Valerie Phillips: 'Biggest Loser' antics less than inspirational

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 14 2012 4:48 p.m. MST

For many years, "The Biggest Loser" reality TV series has inspired its viewers who are trying to lose weight and get healthy. But this season, the positive message of proper nutrition and exercise is being drowned out with bickering and bullying.

Conda Britt may go down as the meanest villain in the history of the NBC reality series, "The Biggest Loser." Her antics so far this season have topped even those of "Icky" Vicky Vilcan and Heba Saloma of Season 6.

Instead of discouraging her bad behavior, her teammates are being sucked into the downward spiral of negativity. As much as I like trainer Dolvett Quince, his Red Team (except "Santa Claus" Roy) deserves to be sent packing. Due to our news cycle, the next episode will air before this column appears in print. So I may be premature in my predictions. But unless this team shakes off the Conda Curse, they will likely be knocked off one by one each week.

Conflict is part of any good story, whether it's told in books, movies or a TV show. Good versus evil, that sort of thing. And some reality series thrive on over-the-top conflicts, confrontations and backbiting. But in the case of "The Biggest Loser," the conflict is People versus Pounds. It's a fight against fat. That's what makes the show so watchable.

Many fans tune in to "The Biggest Loser" to get inspired by players' determination to win their weight battles. It helps us go the extra mile on the treadmill or pass up a dessert. Yes, there's the competition, the strategies, alliances and jockeying to see who's getting sent home. But generally, the players are supportive of each other.

It used to be that the only bullying was done by former trainer Jillian Michaels, in an effort to motivate her team to work out harder. While some of her methods were questionable, she did seem to have their welfare at heart.

But this season, the bullying is done by Brat ….er, Britt, even to her own team members. First it was Mike, whom she relentlessly bad-mouthed to get him eliminated. He seemed somewhat of a loner, and his tobacco-chewing habit didn't endear him to the team, but she went after him like a dog with a bone. The next week, she accused Cassandra of cheating after Cassandra won an exercise face-off against her. Next week, she disrepected trainer Dolvett, who kicked her out of the gym. Two weeks ago, the target was her new team member, Adrian Dortsch. He and his sister Daphne were on the Aqua team that didn't make it on to "the ranch." But, if they lost at least 50 pounds by week four, they could come back — and they nailed it. Instead of welcoming the new teammates as in past seasons (remember Sunshine and O'Neal Hampton?), the players gave Adrian and Daphne a cold shoulder. Conda trash-talked him, both behind his back and to his face.

Yes, Adrian's brashness could rub people the wrong way. But he would likely have been less defensive and outspoken if the Red Team hadn't acted like a junior high clique. He proved himself during the workouts and challenges, but was never given credit simply because he had missed the bonding process that the others had been through.

I'm especially disappointed in Britt's teammates, Kim Nielsen and Mark Cornielison, who joined in the criticism rather than nipping it in the bud.

Mark said Adrian should have lost more than two pounds at the weigh-in. Yet Mark's own son, Chism, and Conda only lost two pounds each.

It was no surprise that they voted to boot off Adrian last week — a really stupid move. Adrian could have helped win challenges and weigh-ins. Had he been treated as part of the team, he could have been an asset. Roy showed some integrity by not voting against Adrian; and he'll probably pay for that by being voted off very soon.

That same episode showed a segment on restaurant meals, with a dietitian pointing out how the calories can quickly add up and the Black Team choosing healthy options. The Red Team, when they weren't bickering, showed that you can get in some challenging workouts without a trainer.

But with so much air time devoted to the Conda Controversy, these positive messages are getting drowned in the drama.

Of course, viewers don't see everything that goes on 24/7, and perhaps there's more to the story than what we're seeing. Maybe Conda is really just a nice, sweet girl when she's not spewing venom. Maybe Kim and Mark had more justification for the way they treated Adrian.

But I wonder what their reactions are when they watch these episodes. Are they ashamed of their actions? They may claim they were edited to look bad. In past seasons, Vicky Vilcan and Heather Hansen (of Bountiful, Utah,) said they were unfairly portrayed as villains.

It's true that things can be edited out; but you can't edit words IN if someone doesn't say them.

When I posted about Conda on my href="http://chewandchat.blogspot.com/2012/02/biggest-loser-conda-strikes-again.html " target="_blank">blog, some viewers commented that that they will quit watching because of the nastiness. I hope the producers take note of this.

Valerie Phillips is the former Deseret News food editor. She blogs at www.chewandchat.blogspot.com. Email: vphillips@desnews.com

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