Season finales play a key role in the all-important process of delivering viewers to advertisers by maximizing viewership for the last episode and by incorporating cliffhangers devised to bring viewers back next season. This delivery of viewers is, to some extent, a numbers game. But, as Henry Jenkins argues in Convergence Culture, advertisers are increasingly searching for more meaningful, emotional, long-term relationships with viewers. In other words, the name of the game is getting viewers to care about the show so that they are more likely to watch the commercials.
The Biggest Loser (NBC) gives the viewer many reasons to care about the show. It showcases the struggle to lose weight, something millions of Americans experience. Viewers get to know the characters better because the cast stays relatively stable. And plot elements like game play and contestant confrontations allow viewers to take sides. The show takes the idea of emotional connection one step further through its Biggest Loser Club, an on-line weight loss club that allows viewers to share, to a certain extent, what the contestants experience on the show. Club members receive Biggest Loser meal plans, exercise regimen, and the ability to communicate on-line with other Club members.
The clip is from the finale of Season Four, when the host announced the Biggest Loser Million Pound Match-Up, a promotion that allowed people to sign up with a partner to try to lose weight and win prizes. The winners won trips to L.A. to attend the season finale of the show. Promotional programs like the Club and Match-Up are an attempt to not only get viewers to care about the show, but also to demonstrate that the show cares about its viewers.
So, what does all of this have to do with season finales? As the title of this entry suggests, I think that the ultimate goal for this strategy of creating caring connections between show and viewer, at least for The Biggest Loser, is to transform shows into integral parts of the viewer's lifestyle. Sure, seasons come and go, but by becoming intimately involved in the weight loss efforts of millions of viewers, each season finale is only a moment for reflection and emotional encouragement (if these people can lose weight, so can you) in a bigger picture where show and viewer become partners in the unending quest to eat well and exercise.