In an effort to save a few dollars, and the soul of our daughter, we canceled our basic cable subscription a few months ago. I miss Turner Classic Movies, but, other than that, I don’t have any regrets. l catch local news at the gym, and the few network shows I do watch, like Caprica and 30 Rock, can be found online. The bad thing is, as we’re never just sitting around, flipping channels, we rarely happen across new shows that are worth a damn. Last night, though, we stumbled across a new show, thanks to an article, that we really liked, and I thought that I should mention it. It’s Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Last night, instead of working, Linette and I watched three episodes and found it not only quite compelling, but genuinely moving.
If you’re not familiar with the premise of the show, basically it chronicles Oliver’s attempts to get the citizens of America’s least healthy city – Huntington, West Virginia – to cut processed food from their diets, and embrace the lost art of cooking real foods. If you’ve followed the young British chef’s career, you’ll know this isn’t exactly anything new for him. He’s been fighting the same crusade in England for a few years now.
[The last time I mentioned Oliver here on the site was a couple of years ago. I reposted video from British television of Oliver and a doctor by the name of Gunther von Hagen dissecting a 350-pound man. The image of the black, cannon ball-like heart that they removed from the man's chest made a huge impression on me, and I wanted to share it with you.]
And, yeah, I could easily poke fun. The show is chock full of trumped up drama, and silly gimmicks. But, if you can get beyond the scenes of the lovable mockney chef scaling a mountain of animal fat that he’s had dumped into a schoolyard, and the stuff that comes across as agitprop, I think you’ll find that there’s actually a pretty decent heart beneath it all. Sure, it could be better, but, given that it’s a primetime, ad-supported network show, I’m impressed by just how far they do go. Maybe I’m gullible as hell, but I think he really believes this stuff, and I don’t think it’s just about cashing a paycheck. At any rate, I think it’s worth checking out.
[It could all be public relations spin, but word is that he created his Fifteen Foundation in England in 2002 by putting his house up for collateral, without his wife's knowledge. Since then, each year the organization has taken 15 young people in London with not so brilliant prospects, due to problems with the law, drugs or poverty, and trained them in the restaurant business. (Other Fifteen restaurants have since been opened in Amsterdam, Cornwall and Melbourne.)]
Here are a few clips from the show.
Given the popularity of Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, the critical aclaim that the documentary Food Inc. has been receiving, the efforts of public figures, like Michelle Obama, and the popularity of Oliver’s series in the UK, it’s not a surprise to me that ABC would see some potential in a relatively inexpensive reality series following the funny sounding chef through Huntington, as he struggles to make people give a damn about what they’re putting in their bodies. But, I’ve got to think that it’s something of a gamble with advertisers, and companies in bed with Disney, the parent company of ABC… If one of you out there has some time this Friday night, I’d love to see a list of who the advertisers are for this series, which really calls into question a lot of our beliefs on food. Given the strong anti-McNugget message, for instance, I can’t imagine that they’re getting much in the way of fast food support, but I suppose those companies could take the opportunity to mention that they now sell salads and the like, in addition to the ground up, deep friend, chemical-rich carcass nuggets our kids are so crazy for.
To date, over 170,000 have signed Oliver’s online pledge to improve school food and teach cooking skills. If you want to sign, click here.
note: Episodes of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution can be found on Hulu… And, on April 21, PBS will begin airing of Food, Inc.