In "Losing It With Jillian,"
Television has a strange relationship with weight loss. America's battle with the bulge is too readily relatable to resist, making the struggles of folks who sweat merely donning their workout garb ideal for unscripted fare. There are clear, quantifiable goals, registered by hopping on a scale while the music builds for dramatic effect.
Yet at the same time, the nature of the medium -- please sit your big b--- down and don't move till this show is over -- is very much at odds with, and related to, our collective pudginess.
Concern about weight remains a booming business for TV, despite the evidence of a correlation between viewing and obesity. As
The real money, however, has been in crafting heart-tugging stories around the pursuit of weight loss.
"Biggest Loser" sets the ratings standard, but has plenty of company. Basketball star
There was the self-explanatory "Fat Camp," "
Daytime is ground-zero for those seeking to slim down, including countless "Oprah" episodes and morning-show segments. Finally, there's just about anything with
Children's TV has gotten into the act with shows like "LazyTown," an international hit that encourages kids to exercise -- however incongruous the juxtaposition of the two activities might sound.
If programmers and producers are plagued by the irony of these series -- much less a wee tinge of guilt regarding the dubious value of fad diets and crash exercise programs, which seldom result in sustained weight loss -- it's not immediately apparent. Then again, inasmuch as their jobs depend on getting people to tune in, and considering consumers have plenty of information about the benefits of diet and exercise, it's not up to TV to be the audience's nanny, merely its motivation.
Notably, scripted series are getting into the act too. Lifetime's "Drop Dead Diva" -- a fantasy about a model whose spirit winds up in an overweight woman's body -- will soon begin its second season. ABC Family will soon introduce "Huge," a drama series about teens at a fat camp, and
Of course, drop by any fitness center and you'll find a wall of TVs strategically positioned opposite the treadmills and stationary bikes, proving the two aren't always incompatible. Mostly, though, the hours people spend glued to a screen -- computer, TV, videogame console -- are in lieu of exercise, not augmenting it.
That dichotomy might seem a trifle odd, especially in a society so obsessed with health and appearance. But as long as an audience remains eager and willing to find diet inspiration on the couch, will any amount of criticism or second-guessing thin the programming herd? Fat chance.
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