1 9 8 0 – 1 9 8 4 (USA)
30 minute episodes
This syndicated workout series starred Richard Simmons, a hyperactive, flamboyant, curly-haired sprite who encouraged his studio audience (and the viewers at home) of obese, out-of-shape women to exercise and eat right through a combination of dramatisations, proselytizing, cooking recipes, and even calm, direct talking into the camera.
He could relate to their fears about the process, having undergone a crash diet on which he lost 112 pounds (his slight, 5-foot 7-inch frame once carried 268 pounds), but which caused him to lose his hair and necessitated transplants.
The show followed Simmons’s success with his Beverly Hills restaurant and exercise studio.
Each show had a theme illustrated by Leo Sayer-lookalike Richard in a short comic sketch at the opening, playing such recurring characters as Sister Mary Lo-Cal, Captain Calorie or Reverend Pounds.
Proceedings then cut to an upbeat introduction showing Richard and participants in action, including Richard dressed as an angel monitoring people’s purchases at supermarkets and Richard exiting his sporty car with a vanity plate reading YRUFATT (get it?).
Simmons won over millions of viewers with his positive attitude and his determination to do anything, no matter how outrageous, to help people fight and win their battle with obesity.
While the show rated highly and won a number of Emmy Awards, Simmons’s overenergetic style wore down viewers within four years, but he did reappear briefly as host of the syndicated home shopping show ValueTelevision in 1987, then kept his career going steadily into the 1990s with assorted business projects – most prominent among these being the “Deal-A-Meal” mail order weight loss program and Sweatin’ to the Oldies videos and CDs – and multiple, often self-deprecating appearances on talk shows, where his outrageousness left even David Letterman and Jay Leno temporarily speechless.
In his later years, Richard Simmons withdrew from public life completely.