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Secrets of ‘The Biggest Loser’ scale

The secret behind the giant scale on "The Biggest Loser." Plus a question on "Made in the U.S.A."
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Just a reminder, check out our new before sending in your question. Many of them have been answered.

This week, we tackle questions about "The Biggest Loser" and "Made in the U.S.A."

Q: On "The Biggest Loser," why is it that when the teams weigh in the guys get to take their shirts off? It seems to me that the women already have sports bras on, and their T-shirts (which added together must make a pound or more) while the men get to get naked from the waist up. How is this fair? Not to mention the men have boobs bigger than most average sized women and it is borderline offensive.    —Heather, Alabama

A: First, I disagree that showing overweight men (or women, for that matter) is offensive. If “The Biggest Loser” accomplishes anything, it shows us that there are thinking, feeling human beings who may not be anorexic, chiseled, waxed, or retouched like the models that we see so frequently in the media.

As long as the men and the women respectively wear the same clothing from week to week (even if that's different for the men and women), their weights will be unaffected. Of course, if we're being this picky, a well-timed haircut or an extra glass of water could have an impact. And since they actually weigh in behind the scenes, I'd guess they're naked anyway.

But I’ve long suspected that the big scale that contestants climb on during the weight-in ceremony was only for television, especially since it displays all kinds of bogus numbers before showing their actual weight. And, as it turns out, my guess was correct.

The executive producer of “The Biggest Loser,” Dave Broome, confirmed that the scale they stand on is a prop scale, one that doesn’t actually weigh the contestants. Thus, their clothing — or lack thereof — doesn’t make any difference because the contestants are weighed in beforehand, off-camera.

However, when they stand on the scale, the contestants see their weight for the first time; they do not get to see it when they actually weigh in. Thus, their joy or sorrow is completely genuine and raw, as they’re seeing how their efforts — or lack thereof — have paid off over the past week.    —A.D.

Q: I saw a recent question in the MSNBC archive about a show called “Made in America”. I was wondering...might the questioner have inadvertently misled you? Perhaps s/he (not I) really was asking, instead, about the recent USA Network show “Made in the USA” which appeared a few times in prime time, then had new episodes suddenly materialize on Friday mornings (???) Perhaps s/he wanted to know about that in “what happened to it”?     —Bram

A: Heh. I feel like Emily Litella on "Saturday Night Live." "Never mind!" No, seriously, the writer had and I supplied that answer. But it's entirely possible he or she meant to ask about "Made in the U.S.A.," a different show.

I talked to a spokesman for "Made in the U.S.A.," which was intended as a six-episode reality show featuring inventors and their inventions. He told me that while the show was "different and fun" and that there was no shortage of inventors with cool products, the show just never took off, and ratings were low. (Certainly, those already-low ratings were only hurt by two time-slot changes — and in this case, it was especially bad because the show depended on viewer votes to determine a winner.)

The result? The show was yanked early, and the final episode never aired, though viewers can . The winners were San Diego Charger Sammy Davis and his partner, Chris Spenser, and their Hydromax system. Inspired by their own sports experiences, the system provides a protected water bottle underneath a football player's pads, so he can stay hydrated while out on the field. It sounds very crushable to me, but Davis says he's tested it in real game experiences, so maybe not. They won a year-long contract to sell their product on Home Shopping Network.

Some inventors have asked how they can get their products on this show. I'd say since the first season got such poor ratings, don't look for a second season. Yet the where you can enter your e-mail address to be notified if there ever is a season two, so would-be inventors, go ahead and sign up ... just don't bet the farm on it. —G.F.C.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is's Television Editor. Andy Dehnart is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.