'The Biggest Loser's' season of shame

john-james-crutchfield-biggest-loser-s9-320.jpgTearing the contestants down so that they can be built back up has always been a central component of NBC's weight-loss show "The Biggest Loser." But judging from Tuesday (Jan. 5) night's premiere, Season 9 is determined to take this to a new extreme.

Being billed as "the heaviest cast ever," the show is definitely delivering: The twins whose combined weight is close to half-a-ton, the man who has to have his wife put on his shoes each day. Sad stories all.

Here's the thing though: these people know that they are overweight. So what could possibly be accomplished by dragging them to their respective town squares and having them publicly weighed in front of a couple hundred people? At least they stop short of branding them with a giant red "F" for "fattie" that they have to wear.

Seriously, having to chase after your chubby avatar on Wii Fit is motivational enough.

stephanie-anderson-biggest-loser-s9-320.jpgStarting off the show with this public outing of their fatness is merely the beginning though. We also get to hear how at least three contestants -- Daris, Stephanie and Sunshine -- have never had a girl/boyfriend. They are putting this down to their excessive pounds landing them in firmly in the "friend" zone. Wait until they have to deal with the whole new set of issues of being a fat person in a skinny person's body.

It's hard to believe that these people could learn something from Angelique on "Conveyor Belt of Love" -- who not only chose to go on but enjoyed her date with an overweight guy -- but they could.

All this, and the show hasn't even really started yet.

Once they get to the "Biggest Loser" ranch, they are greeted with a 26.2-mile ride on stationary bikes. Because if they last season could end with contestants completing a marathon, it makes sense to start this season with them covering the same distance, doesn't it?

Heaping on the insult, host Alison Sweeney tells them before they begin cycling, "You are starting out as the sickest group of contestants we've ever had on 'The Biggest Loser.'" Thus, they had a medical team standing by.

cherita-andrews-biggest-loser-s9-320.jpgGood thing though, because Cherita nearly falls off the bike when she refuses to stop peddling, screaming with pain while fighting a cramp in her side.

What happened to that cornerstone of diet and exercise: everything in moderation?

You know things are bad when even one of the trainers is aghast at the condition of the participants.

"You've got to be kidding," Jillian Michaels exclaims when confronted with all 526 pounds of Mike Ventrella.

"The cast just gets bigger and bigger every year and it's not a good thing," she tells the camera. "This is the first time I feel a little overwhelmed."

Sing it, sister.

Watching "The Biggest Loser" used to be almost comforting in its message that as long as you were willing to buckle down you too could undo all the damage that years of bad eating habits and sitting on the couch had done.

But now it feels like they're pushing things as far as they will go for the sheer spectacle of it. Not only is that a shame, it's shameful.

"The Biggest Loser" airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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Photo credit: NBC