Libby Babet wants you to know that The Biggest Loser: Transformed is different to the show in the past.
No more exploitation of overweight people for entertainment. No more people left to feel ashamed about their unhealthy lifestyles. No more Michelle Bridges or the Commando, for that matter.
TEN’s newest trainer says she too had concerns about the show’s press before agreeing to sign on, especially surrounding criticisms of exploitation.
“That won’t happen this year. I would not have signed on if this wasn’t going to completely celebrate them. Anything that has that irked me about the show in the past has been around exactly what you’re talking about,” she insists.
“This year every single challenge, every single thing they go into is designed to help them progress, not make fun of them.”
“We were both on the same page”
Babet joins Shannan Ponton, psychologist Glenn Mackintosh and host Fiona Falkiner on the rebooted reality series, as the founder of “entertrainment” group The BUF Girls and athletic performance
studio Agoga. Her TV appearances until now have been confined to morning TV segments.
“I got involved at the point where they were trying to conceptualise the show. At the time they had a (working) title of ‘New You,'” she explains.
“They reached out to my crew, The BUF Girls and I thought it was a show to showcase different fitness styles.
“I went through a rigorous interview process and they told me it was TBL but they wanted to transform it.
“When I found out they wanted to create a new vibe for it, and a new concept I was really excited.
“They really wanted to dive into nutrition and psychology, and make the physical challenges like cheering on someone in a sports game, and leaving out stuff that might be embarrassing for them. It was about achievement ad striving for a big goal. So we were both on the same page.”
“Australia will vote on a full transformation”
This season has avoided casting the most extreme overweight people it could find, and focussing on ‘everyday’ Australians with an identifiable challenge. Babet says it focusses on practical outcomes for viewers to take away.
“It gets very practical about nutrition, workshops and cooking. The psychologist, Glenn, is incredible. I really hope it changes how Australia feels and what they want to do with their lives.
“A really important thing for me was that the producers were very dedicated to developing the characters stories, showing who they really were and what they were struggling with.
“They do their time in the house but then when they go home we follow them with cameras and get into what they’re doing, and adjust their programmes as they settle back into their lives.”
This year there are “2 winners”: a Biggest Loser champion based solely on weight loss over 7 weeks in the house and a Biggest Loser: Transformed winner, voted by the public in the show’s first-ever Live finale.
“The final 6 go into transformation zone at home, and implement everything they’ve learned. When they come back Australia will vote on a full transformation: body, mind, soul,” she explains.
“We’re still going around the country and visiting them in their homes. So we’re very much still filming.”
Another change means the show’s notorious giant scales won’t decide the Transformed winner.
“On the finale I don’t think they’re going to have the scales. I think it’s based on how they look and feel.
“We’ll talk about their weight but it’s not going to be the feature.”
But they will still appear in the house, once again being the only set of scales in the known universe that magically go up and down before arriving at a final figure.
“I’ll give you the insider tip. We obviously weigh them before they go in. That’s a digital production where it goes up and down. But they are weighed just before they go on,” Babet acknowledges.
“Judging it on the basis of one night’s overnight TV ratings is premature.”
Yet for all the show’s positive changes, getting the message through to viewers that it has been rejuvenated is a big sell.
For its first episode the show rated just 450,000 viewers -fourth in its timeslot. TEN was quick to defend the show yesterday as it fended off competition from established shows, My Kitchen Rules and Married at First Sight.
TEN Chief Content Officer, Beverley McGarvey said, “The Biggest Loser: Transformed is a strong, positive and entertaining show and we are confident Australians will embrace it. Judging it on the basis of one night’s overnight TV ratings is premature. The feedback from critics and on social media has been extremely positive. The transformations of the contestants over the next eight weeks are amazing.”
“It is a hard message to get out but I have to trust that the audience will come along for the ride,” Babet added.
“At about the halfway mark I turned to Shannan and I said ‘I’m just starting to realise the incredible journey we’ve created for them.’ Because there is nutrition education, psychology, physical challenges designed to make them feel strong and have mental wins. How they transform their thinking –not just their bodies- and how they feel about themselves is incredible.
“I can’t wait for people to see those things kick in.”
The Biggest Loser: Transformed airs 7pm Sunday 7:30pm Monday – Wednesday on TEN.