'Biggest Loser' exec producer talks addition of Anna Kournikova, surprises for season 12

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Image Credit: Chris Haston/NBC

Your wait for weight-loss is almost over: Season 12 of The Biggest Loser debuts Sept. 20 (NBC, 8 p.m.). Expect a few changes when the show returns, from the taskmasters (goodbye, Jillian Michaels, Bret Hoebel and Cara Castronuova; hello, new trainers Anna Kournikova and Dolvett Quince) to an updated gym, to the theme of the season, which groups contestants by age. EW spoke with exec producer Todd Lubin about the upcoming action, which also includes an elimination twist.

On the “Battle of the Ages” theme
“There will be three teams: people under 30, people in their 30s and 40s, and people 50 and over. We put the question of ‘Does age matter?’ in this weight-loss world to the test. We’ve had a 63-year-old at-home winner. We’re having a lot of fun with that. Young people may be able to lose the weight faster just because of their body chemistry, but they don’t have nearly the discipline nor do they recognize the opportunity to get their life back, like someone in their 40s might. So in some ways, I don’t think it’s an advantage to be younger. We’ve proven that the older folks actually keep the weight off better than our younger alumni, for the most part.”

On two notable contestants
“Antone Davis is a first-round NFL draft pick from the ’90s. [Davis, 44, played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons from 1991-1997]. He’s an incredibly lovely guy. He got really, really big. And I think he’s doing this not just for himself but for all the NFL guys who wish they could get back [in shape]…. [Sixty-three-year-old retired payroll supervisor Bonnie Griffin] has been through all the trials and tribulations — she’s been through Katrina, which wiped her house out, and her husband died recently. But she just has the heart of the champion. She was going to be here, no matter what.”

On this season’s second-chance twist
“The first day, they run a mile, which they’ve done before, and then [host] Alison Sweeney announces, ‘By the way, there’s going to be a marathon at the end of this season,’ which we’ve done before. But she says, ‘It’s not just going to be the final four running it. It’s going to be all of you. So no matter when you’re eliminated, you’ll have a chance to run this marathon at the end. If you win the marathon, you’re automatically a finalist on the show.’ I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but it’s certainly exciting for people who do get eliminated, because they know they have a goal to get themselves back in the game.”

On Kournikova’s qualifications
“Obviously she doesn’t have the experience that Bob or Dolvett does, but she’s a certified trainer, and it was extremely important for us that she had that credibility. But mostly she’s drawing on her tennis experience as a professional athlete: She was No. 1 in the world in doubles and she was No. 8 in singles. But more importantly, she came from very, very little in Moscow and that’s the stuff we never really knew. She had nothing, and she’s very proud that she was able to achieve what she did. It’s funny because people say, ‘She’s a girl who didn’t reach her potential,’ and she’s like, ‘Look, I’m not even that good of an athlete. Trust me, I reached my very fullest potential.’…. You’re going to be blown away by how sincere she is, how intense she is, how focused she is for these folks. She’s totally dedicated to the point where she’s getting Bob back into the gym. At one point she breaks down in tears, just because she’s so moved by the stories. None of it is fake.”

On how Quince’s training style differs from Kournikova’s
“Dolvett is like an Army drill sergeant. He does a lot of: ‘FOUR! FIVE! KEEP IT UP!” Anna is more of a whisperer: We’re going to keep doing this until your legs fall off. You’ve got to figure out what your favorite training method is.”

On why the show did not bring back Hoebel and Castronuova for this season
“With Jillian leaving, it was like, ‘We really need to establish a new focus.’…. We were thrilled with [last season] — that was the hard part. We really liked them. They did a good job. But the show needs to continue to evolve, it needs to continue to get better, smarter, sharper, faster.”

On Oct. 4’s NFL-themed episode, which features such players as Saints QB Drew Brees, Broncos QB Tim Tebow, and Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson
“Instead of having them just show up and be like, ‘Hey, what’s up? Football’s great!’ it was like, ‘All right, guys, $5,000 to your charity!’ So the players were actually going after the [contestants in a football throwing challenge.] That was a blast. And then they came for the Last Chance Workout. Tim Tebow is just a star – the girls were swooning.”

Read more:
‘Biggest Loser’ to feature Drew Brees, Tim Tebow, and Eric Dickerson for NFL-themed episode — EXCLUSIVE

Anna Kournikova joins ‘Biggest Loser’ as celebrity trainer for next season

Comments (40 total) Add your comment
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  • Melissa in CA

    I hope they have great contestants this year, because I am so unexcited about a Biggest Loser without Jillian! The best thing about her was the way she’d get into their heads and help them figure out how they got so big in the first place. She wasn’t just someone screaming in their faces in the gym.

  • karen

    As long as Bob’s there, I’m game …

    • elle

      Exactly, Bob is only reason I watched the show. I hated the absolute verbal abuse Jillian would put on the contestants & then play “Dr. Phil”. Watching Bob has given me tips, and I like is yoga-zen personality that allows the viewer to learn and be compassionate.

    • Butterfly

      Love Bob but Julian def got results.

  • Al

    I hope one of the changes is making it a one-hour show. Two hours is much too long.

    • Melissa in CA

      I agree with that. If they’d cut the horrible product placement and stop airing the same minute before and after the commercial break, there is no reason it couldn’t be an hour show.

      • KyleHHI

        Yes, Melissa! Wouldn’t it be great if they stopped with all the chewing gum, Jenny O sausage…etc. and just focused on the players!

    • Pam

      Well if you feel it’s to long then don’t watch it . Heck if it was on every night I would watch it.I’m not a fan of television but I absolutely LOVE this show. Don’t miss it for ANYTHING!!

      • Melissa

        Standard “if you don’t like don’t watch” reply. Lame!! I have a DVR, so I can watch the show in only an hour, I just think they might attract more viewers if there were a condensed version.

  • Vivian

    I hope another change is that EW starts recapping the show again.

    • Butterfly

      They won’t. I was looking forward to TC: Just Deserts but meh. Same w/Next Great Artist I’m sure.

    • Cara

      What is there to recap? Every episode is pretty much exactly the same. Yap about who got voted out. Challenge. Yap about challenge. 20 minutes product placement. Yap about voting someone out because they looked at you wrong. Vote them out. The end.

      • Vivian

        Annie’s recaps were hilarious. She always had great comments regarding Allison Sweeney’s wardrobe, the challenges, the doctor, etc. I so miss these recaps.

  • kelly

    I’m glad Cara’s gone. Too often, her comments to the contestants were really about her and how she would look if they didn’t lose enough at the weigh-in. And she had one of the most annoying voices I’ve ever heard on television.

    • Butterfly

      I can’t say I’ll miss her either.

    • Mematotwo

      @ Kelly: I agree totally. Cara drove me nuts with her voice and her whiny self-absorbed comments. I am sooo glad she is gone. On the other hand, I really liked Bret and am sorry he is gone.

  • ewj1

    When asked in the late 1990s how she felt about the budding rivalry between herself and the then-up-and-coming Anna Kournikova, Hingis responded, “What rivalry? I win all the matches

  • justsayin

    hahaha @ tim tebow is just a star, maybe on the biggest loser yeah cause in the nfl he’s nothin more than a 3rd string back up that cant live up to his hype.

    • Raiders Fan

      That’s right! Tebow blows!

  • Linn

    wow.. cool!

  • Shari

    Im trying not to have a pre-conceived view of the show without Jillian there. But thank God For Allison and Bob!

  • Mary

    Tim Tebow? Why do they keep giving this loser air time?

    • Ana

      Mary…Is Tim a loser? Really? Someone that give good examples to other people? That has faith in something? I am not even a football fan, but you gotta give credits to the athletes that are not involved in bad things like him.

  • Sarah

    I will miss Jillian. “Playing Dr. Phil” was cool, she made people stop and think so they don’t go back to that old mindset. Bob is cool, he gets results too. I am not sure I am going to like this new one, she does not seem to have the personality to pull it off on the show.

  • Kathy

    I am going to miss jillian, I think that sometimes she went over the top with her yelling, however some people need that in your face kind of wake up call. I like Bob’s gentle hand also all though he proved he could be straight up too lol.. I agree with some of the comments about leaving some of the product imputs out of the show, but I heard somewhere that helps pay for some of the cost pretty much how some movies we watch these days tends to add in advertisements, anyway I love to see more challenges as well as more gym scenes so we can see what and how to do some of the workouts that works for them.

  • Bonnie

    I didn’t like Cara either and i’m going to miss Jillian. But I am soooo glad Bob is still there! And as for making the show only an hour….I’d watch it if it were 5 hours! Sooo much inspiration!

    • Really?

      Did you mean sooooooooooo much product placement?

      • needs to lose a few more

        I can forgive the product placement because they need the money to keep the show going. It was quite the source of humor back when EW did recaps. “how can Bob involve Jennie-O turkey in swimming laps in the pool?”

  • mandy

    I hope this year is good. I love jill she make you work your butt off. (I tried out for Biggest loser a few years ago with my mom and we were denied because mainly we did not cry in que. My mom and I were bigger then the people who were there with us. This season will be people we tried out with so we will see.) I alone have lost 30lbs since and it’s because of Jillians DVD. WIll miss ya.

  • Me

    I already miss Jillian!!! I’m stoked for a new season though! Didn’t enjoy the last two new trainers, so this could be hit or miss too.

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