If there were an AVQ&A on "Which DVD have you watched the most?" my answer would be Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred.  I could go into why I like/am obsessed with this DVD but I'll spare you for now. So I like Jillian for creating an effective, somehow tolerable workout DVD.  However, I don't think it's cool that she promotes dietary supplements.  She seems like a very entertaining person to be around.  But I think Biggest Loser is a fake, tedious and somewhat dangerous show. So I lean in favor of Jillian but with some big reservations. 

I tire quickly of "A stranger is going to come to your house and make life better" shows. The whole ending of "Thank you person I'll never seen again for changing my life forever!" just rings false after having been repeated so many times. So while I am intrigued by Jillian as a personality, I'm not interested really in the format of her show, because before I even watched it I pictured endless cuts of newly-happy families waving from their front stoop as Jillian drives off like a leonine Mary Poppins to the next family in need.

Aside from the "magical interloper," style of show, I find weight loss shows to be boring because they're so fake.  Real life weight loss—and believe, me, I know—makes for bad TV.  In real life there is no big reveal, no ta-da.  Every day is its own slog and sure you might get an exciting "Wow look at you!" if you haven't seen someone in a while but other than that things happen excruciatingly slowly. It's not about big changes and quick results, it's about a lot of boring overthinking, which is why, even though I haven't seen a lot of it, I liked the show Ruby because the lady would get on the camera and say "It's 12 PM. I really want some ice cream. Really really really. But I know I shouldn't have it. And it sucks.  But I know that's how it is. Aargh!" Not very thrilling but that's what it's like.

Anyway, those are my precursory thoughts on self-improvement reality TV.

On to Losing It with Jillian. The schlock level is embarrassing from moment one.  In the intro, Jillian dishes up the premise of the show: that she's making housecalls to the people who need it, the overweight and desperate. But here's the twisty gimmick: she only has five days with the contestants (or whatever they are) to change their lives.

This is ridiculous.  It upsets me because this is basically continues the line of bullshit that overweight people are constantly fed: that you can make a quick change.  Sure, in five days these people might learn some things that will be of use to them but I can't imagine five lousy days of bootcamp are going to change your physical life forever.  But anyway, this is reality TV.  To be specific, the elevator pitch I imagined for the show as I watched the intro roll, featuring people eating on camera, Jillian screaming in their faces, slow-motion hugs, whispered affirmations, a wedding, crying, and more hugs, some in group form, some near some kayaks, was "Intervention for Fatties."  It reminds me of that show where Carson Kressley gets formerly-depressed women to believe they're beautiful in just a few days' time.

We were introduced to the Mastropiestro family, where the father, mother, and son are overweight. The daughter, Michelle, is not, because she's had gastric bypass surgery but she still has low self-esteem, and sadly, the father, Jimbo, also underwent the surgery but it didn't take. So after a visit to the doctor's office, we see Jillian, with her whiter-than-white teeth, calling the Mastropietro's from her car, announcing that she's there to save them, and they act like they had no idea she'd call even though they've all been pointedly eating on-camera in the living room.  The family jumps around and hugs like they've won the lottery and Jillian tells them to meet her at "the fitness center."  So Jillian starts working them out and starts screaming at them like she's a sociopath.  Apparently it's the first five minutes she's ever spent with this family and here are some of the things she screams at them: 

"I don't give a crap!"  

"Don't try Agnes; trying is planning to fail!"

"Are you sick of it or are you not?!"

"I will be your worst damn nightmare!"

"I'm not killing you, you're killing you!"

"You don't really want this!"

"You can't have health; it's not for you!"

At first it was funny. Then I started wondering if there are people out there who are fascinated by overweight people getting screamed at the way I am fascinated by parents getting screamed at by their horrible children on TV. Then I got kind of bored.

Then I was reminded by a theme I've noticed in my (very sporadic) viewings of Biggest Loser: that it makes for great TV when an overweight person can pinpoint a specific tragedy in his/her life that caused all the ensuing problems including obesity.  During a chat Agnes reveals to Jillian that she once gave birth to a son who died in infancy, and she feels that she can't still express her grief to her husband.  "The weight stems from past tragedy," it's explained. Jillian decides it's time to empower Agnes, which means letting Agnes do the yelling next time at the gym. This is the part where I started to wonder where Jillian gets turned-on by yelling because as Agnes screams Jillian scampers around in excitement.  After the yelling, Agnes said that Jillian "showed me that Jimbo will love me no matter what" and that this will empower her to talk to her husband about the death of her son.  That is some fast empowerment. Anyway, then we got to the sad crying part of the show where Jillian whispered to them, which was of course legitimately, truly sad but I also felt sickly manipulated because I already had a pretty good idea how this episode would end.

Anyway, inspired by the yelling and the fact that they all want to look good in sister's Michelle's wedding (convenient visual example of success!), Jillian gets to work on the girl, who still has some disordered thinking despite her seemingly-successful gastric bypass surgery. I actually think this was a nice point to include in the episode, that being thin does not automatically mean you think you're the shit, but again we got back to that trope where Michelle's mental issues are the reason why she's falling off the treadmill.

Then the family gets together and makes its promises. Jillian must go away now, and the family thanks her, and she cries because, believe it or not, she learned something from them.  A little something called togetherness. Family.  Love, dammit! 

Then it's six weeks later and it's the wedding, which is actually just the Big Reveal in disguise. Jillian sits in the front row and tells everyone how great they look because they've all lost weight (except for Michelle but she has lost mental weight).  Guess what! The show paid for the wedding and paid for the couple's honeymoon.  "Today is a new beginning for us," says Jimbo, and then we all learn exactly how much weight each family member lost because if you don't know exactly how many pounds they lost then you might as well just stab yourself to death.  Says Jimbo, "We've not only healed outside, but here," and he put his hand on his heart.

Next week: hoarder widow single mom. 

So? I'll still rock the Shred and I admire Jillian as a businesswoman and I know in the big picture she has actually helped a lot of people. But this show is rather unoriginal reality TV at best, and not any sort of model for how to actually change your life.

—I hope Jimbo didn't suddenly get too good for the neck pillow once he lost weight.