'Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition' to debut

Mon, May 30

TV producer J.D. Roth likens his new show, "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" (premiering Monday on ESPN sister channel ABC), to a litany of feel-good, underdog, tear-jerking sports classics.

He invokes "Hoosiers." "Rudy." Yes, even "Brian's Song."

"When you can sit on a couch with your dad," Roth says, "and cry, as a kid, that's what it's all about."

And as a producer, that's when you know you've got gold.

The previews -- already running as commercials -- make the show look like a never-give-up bawl fest.

"It's an emotional year for these people," says Chris Powell, the show's fitness trainer, who moves in with each of the participants (on a rotating basis) for a year's worth of transformative work.

The mark of a good show is getting the audience to invest in this emotion, to go along on this quest.

Roth (whose credits include "The Biggest Loser") says the secret weapon is Powell. "If Bob Harper is the Beatles of fitness trainers," Roth says, giving us the set-up before the hard left turn, "Chris is the Mother Teresa."

Powell was doing fitness segments on "Good Morning Arizona" in 2003 when he got a call from a man named David Smith. Smith was 650 pounds and on the brink of suicide. Two years later, Smith had lost 400 pounds, Powell called Smith his best friend and the trainer and the former 650-pounder looked like twins.

Their saga was documented on TLC's "The 650-pound Virgin." Now, with "Extreme Makeover," Powell does a year with each of the eight participants.

Roth says, "Chris asked this great question in one of the episodes: 'How long have you been dead?'

"Everyone he's asked it to has an instant answer."

The thinking is, over the course of each episode, we watch them come alive.