THE SHOW "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution"
WHEN | WHERE Friday night at 8 on ABC/7
REASON TO WATCH Can the British culinary star change the way America eats?
MEET JAMIE OLIVER He burst onto the British food scene in 1999 with a TV show and cookbook, both called "The Naked Chef." The 24-year-old was adorable and engaging - an instant media star - but it wasn't long before he started using his fame to promote an increasingly socially conscious agenda. He founded restaurants that trained and employed disadvantaged youths; his shows and books explored sustainable agriculture and encouraged people to shop locally, establish gardens and eschew mass-produced foods.
In 2005, Oliver launched a campaign to improve the food in British schools, and the four-part TV series, "Jamie's School Dinners" chronicled his takeover of a school kitchen in Greenwich, England. In "Jamie's Ministry of Food" (2008), he convinced the residents of a town in South Yorkshire to start cooking healthy, fresh food.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Emboldened by his success across the pond, Oliver is now bringing his message to Huntington, W.Va., named America's most unhealthy city in 2008 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the series premiere (which aired Sunday and will be repeated at 8 Friday night), Oliver encounters near-unanimous opposition from the Huntingtonians, most memorably from the "lunch ladies" at Central City Elementary School.
Meals at Central City consist of prepackaged, industrially produced pizza, chicken fingers and flavored milk. Despite these foods' dubious value, they adhere to the federal government's nutritional requirements and, thus, are an easy, cheap way for the school to feed its students. Worse, the students prefer the mass-produced slop to Oliver's made-from-scratch chicken and rice.
At one point, Oliver, who seems not to have bargained for all this hostility, breaks down and cries.
During Episode 2, airing at 9 p.m., Oliver attempts to get the school parents on his side with a graphic demonstration of the fat content of their children's diet.
BOTTOM LINE "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" clearly demonstrates all the factors - social, commercial, governmental - that conspire to make the United States the fattest country on Earth, and Oliver is a thoroughly engaging David trying to slay these powerful Goliaths. Americans should feel ashamed that it took a Brit to tackle this issue on network television.