Jamie Oliver's latest food show, starting this Monday on Channel 4, feels unlike any other. Though it shares similarities to other mission-driven cookery shows it doesn't pile on the familiar guilt. The real-life characters compel you such that you're too distracted to binge diet--instead you want to fight Jamie's corner. You want to change the over-eating world.
In Huntington, West Virginia, the "fattest town in America", the locals can't see what the problem is. If their kids want to eat pizza for breakfast that's fine, in fact it's commended. Jamie's mission, to get them eating fruit and veg, is an unwanted nuisance by all. It takes until the end of the first episode, when he finds God and a super-sized family, for him to gain some much-needed allies. This is war after all.
The show, dubbed Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution in America, has been received far better by viewers. When it aired on ABC, one of America's biggest networks, it was greeted with high praise and, since then, it's gone on to win an Emmy (for outstanding reality program).
Most of the show’s appeal comes from Jamie, who is--or at least appears to be--far more sincere than his celebrity chef counterparts. Early in the opening show, after having his cause rejected by a mean-spirited radio reporter, Jamie breaks down in tears, admitting: "They don't understand me. They don't know why I'm here.” Rapier-tongued Gordon Ramsay would never be seen doing that.
If we were being pernickety we'd argue that the piece-to-camera scene in the kids' playground is a tad too cheesy, and that the short time he claims to have achieved the episode's early shots is somewhat unrealistic. Flaws aside though, Jamie's American Food Revolution is a show with mass appeal: your foodie mum will enjoy it just as much your bone-idle friend. Strangely, Channel 4 don’t necessarily agree--they’ve pitted the food show against popular comedy The Inbetweeners on its sister channel E4. Both shows are at 10pm on Monday, September 13.