Trainer Bob Harper Says ‘Biggest Loser’ Has Evolved
"In the very beginning, we had all these, like, very reality show-based story lines — blue versus black, men versus women. Now it's just like our show is about trying to help people. It's almost like a therapy session that people can in some way relate to. It's so much more special than it used to be."
Harper notes that this season of the long-running NBC stalwart is full of human dramas, including that of 25-year-old Daris George, "who was always like the fat friend. He wants so much more out of life, but he didn't feel like he was entitled. To me, it's so touching. And Michael (Ventrella), who started at 526 lbs. — he has to really go through the struggle of thinking, 'I've lost all this weight, but I'm still morbidly obese.'"
Harper admits, "I do get very invested with all the contestants. You have to be all in. These guys have this one opportunity to change their lives. You have to be a leader and a teacher and a motivator, like Robin Williams in 'Dead Poets Society' — you really have to take on that role."
And not just on camera. He reveals, "On the weekends when we aren't shooting, I always take them out. I do spin classes at Crunch West Hollywood, and it was fun for them to hang out at the gym with the quote unquote 'normal people.'"
Of himself and fellow trainer Jillian Michaels, he says, "You get so wound up from it all — they're unloading their lives on you, and you have to be able to process that. When I walk in, I have to have my guns loaded for them. If I'm not running at 100 percent, I'm not giving them what they need."
How does he stay at 100 percent? "I have a good support system with my friends and family. They keep me grounded, and thank God, (I) have my own therapist to work with." He tells us, "The show has actually gotten me to work on myself a lot."
It's a mixed feeling, he says, "When the season's over, and I have to send them on their way. In a way, it's good because it shows they can stand on their own two feet. But I have to go through a decompression."
SOMETHING FUNNY IS GOING ON: For those who could use a laugh in these trying times, there could be good news on the way — at least, in terms of TV comedy. Among the current crop of pilots, we have Jamie Foxx getting ready to produce a sketch comedy show for Fox. Also for Fox is "Spoof," with one-time "Saturday Night Live" star Dana Carvey exec producing. Smooth jazzman cum radio host Brian McKnight has a variety show in the works for syndication — there'll be sketch comedy on his show, too.
AND: Before we get too far away from talking about former "SNL" stars we haven't heard from in awhile, Joe Piscopo has a movie in preproduction. It's called "Joey Benefit." It's about a performer stuck in a morass of low-paying gigs with his brother-in-law as his manager — until a young woman comes into his world with fresh plans for his career.
COOLER THAN YOU KNOW: Although they shoot exteriors in the real Miami every so often, most of "CSI: Miami" is produced here in L.A., with Long Beach subbing for steamy Florida. That adds to the acting challenge, admits Eddie Cibrian. "This year, we haven't had typical Southern California weather — it's been cool a lot. I have family in Miami, and I used to go to Florida all the time in the summer, and the humidity is something else. But our characters — we stay dry."
THE BIG SNEEZE: Lily Tomlin found herself in a predicament with a runny nose and no Kleenex on stage in Pensacola, Fla. However, reports Pensacola radio personality Taris Savell, "That did not deter her. ... She used a roll of toilet paper, and it was so funny. She also stood and posed for pictures with all who wanted them and signed autographs." That's a trouper.
With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster
To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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