Biggest Loser trainer calls for content re-think but insists passion for the show remains intact

One of the long-serving trainers on Channel Ten’s The Biggest Loser has called for the show to return to its roots, but insists there remains “tremendous life and passion” in the decade-old reality franchise.

Shannan Ponton, who has put overweight contestants through their paces for nine of the 10 series, said the most recent season, which concludes tonight, should have contained a greater educational element which has been key to its past success.


The Biggest Loser trainers (l-r): Shannan Ponton, Michelle Bridges, Tiffiny Hall, Steve ‘Commando’ Willis

Speaking to Mumbrella, Ponton said there should have been greater focus on the food, nutrition and training that enables contestants “to achieve the amazing results they get”.

“As a trainer, I’m always going to want content focused around training and nutrition, but that is also the sentiment among the general population,” Ponton said. “People want to understand what the contestants eat and how they train to get such amazing results and I just don’t think we saw enough this year of what went into the mix.”

The comments came with the future of the show hanging in the balance after The Biggest Loser was absent from Ten’s upfronts last month.

Ten programming director Beverley McGarvey stressed there was “nothing sinister” in its non-appearance adding no decision had been made on its future, but stressed it was not the network’s intention to “throw away brands and be frivolous with shows we’ve spent a lot of time and money building up over the years”.

Viewing figures for The Biggest Loser have been solid, if unspectacular this season, averaging around 630,000 national viewers, up 40 per cent on last year’s disappointing figures.

Ponton urged producers, Endemol Shine, to take the same approach as it did to Masterchef and return The Biggest Loser to its roots, with individual contestants – the current series features families – and a focus on food, nutrition and training.

While segments on healthy eating and the dietary requirements of weight loss were filmed, they were left on the cutting room floor.

“We saw what an amazing job they [Endemol Shine] did when Masterchef was reborn. They went back to basics with real food, real chefs and real cooking and it’s been a ratings bonanza. I’d love to see the same philosophy put back into Loser,” Ponton said.

“Loser has that same potential by going back to the reality of what fitness and weight loss is all about.”

He rejected suggestions the show had been dumbed down, but said the importance of “the mechanic of education had been somewhat lost” in the product that went to air.

The biggest loser wins Monday nightThe fitness instructor also said he struggled to understand how some of the games and challenges on this year’s show related to health and fitness.

“I am all for a challenge that tests contestants physically, that tests their mental aptitude around nutrition and food and tests their mental resilience and their fortitude, but sometimes this year I just thought wow, I am struggling to draw a parallel with how this this relates to health and fitness.

“You have to take your hat off [to the production team]. They have done an amazing job to nurture the show and in my wildest dreams I didn’t think we’d get anywhere near 10 years. But looking forward, my heart and head as a humble goat herder says we need to get back to content that shows the essence of weight loss.

“For me, and I know I speak for the other trainers, this is a serious weight loss show. It’s a serious business and should not be turned into a joke. Nearly 70 per cent of our population is obese or overweight and we need to get a handle on it.

“As a trainer I don’t want to overstep my bounds….but people tell me what they want to see and they are craving information about food and nutrition because they want to take things home that can improve their lives.

“All the trainer’s philosophies [to diet] are slightly different. Commando is all about paleo which is different to mine so it would have been really interesting for people to understand how the two compare and the difference it made on the scales.

“That is the strength of The Biggest Loser. For me it’s the show that transcends TV the best because it affects people on the street and gives them hope. That is our greatest asset.”

A major theme during this year’s series has been the dominance of the all-male team trained by Michelle Bridges. They also forged an alliance with a family trained by Bridges’ off-screen partner Steve “Commando” Willis which made the elimination vote in many cases a foregone conclusion.

“There have always been alliances but never one that was so strong and that dominant right through the competition,” Ponton said. “I’d love to see the old school return with two or three teams of individuals where it’s every man for himself.

“It would put the desperation back into the contestants and place the emphasis on competition rather than alliances.”

Ponton, who said his family in this year’s Biggest Loser house were the most difficult he has ever trained, described the ratings performance as “solid” and insisted the show still had much to offer.

“I don’t think the program is dead, I think we have more in us,” he said. “But the decision is totally out of our hands.

“There is still a lot of passion and emotion attached to the show, and I’d love the chance to go again. I think there is life to be breathed into it.”

Steve Jones


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