Truth be told I’m not especially a fan of the weight-loss genre.
Biggest Loser, Big, You Are What You Eat, The Weighting Game -they’re not exactly my preferred viewing at Dinner Time. But clearly there is a market for them and TEN’s Biggest Loser, now in its seventh season, sits at the top of the tree here.
With Loser now produced by Shine Australia and not FremantleMedia Australia, was it inevitable that Fremantle would dig deep and devise its own format for another broadcaster?
Nine has been down this path before with Celebrity Overhaul (2005) whose cast has been partially duplicated in 2012. Last time we had Australian Idol‘s Paulini Curuenavuli and now it’s Kate DeAraugo, Merv Hughes is now Robert “Dipper” DiPierdomenico, Fabio is now Kevin Federline. In fact there are even celebrities that I’m not convinced qualify for the title but I guess the cast from Australian Celebrity Survivor were a bit busy.
Thankfully the show offers more than spotlight-loving personalities migrating like moths to a camera.
The format sees them partnered with “everyday Australians” which I guess sounds nicer than non-celebrities / members of the public / tellytubbies who don’t have a chance without network television.
Each duo is shuffled into Wiggle-colour tops so that we can easily tell which one is falling down in the mud and which other one will scream at them in anger.
Each week of the series is also filmed before an eye-catching Aussie locale, this week it’s the Kimberleys. This cleverly gives the show a bit of a travel backdrop as well as putting its participants into foreign situations that may induce conflict.
Getaway-presenter-turned-singer Kate Ceberano tells the teams their success is up to them.
“No diets, no lockdowns,” she says.
Not like that other nasty show? Where’s an Ajay close-up when we need it?
Physical trainer and coach Christian Marchegiani is the show’s eye candy, move over Commando. He leads the team through their first “Spirit” challenge of trekking through the outback.
Video profiles of the non-celebrities give us an insight into their backgrounds, including 32 year old Alana who cares for her autistic sister.
Others also have a long-history of battling their weight and it affects their personal and professional lives -a bit like the celebs, which is kinda the point. As storytelling it works pretty effectively.
Nutritionist Dr. Joanna McMillan is about as cheery as they come, advising the teams of how to eat well during a buffet. If you’re paying attention at home, hey you might learn a thing or two. And there’s a face of a chubby celebrity on the screen just to drill it in: this could be you.
Excess Baggage insists it will arm its participants with information but it won’t be forcing them onto diets or even having weigh-ins. If MasterChef made us all experts on plating-up and the hero of the dish, then the challenge is on for Excess Baggage to educate us on a healthy regime.
Some of the celebrities are already annoying. Paparazzo Darren Lyons may have looked like an Aussie galah in the UK Celebrity Big Brother house, but that pink mohawk in the outback makes him look like ….. a galah. If the show plans to shift focus to team conflict instead of team solidarity it will be disappointing.
But on the whole this was a well-rounded debut with enough health tips, personal stories and exterior locales to sustain its lengthy debut. I have no idea if there is room for two weight-loss shows to survive in Reality TV’s early evening battle, but I guess if you can’t stand the heat you can always get out and into Seven’s kitchen.
My head hurts.
Excess Baggage airs 7pm weeknights on Nine.