Category Archives: Daytime TV

Blogging along to Fat Families

Today I’m going through Fat Familes LIVE as it’s on TV and awarding points for every thing I approve of, and taking one away for everything I disapprove of.

I missed the first ten minutes because I was busy cooking cheese-stuffed meatballs, but they all start the same: Look at this family, they look so Normal. Then they start to expand and we realise that it was simply computer-generated Normal. That presenter makes some comment involving the phase ‘massive fatties’. -1 point.  Then he goes ‘Look how our computers made them look Normal when really they are Fat.’ So the first impression, if nothing else, reminds people that airbrushing and computer manipulation affects what we see of Fatties. This is a good point but is accidental so no points gained.

OOOh, it’s Second Helpings, where they go back and see how they’ve done over the last several years. (six months, apparently.)

I left for a bit because my meatballs smelled like burning, but it’s that episode where they were feeding their children nothing but junk food. (as opposed to ‘That one where they drank a lot of wine’ ‘That one where they’re gay and live above a Subway’ and ‘That one where they’re all men who like curry’.

Giving children a shitty start in life because you’re too lazy to feed them anything but McDonalds is up there with Religion-based home-schooling for six year olds on my ‘but what chance do they possibly have…’ rant and DONT GET ME STARTED with american school dinners.*

* I know there are plenty of children out there who refuse to eat anything but potatoes etc but at least their parents TRY.

I instantly take a dislike to the main fatty because I hear him saying ‘You can have more chips once you’ve eaten a bit more bread’ to his five year old but he grows on me because I feel bad for him later when he see’s all the rubbish he’s been making the children eat and he goes ‘makes me ashamed to be a parent’. They seem to be tackling the fact that these poor children have never eaten anything but junk food so +1 point.

Lady fatty says she feels unattractive and seems to base a lot of it on looking ‘better’ rather than being healthier, so -1 point because she clearly has poor self-esteem that’s being picked on here.

At this point we start to get to know them and it turns out man fatty is absolutely lovely and looks like he’s really going to try hard with all this. He tells his wife that she’s still beautiful to him. +1 for positive body image of fatties. Presenter does not like this one bit. Presenter has his doubts that they’re going to bother, for no good reason than to say something on tv about how lazy all fat people are so -1 point. He said it in a particularly sneering voice so -1 point.

Of course they know they’re fat, they’ve SIGNED UP FOR A TV SHOW TO CHANGE THIS. So what is the point of having close up cameras pointing out all the bits they don’t like. Presenter guy tells them to look at all the fat bits that are normally  hidden under clothes. Hang on. Isn’t that true of EVERYONE? Does ANYONE feel comfortable mincing about without clothes? NO. Not one single person that I know would feel attractive being shown in close up from the angles he’s got his camera pointed. Lets give everyone watching the idea that we all have to look ‘perfect’ from every angle. You know, like models and AIRBRUSHING AGAIN. -1 point for the concept and -1 point for the presenters attitude throughout it.

Sure they must have known what to expect when they signed up for the programme but they signed up because they genuinely want help and just put up with these bits (crying all the time by the way) because apparently they’ve concluded that it’s worth it.

Health test bit- great. Showing some genuine health based reasons for losing weight after listening to lady fatty talk about feeling unattractive. +1 point. They’d get another point if at any point they showed someone who had some sort of problem that would stop them exercising. It’s all very well saying ‘excercise and you’ll get thin’ – what if you cant? More on this later as it turns out.

Then we go outside and kick over a block of lard that represents the amount of fat she has on her. -1 point for the analogy of physical violence towards fatties. -1 point for not bothering to point out that she actually needs 20-30% of her body weight to be fat because it does all kinds of silly things like protect your kidneys and keep you warm.

Next section she’s in the kitchen cooking for her children and it’s about time too. + 1 point.

She’s cooking them fish pie though so -1 point. Sure it’s fairly healthy compared to McDonalds and Pizza but can you imagine being five years old and switching from sweet tomatoey bready foods straight to Fish Pie? Children are notorious fish-haters. This family does NOT  like Fish Pie. If the first thing they experience after they hear about eating ‘healthy food’ is something they HATE then their little brains will associate healthy with hated for a good long time.

I’m sure the massive team working on the programme could think of something more child-friendly. Make them a spaghetti bolognese for example: Lean meat! carrots! tomatoes! onion! peppers! Success.

Have you noticed yet that I keep calling them ‘male fatty’ and ‘female fatty’? It’s rather offensive isn’t it? I bet you’ve been thinking ‘Hang on- didn’t you learn their names? Have some respect.’ So why is the presenter allowed to talk about them like that on TV?

-1 point for sniffing the week-old curry he’s making her keep in a cupboard because compare that for a moment with the smell of even day-old fish pie in the bin.

This family is growing on me because they genuinely do seem to be making an effort. Presenter guy takes them for a bike ride and they seem to be having a fantastic time with it. +1 point for useful real-world exercise that people actually want to do.

-1 point for ‘sneaking’ a treadmill into their house. Patronising. They WANT to lose weight, remember.-1 point for sticking it in a corner where there’s a nice view of a wall.

Then he hangs up a dress the lady fatty can’t fit into any more as inspiration for losing weight. She gets all excited and really seems determined to fit in it. Presenter actually says ‘I hope you don’t EAT the dress’. -1 point. Another -1 point for the phrase ‘massive fatty habits’ though I don’t now remember the exact context. There is never an APPROPRIATE context for that.

It occurs to me that half the things he says are on a voice over or behind their back. If you cant say it to the persons face then WHY do you dare sneer about them behind their back. Go on, say that to her face and watch her punch you. -1 point for having no spine.

They exercise, he starts running. He’s really getting into it and doing above and beyond what they were expected to. + 1 point because something must have actually inspired them and it showed him wanting to be good at running rather than the old stereotype of ‘look how lazy they are’ like on most weeks.

But then disaster hits. He’s got an ACTUAL INJURY AND HAS BEEN TOLD NOT TO RUN by a HEALTH PROFESSIONAL. Poor guy really wanted to run but he cant. +1 for showing this side of things. However all that presenter guy can say is ‘IM REALLY WORRIED ABOUT HIS FINAL WEIGH IN. More than you’re worried about his future ankle problems? More than you worry that he might damage it further by trying to run because he doens’t want to hear your bullying sneer? -2 points.

-1 point for those bits where stereotypical fat people have boxes of chocolate snatched off them when we move to another segment of the show. There’s at least one per section, 4 sections so another -3.

At the dress-them-up stage she looks like a normal person. Sure she’s lost some weight but also she’s not forced to wear a bra and pants, or baggy exercise clothes. Of course she looks good. Many fatties look good every day. Direct quote by presenter about male fatty ‘HES GOT A CHIN AND ONLY ONE AT THAT!’. -1 point.

The next bit involved ‘Fat Traps’ and I’d missed a lot of it because I was busy making soup but I like the concept so +1 point. Sure you can eat healthy at home but get stuck in an All You Can Eat Buffet and well, the problems in the name. Fair point. However – 1 point for not following it up with ‘hey, here’s how you eat out healthily’. They came to you for help, remember?

And now we’re six months later. They did a race, and finished a long way behind everyone else so +1 for realism. They’ve got fitter but didn’t have to become super-athletes in order to be happy and healthy. I’m rather happy for them because they genuinely do look happier than they did at the start and this programme; over all it seems to have actually helped them.

Presenter guy doesn’t seem happy though. He gets invited to their wedding-vow renewal service (would  you? After watching the show you were on and hearing the things he’d said in voiceover about YOU?) He can’t just celebrate with them, he has to use the phrase ‘waving goodbye to Mr and Mrs Massive Fatty’. -1 point.

STOP SAYING THAT. He’s said it at least twice now just in case the audience didn’t notice that they used to be fat. -1 point.

As Steve points out, they’re not exactly Mr and Mrs Slim though are they? They’re just normal people now. Well done. +1 point for not having them lurch from one extreme to the other.

Back on the scales. She’s still technically obese if she’s the same height as me at  14 stone 9lbs. But she’s just run a fairly long race so she’s rather healthy. Hang on? Did this programme just prove that you can be Overweight AND Healthy? Surely not?! They don’t bother mentioning that because they’re too busy talking about how much Weight she lost. -1 point.

Our charming friend the presenter ends the programme with the suggestion that if they ‘got off their wobbly bums’ then so could we. You’d better hope not dear because if we were all out there jogging right now there’d be no-one left at home to watch your TV show.  -1 point for ‘their wobbly bums’ and -1 point for mine.

So far I think this episode scored -15 overall. I’d say that was medium, and by far one of the least offensive Fat Families I’ve seen.


If Biggest Loser actually cared about people

Today I’m ranting about Biggest Loser (the American version in particular because that’s the one that happened to make me really angry most recently)

Really, really angry. Let’s start at the beginning.

Auditions? Why do they THINK people are applying for the show? Is it because they already know they are quite good at doing 500 step-ups and are in with a chance of ‘WINNING’? Or is it because they think they need help? Perhaps more relevantly, is it because they think they need help to reach goals that are important to THEM and not so that they can conform with whatever society (television? Is there a difference these days?) tells them to look like.

Here’s what I’d do:

We’ll have a selection process and pick some nice rational people who genuinely want and need help and will go on to lead happier more productive lives than they would have been able to before. Lets throw in a disclaimer here that bothers mentioning that being thin will not actually cure any of the problems in their lives and that they’ll need to address these separately.

Reaching their goals will BE the prize rather than teaching people that money is the best reward for anything.

While you’re applying, get a note signed by your doctor that says ‘YES, I fully approve of this person participating in your show’.

THEN we’ll send everyone that makes it through the first stage of the selection process a nice helpful pack of information that includes a basic workout schedule: Have a short walk every day, try a few weights, here’s a voucher for a swimming session. Something that gets their basic health up to prepare them for what will be expected of them during the show and demonstrates that they have the commitment needed to go through with it.

LETS ALL COMPARE THIS to the current way they do it: Heres three people, lets see which one can do 500 step ups fastest? FIVE HUNDRED STEP UPS? I tried it and made it to 140 before my knees hurt. Imagine having 400lb of weight to lift on each step. This is not healthy by any stretch of the imagination and someone should arrest the people suggesting that it is.

YOU KNOW WHAT? We’ll send that pack to everyone who wants one, whether they made it or not.

Also we’ll see what they’re eating. If its 5 pies a day too many they’ll get a nice note saying ‘Look, lay off the pies and you’ll be fine’. If it’s regular food  we’ll send the a longer note saying ‘Look dear, it’s genetic, go learn to love yourself the way you are. You’re great’. If they genuinely don’t know what they’re supposed to be eating stick them on the show. More on this later.

Eventually we’ll whittle (is that a word?) it down to the last 12 or so and ship them off to the ‘ranch’. Which, because this is to help people and is in itself part of the Prize it will be classier and have fancy hotel style rooms and maybe a lovely spa. I’ve never been to a spa but I hear they’re lovely.

Every week they’ll be expected to do more exercise than the last week and to run further/for longer. They will be encouraged to do as much of it as possible outside and to play games and team sports as well as mindlessly peddling an exercise bike while that woman yells at them to do it faster. We’ll have them pick a special project or activity that they can continue when they go home. Part of the prize will then be free membership/equipment, whether its football training, buying them a mountain bike, karate lessons, and so on.

Once in a while we’ll remind them that they’re here because they want to be and not because they’re not good enough to be somewhere else. We’ll check that they do still want to be here and make them a nice cup of tea.

How We’ll Make It a Competition:

Each week there will be a Percentage of Body Fat goal amount to lose so no-one misses out because they choose to bother with gaining muscles rather than just seeing how much ‘Weight’ they can lose. (Do you KNOW how much of the weight someone on a diet loses that is actually muscle and other tissue that they need rather than the dreaded ‘fat’? Nor do I but I’m pretty sure it’s upto about 40%.)  The ‘winner’ of the week will be the person who meets their goals best. Everyone will be awarded points and NO-ONE WILL BE SENT HOME. Since we’re supposed to care about as many people as possible meeting their goals everyone will stay to the end or until they feel they need to quit to focus on something else in their life.

Maybe there’ll be extra points if they also win the best in their category, maybe four of them will be trying to run a certain distance and another four want to do some weights. I don’t know enough about exercise to comment so perhaps this is where the ‘trainers’ will earn their keep rather than just shouting at everyone who isn’t as scrawny as them.

Everyone will get points depending on how well they’ve been doing. The points will be out of twenty and one or two people will get the highest score thus being that weeks winner but this will not neccessarily be twenty out of twenty. If it rains and everyone decides to stay in and watch tv there will still be a winner (probably the guy who did weights whilst watching tv) but he won’t get as many points as if he’d put a full weeks worth of work in.

At the end of the twenty four weeks (because it’s unreasonable for people to regularly lose weight every single week what with giving them time to get over injuries and colds and things so we will be assessing them every two weeks) whoever has the most points will be the overall winner. Lets give them a fancy holiday.

Lets also point out that it’s possible to not look like some sort of exercisey stick insect and still actually be happy. Maybe we’ll feature some happy people who chose not to go on the show and turned out JUST FINE TOO.

OOOOH, THE THING THAT MAKES ME ANGRIEST: You know that bit when they stick them in a room full of doughnuts and then dare to tell them that whoever eats the most doughnuts gets to see their family? Surely EVERY SINGLE sane diet in the world addresses the problem of eating out, and party food, and cocktails, and anything sociable. And yes these do tend to involve large plates of cakes. Every sane diet gives people ways to cope with these events. Biggest Loser drums it into people that ‘whoever eats the most doughnuts gets to see their family’. What kind of link is that for people to make in their minds? Doughnuts= Happy family times? What an example to send them away with.

Instead, let’s give them a plate of doughnuts in the fridge at the start of the week along with the rest of the food. Whoever eats the best most balanced diet (that matches their individual nutritional plan including protein, fat, vitamins and whatever the rest of them are called) will win the weekly challenge.

We’ll get real chefs to teach them to cook delicious things every week rather than on a one-off special occasion and they will be able to go home and know what to do with a variety of vegetables. We’ll make sure that they know what sort of food to eat and we’ll make sure that it’s taught to them by nutrition experts and not whoever won the right to advertise their food products.

There will be a website where we can read these recipes too and learn more about how WE can start to do more exercise. The contestants will keep a blog where they can cry IF THEY WANT TO  (rather than on live tv) but also talk about the bits that they do like, rather than subjecting them all to the heavy editing that completely distorts everyones perspective. There will be councilors available if they fancy a bit of a chat about any underlying issues and this will remain as confidential as they want it to be.

At the end of the 24 week programme everyone will go home happy and healthy, hoping to have  inspired millions more people to do the same.

Channel whatever will be completely bankrupt because everyone will have switched over on the second week once they’ve realised that it’s actually just about regular people doing sensible things. We’d hope they turned it off and went outside for a bike ride, but they wont have done. ITV will have made millions from selling Fat Families to the biggest rival channel of whatever Biggest Loser is on.