Getting married and realize you need to trim down to fit into your dream dress or tuxedo? Could you use some help getting wedding essentials like the cake or flowers? If that's you - or if it's not but you love reality competition shows - The CW has a show for you. "Shedding for the Wedding" kicks off tonight with nine overweight couples competing to not only see who can lose the most weight before their nuptials but also who are competitive enough to win elements of their wedding along the way.
While the series may initially seem to be a close knock-off of NBC's long-running "The Biggest Loser," host Sara Rue explained the differences between the shows to our Jim Halterman as well as the pay-it-forward feeling she personally experienced due to her own recent weight loss (Rue is a spokesperson for Jenny Craig), the lack of same-sex couples in the competition and the "sickness" that is her other reality show/guilty pleasure.
Jim Halterman: It's so difficult not to compare this show with "The Biggest Loser" but is that selling this show short?
Sara Rue: I think it is and I love 'Loser' but I love the fact that we're a little bit lighter, a little bit looser and I think it's a sort of quirkier take in 'Shedding For the Wedding.' The situation on 'Loser' is a little more serious and dire in terms of the health problems that a lot of those contestants have. Our contestants are not as heavy and there isn't that emergency feeling to 'Shedding,' which I think is a nice thing. 'Loser' is really compelling to watch and, of course, you're rooting for the contestants but I think with our contestants they are starting their life together, they want to get happier and healthier and there's a more fun aspect to the show so that's where we differ.
JH: When you first meet the couples in the premiere episode, you say 'It's a privilege' to be there with them. Can you explain why you feel that way?
SR: When they called and offered this to me, my first instinct was that I love reality TV and I'm sure I'll watch it but I don't know that I want to be on it. But then the more and more I started thinking about it the more I said 'How can I not do this?' It's such a pay-it-forward opportunity for me and a way to give back. I feel like I've been so lucky with my own journey the past year and a half. It's been a major change for me and I feel like I've grown as a person. It's a gift to be involved with a company that really took care of me and really supported me. I have this amazing consultant [at Jenny Craig] who went above and beyond for me and to have that kind of support handed to me... I was so lucky. So I thought if I could somehow be that for someone else that is a really cool thing to do. So it did feel like a privilege because I know how powerful that kind of transformation could be for a person so to be there felt like an honor.
JH: Since you have gone through it, how much mental and emotional strength do these people have to have? It's so much more than just losing the weight, right?
SR: I think that's something that's so great about the show is they're very lucky to have their partners there with them. I know how much I relied on my fiancee during my weight loss journey and he wasn't going through any of it because he's the same weight as he was in college - whatever! He's one of those. [Laughs.] I relied on him and needed him to help and he was a huge part of my journey. In a way, the contestants are very lucky to have their partners but in another way I think it's very trying for the relationship. When you're in a competition and teamed up with the person you love but then the person that you love maybe falls short... it can put a lot of strain on the relationship which you'll definitely see during the course of the show and I saw the very highs and the very lows.
JH: How difficult was it for you as host to tell people they were eliminated from a competition or didn't win that item they desperately wanted?
SR: There are a few of the women, especially, who really wanted those wedding dresses and they're competing and it was awful to say 'I'm sorry. You're out. You didn't win your dress.' That sucked but the thing that I kind of like about the show in general is there is this element of fairness. You get out what you put in. There's no voting off, it's not a popularity contest [and] America doesn't decide, which is very much the way weight loss is. You decide your own fate, you decide what you put in your mouth, you decide how many hours a day you work out... you make all those decisions so ultimately you're affecting your own outcome. It's the same way on the show. You make all those decisions and at the end of the day the people with the lowest amount of weight loss face off in a competition so it's not like 'I don't like this person so I'm voting them out.' No, you're the master of your own destiny and I like that about the show.
JH: And the goal isn't just to lose weight for the competition but to get healthy for their lives.
SR: Absolutely, and healthy for their partner, too. They're entering into a contract with this other human being saying 'I'm going to be there for you.' And it's your duty to enter into that contract as healthy and stable as you can be; it's the fair thing to do. So they're both doing it for themselves but also for their partners.
JH: The part of the show with the wedding planner (Brian Worley) doesn't appear to be just a fun break from training. Does it also serve as incentive in the competition?
SR: Absolutely. [Brian is] there every week and it's a different element of wedding planning every week. Whether you win the entire competition or if you win that week's individual challenge, you win that element of your wedding no matter what happens for the rest of the show. Let's say they're competing for their wedding cake, the people who win their wedding cake - whether they win the show or not - they get to have that cake at their wedding, which is so cool. I'm planning my wedding and it's expensive and it adds up so quickly and it's so overwhelming so to be gifted elements of your wedding because you were able to hold on long enough or pull hard enough or whatever... it's super fun!
JH: How were the couples chosen? I was surprised there wasn't a same-sex couple.
SR: I know that there was a lesbian couple that really wanted to do the show and the producers really wanted them and I thought that would've been really wonderful - especially since I'm playing a lesbian on 'Rules of Engagement' - but unfortunately one of them couldn't get off work so we lost the couple. I know that they were looking for diversity casting and were trying to get people that wanted it the most and would be the most fun to watch because who doesn't want that? That was one of my first concerns when I sat down because it was right when Prop 8 was going on and I said 'How are you guys going to address this because it's going to come up! Just with me doing the show and my gay following!' They were like "We have a lesbian couple that we want and want to do it.' So I was sold even though it's still not clear when marriage equality is going to happen. It's so stupid and I still can't believe that we're still talking about it. The whole marriage thing should be a non-issue.
JH: So you love reality shows. Besides 'Shedding,' what is your guilty reality pleasure?
SR: I'm a 'Bachelor' girl! [Laughs.] I can't believe it but it's true. I think I've seen every season and probably every single episode of 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette' ever. I make my fiancee watch it with me. It's a sickness. There's something wrong with me.
JH: Were you a fan of them bringing back Brad Womack for the current season?
SR: I will tell you that I was not excited about this decision at first. 'Of all the eligible bachelors in the world, seriously? Him again?' But then I was pleasantly surprised. I'm glad they've gotten away from him being in therapy on camera. I didn't like that part. We get it. He's sorry he didn't pick anyone but I actually am enjoying this season. There are a lot of interesting women in there. I have my favorites and there was the Michelle girl who was, let's say, eccentric. I actually think this season is shaping up quite nicely. I think it's a really good season but at first I thought it was going to be a dud-bad season because I didn't think he was going to be compelling but he really is.
JH: Back to 'Shedding,' did you interact outside of the hosting duties or do you have to stay clear of them?
SR: I'm not supposed to give away information and I have such a big mouth that I'm always afraid I'm going to spill the beans about something so I try not to. I just tried to be a little bit of a cheerleader. They had people helping them with the day-to-day stuff and I just felt like it was my job to be as supportive and kind and soft as possible because you need that side, too. You need someone to give you a hug when you're having a bad day. That's what I wanted to be.
"Shedding for the Wedding" premieres tonight at 9:00/8:00c on The CW.