in the motivation, though it’s unclear whether having the wife scream, “I need you in my life!” in his ear while her husband tries doing push-ups is an incentive. This yields lots of tears (or given the New England accents, “te-ahs”) — especially with their daughter’s wedding only months away.
NBC deleted the ending to prevent critics from spoiling it, but don’t be surprised if that premiere finds everyone looking a lot trimmer and happily dancing as the kid says “I do.”
Granted, given the dangers obesity presents, Michaels’ mix of personal training and life coaching at least reinforces the message about eating better and exercising, but it still feels like the show’s dramatic needs eclipse those of participants dutifully lining up to be abused on national television.
When it comes to TV, though, certain regimens are as well documented as any weight-loss program. And if any of you feel inspired to shed some tears along with those unwanted pounds, the camera is right over there.