by pat howard

Jamie Oliver’s ‘Revolution’ will be televised…on Fridays

In ABC, Reality TV on March 22, 2010 at 11:27 am

Chef and television personality Jamie Oliver is staging his own British invasion, and the people of Huntington, West Virginia, aren’t exactly welcoming.

His new series, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, got a sneak preview last night before being shipped off to Fridays for its six-week run. Based on government statistics that Huntington is the most obese city in the nation, Oliver hopes to change the city’s eating habits by working with folks individually as well as attempting to overhaul the school lunch system.

Standing in his way are Southerners who so resent being told what to do that they’d rather die, a nutty government bureaucracy overseeing the children’s supposed nutritional needs, and some very cranky lunch ladies (who apparently don’t like being called that). The first episode was predictably horrifying, and hit an especially grotesque point by piling an overweight family’s food intake for a week on their kitchen table. The disgusted family then watched Jamie bury their deep fryer. There is hope for these people, especially since the matriarch is obviously competent in the kitchen.

The American education system is riddled with issues, and among them is the asinine nutrition program (remember that food pyramid?). This new series is not overly preachy so far, and having spent a fair amount of time in the South, I can say that these people’s depicted reactions are so typical that it’s difficult to tell how much of it is being played up for dramatic effect.

I have yet to see the final minutes of this first episode, because Diane Sawyer cut in to report on another contentious issue, the just-passed health care reform bill. When’s the last time network prime time cut between impassioned pleas for reform?

Though Diane promised programming would resume in its entirety, my DVR had no way of knowing it was supposed to compensate, so I’ll have to catch the repeat on Friday at 8p/7c before a new episode in the show’s regular Friday slot at 9p/8c. Hopefully ABC’s decision to bury the series on Fridays means they’re committed to airing its entire limited run, however minute the audience. Episodes will also be available on Hulu.

Oprah and others like to remind us now and then about television’s potential for a higher purpose. This is one of those shows that, like the food practices it promotes, is Good For You. If it starts a discussion about America’s food practices, fantastic. If it effects real change, that would be amazing. In the meantime, I can’t get that lunch lady’s appalling “chicken is the first ingredient” defense out of my head.

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