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The Early Word on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

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Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, the new TV series, which chronicles Oliver’s trials and tribulations as he attempts to spread good eating habits in Huntington, W. Virginia, one of the unhealthiest cities in America, has already stirred up boatloads of conversation and controversy. Whatever your opinion of the plucky British celebrity chef and father of quirkily named offspring, there’s no messing with the fact that Friday’s premiere logged ABC’s best demo rating in its time period in three years.

The Naysayer's News: Beyond hilariously expressive, behind-the-back face-making, Oliver's March 23 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman leaves us with the host's sad (but true?) assessment of America. Letterman reminds Oliver that it didn't work with the metric system...or soccer, for that matter, so why will Americans be game for Euro ways now? He goes on to share a particularly bleak vision for America's future:

"We're living in a culture dominated by the commerce of selling food that's unhealthy... The species will evolve to where one thousand years from now, we'll all be five or six hundred pounds; and that will be OK."
Oliver reminds that parents and schools are part of the solution; and he was able to extract one billion dollars from the British gov't with five shows in the U.K. [The Late Show with David Letterman via YouTube]

The Bad News: British food writer, journalist, and former Vanity Fair contributor, Toby Young, notices potential fatal flaws in his fellow countryman's performance:

"Jamie has turned into a much more loathed and detested villain than [Simon] Cowell or [Piers] Morgan will ever be...[America] is in the grip of a massive inferiority complex...[Food Revolution] seems at odds with America's status as the world's only superpower, but the country's success is intimately bound up with its acute status anxiety. The desire to prove themselves is where the people's extraordinary dynamism and energy comes from."
[Guardian UK]

The Sliver Lining News: After Ed Levine recounts the low points of the first episode: Oliver's chicken nugget defeat, embarrassing cry sesh amongst a bunch of first graders, and green pea costume fail; we find hope in the comments portion of the Serious Eats blog:

I truly enjoyed the show last night. I watched it with some of my roommates and it opened up a great dialogue about how we feel about these food issues, what we grew up eating etc...There will be lovers and always the haters, but I believe Jamie is doing a good job so far--even if to help ONE child realize that he's at risk for diabetes and help him change his eating habits.

The Sort-Of Unrelated News: Michelle Quinn of The New York Times' The Bay Area Blog reports Santa Clara County is considering a ban on toys being given with unhealthy fast food meals that may contribute to childhood obesity: “We’re not banning restaurants from handing out toys. They can hand out toys if they are related to nutritional meals rather than unhealthy meals,” says Ken Yeager, President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Perhaps Mr. Oliver should consider traipsing a bit further north and west for the next six episodes. [The Bay Area]

The Good News: Ratings are up. According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen:

"Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" averaged a 2.6 rating/8 share in adults 18-49 and 7.5 million viewers overall, placing a strong second to college basketball on CBS. It beat Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares" (prelim 1.7/5 in 18-49, 4.3 million) by 53% in 18-49 and doubled up NBC's "Dateline" (prelim 1.3/4 in 18-49, 6.5 million).
ABC hasn't done this well with a regular series in Friday's 9 o'clock hour since at least the fall of 2006.

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