There are two schools of thought with Jamie Oliver these days. He’s either saving our lives, exposing the truth and he’s making the world a better place, or he’s annoying, he’s intrusive and nothing he does will make a difference. Me? I watch his shows shocked at the amount of rubbish there is in fast-food, thirty minutes later, I’m dying for a chicken kebab. It’s life.
It also makes it hard as a reviewer to gauge his new television show if you’ve already made your mind up about him.
His latest programme, Jamie’s Food Revolution Hits Hollywood is practically ‘more of the same’ under the wing of his mission shows, but jacked up for American audiences. Instead of the programme consisting of having a chat in Tony Blair’s beer garden about how to improve school meals and teaching women in Rotherham how to cut up cucumbers, you see an American school bus on the verge of exploding as its been filled to the brim with sugar to highlight the obesity crisis within LA schools, before Jamie Oliver sits inside the vehicle on the verge of tears because ‘no-one’ is listening to his campaign. This whole schtick went down rather well in Huntington or “The Fattest Town In America” last year, so we’d have thought that the size zero culture of California would have lapped up his teachings, but the going is just as hard for the Naked Chef.
Watching this I was starting to get worried. Has the message of his show been lost in the sea of crack-cocaine melodrama that seems to engulf shows that cross the pond? Hell’s Kitchen for example, used to be one of those programmes that included just a light bit of bitchiness and celebrity poking. In the states it is nothing the show is more like The Wire with a restaurant opportunity for those to can survive (same amount of swearwords, same amount of weaponry at their disposal within the vicinity).
Just like in his other US show, Jamie’s Food Revolution Hits Hollywood featured elements of unnecessary and pointless confrontation throughout, like a part of the programme consisting of Jamie asking the owner of a fast-food restaurant to drastically alter his ingredients and remove all of the gunk. A towering inferno of ‘heart attack on a plate’ would be replaced with something that would let you possibly have children in the future, the only problem being that the cost of the ingredients would double and the fast food owner’s profit would half. Happy working relationship? KILL ME NOW.
But I can’t write this show off totally for two reasons. Firstly you can tell that it’s evident that Jamie’s still got some heart, just like in the British version of the show. He’s steering this ship and wants to make a difference, and with anyone else presenting, this programme would be devoid of anything.
Secondly, it has got slices of credibility: The belief that hopefully what he does will actually have a positive impact within the schools. For example in this first episode he exposes the absurdity at a Nutritional Association based in California, who recommend using artificially flavoured milk within schools because “milk is healthy” (making just as much sense as advocating doner kebabs as a healthy food with the claim that it ‘contains lettuce’).