Television is full of reality shows starring real people just like us that are designed to make us feel better about our own shitty lives and inspire us to believe that we can accomplish anything. If some random jackass can lose 200 pounds on The Biggest Loser or turn his restaurant around thanks to Gordon Ramsay, there may be some hope for us yet. Well, maybe not, because as it turns out, the truth behind most of those shows is more depressing than the Nirvana "reunion."
The Biggest Loser puts extremely overweight people through an intense diet and exercise regimen to see who can shed the most pounds by the end of the show's run. The first few episodes look like a bunch of circus bears doing jumping jacks, but gradually the contestants lose extra weight like car keys on a roller coaster. For instance, first season winner Ryan Benson lost a total of 130 pounds, which is roughly the equivalent of two Goonies (excluding Sloth and Chunk). Who wouldn't be motivated by that?
Why It's Depressing
We'll tell you who wouldn't be motivated -- anyone who has met Ryan Benson in real life. Benson's current weight is around 300 pounds, which is just 30 pounds less than what he weighed at the start of The Biggest Loser.
Benson isn't an anomaly -- almost every Biggest Loser winner has gained back a chunk of the weight he or she lost on the show. The worst example is Season 3 winner Eric Chopin. Chopin began the show clocking in at 400 pounds, and won after successfully dropping 200. Once the show was over, however, Chopin bounced (ahem) right back up to 370 pounds like he got stung by Earth's mightiest bee. It's like some kind of mummy curse the contestants can't escape.
The unfortunate truth is that people on The Biggest Loser don't do anything but train for the entirety of the season -- the show's producers cover all their expenses during filming. It's not like they're going to work and then driving over to the gym to film some sit-ups. They aren't doing anything except training, under constant supervision, for however many weeks production lasts.
"Come on! You can do it! Don't giv- and we're done, peace!"
Once the show is over, they go back to their normal 9-to-5 lives, which typically do not include controlled diet and exercise. They cannot possibly continue a weight loss program as intense as the one on the show, and in all fairness, if you'd spent the past two months sweating through a purple T-shirt with the word "LOSER" written across it while punishingly in-shape people scream into your face about taking responsibility for your love handles, you'd probably drive straight home and order all of the pizza in the world, too, and not just because there's no longer anyone there to keep you from doing it.
"You mean to tell me that perfectly toned professional trainers don't yell at you every day? Stop making excuses."
Wait, it gets better. People who watch the show are more likely to have a negative view of physical activity. A recent study showed that the grueling way exercise is portrayed on The Biggest Loser actively discourages viewers from wanting to participate. Basically, overweight people watching the show see other overweight people crying, throwing up, and passing out during their exercise sessions while all of the thin personal trainers just yell and berate them. The end result may be inspirational, but The Biggest Loser seems to go out of its way to make the actual process of weight loss seem like thankless fucking misery.
Kitchen Nightmares is a show where angry celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay goes to failing restaurants to scream at the owners for two weeks straight until their food stops tasting like farts.
"If I don't scream, how will you know how bad you suck?"
Ramsay's technique of bellowing profanity like a Nazi born from a Vidal Sassoon explosion magically rescues the restaurant from the brink of financial collapse and restores its profitability. His work complete, he floats away on the breeze like Mary Poppins to find another ailing eatery in need.
Why It's Depressing
Oddly enough, restaurateurs who are terrible at running a business don't suddenly become J.D. Rockefeller just because a Scottish man shouts at them and gives them a new menu their cooks can't even read. In actuality, only about a third of the restaurants Ramsay "rescues" actually manage to stay open once he leaves them in a haze of scowls and belittlement, and the number drops as time goes on. For instance, in the first two seasons of the show (2007 to 2009), Ramsay rescued 21 restaurants. Only two are still open.
And one of those might be a strip club with a buffet.
For comparison, about 40 percent of new restaurants are able to stay in business after three years, so starting a new place from scratch would give you better odds than a Kitchen Nightmares visit.
Now, we do have to be fair here -- Ramsay doesn't visit a restaurant unless it's teetering on the brink of disaster. So it could be argued that without him and his very expensive intervention (often buying them all new equipment and decor, and even lending them staff), 0 percent of them would have survived. Still, each episode ends with inspirational music, owners who have seen the light, and a restaurant that has undergone a complete renovation with a brand new menu and a dining room full of customers. There's no hint that all Ramsay has done is delay the inevitable.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition features the world's most excitable man and his impossibly attractive crew building awesome new houses for people who have been shit on by life. The family gets sent on a complimentary vacation while the crew either does extensive repairs and renovations or replaces the entire goddamn thing. Truly, there is no aspect of this that anyone could be upset about.
Although whoever Photoshopped this picture was clearly feeling vengeful about something.
Why It's Depressing
For starters, you can't throw downtrodden waste management employees into a five-bedroom mansion when they aren't even able to make the payments on their leaky two-bedroom sadness bungalow. Sure, the show's producers may cover all the construction costs, but the lucky homeowners are left on their own to figure out how in the name of Warren Buffett's gilded butt hairs they're going to cover the utility bills and property taxes that have skyrocketed as a result of their extreme home makeover.
One family, which had a new home specifically designed to help their developmentally challenged son, was forced to put the house on the market after just a little over a year because they simply couldn't afford what it cost in both time and money to maintain a palatial four-bedroom estate while trying to raise three children, one of whom has special needs. That's like Santa Claus bringing a lonely kid an awesome robot friend who, by the way, must be fueled by human blood.
"Whoops, looks like you're low on fuel. Come on, let's get down to the homeless shelter."
Another couple fell behind on the $405,000 loan they had to take out just to keep their utilities connected in the million-dollar mansion built for them by the show (which inexplicably included a carousel and a movie theater, because those are things that a young husband and wife need to turn their luck around) and were forced to sell the house and auction off most of its contents.
Arguably worse is the fact that your eligibility for an Extreme Makeover visit is really only limited by the number of children's tears you're willing to sacrifice. The Leomiti family took in five orphans burdened with the debt of their dead parents, making them irresistible candidates for the show's producers. However, as soon as Ty Pennington swooped in to turn their shitty house into Xanadu, they immediately booted those smelly orphans the hell out.