You know a show's going to be good when the very first words spoken on the opening voice-over are "man boobs". And so began 'Fat Families' on ITV1 last night. It's like 'Celebrity Fit Club' for marginally less famous people.
As the introduction explained, "we've found three very fat families" (where, down the cake shop?) and set them against each other in a competition to see who can lose the most weight. The winners will receive an all-expenses-paid safari holiday in Kenya. Presumably for a chance to meet like-minded hippos.
The voice-over went on to inform us that the families would have to "go to hell and back for six gruelling months" to lose the weight. So just eating a bit less and exercising more isn't good enough these days? You have to visit hell now. Maybe Satan's holding a slimming class.
Fortunately each family have been assigned a personal trainer, or as the melodramatic voice-over artist liked to refer to them, "lard busters", "fat fighters" and "diet dictators". The first buster of lard was Julie Dawn Cole, in charge of the Dale family from Maidstone, who need to lose 17 stone between them. Having met the family, Julie stated "I was surprised at their poor level of fitness". Has she not seen the programme title? The show's called 'Fat Families'. Just how athletic did she expect them to be? In the Dales' defence though, they've already lost a few pounds. Two thousand, to be exact. Which is what they've spent on exercise equipment they've never used.
Next up were the Brinkleys of Doncaster (who sound like a department store). Mother Mandy is apparently "looking at a future devastated by osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes and breast cancer", although personally I think she's just big-boned. Their trainer, John Shehan, was standing for no nonsense, stating "If the family don't pull their weight, I'll wire their jaws shut". Which is all very well, but can anyone really pull that much weight? Apart from Geoff Capes. Who could probably do with losing a few pounds himself.
Finally we had the Donnellys of Shrewsbury, and their little helper, Adrian Burton. Mum Rhiannon stated that she gets out of breath pushing a hoover for five minutes, so it was obviously a toss-up between this and 'How Clean is Your House'.
Having met their lard-busting, fat-fighting, diet-dictating Jiminy Crickets, each family had to place onto a table the amount of food they buy in one week. Intriguingly, the Donnellys' table contained a large box of Ariel automatic. It's no wonder they're overweight - everyone knows Persil is lower in calories. But hey, at least their teeth are white.
We also had to endure the sight of each family lining up against a height chart in their swimming costumes. It was like a photo shoot for 'The Usual Suspects' swimwear calendar. I'm not sure it'll be a big seller, but I am sure the familes will do well. Although programmes like this always make me hungry, so personally I watched it with the remote control in one hand and a sandwich in the other.
Update, 9th June 2005: 'Fat Families' has been axed by ITV after only one episode, which apparently attracted a disappointing 2.1 million viewers, representing just 10% of the peaktime audience. The other 90% were probably down the shops buying Turkey Twizzlers.