It is Monday morning, and because we all know the weekend doesn't really count, let's talk Friday television, shall we? Well, we're not actually going to delve into all of Friday television, just the relatively new and completely wonderful Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. The show, which is currently airing Friday nights on ABC, has Jamie Oliver attempting to recreate the success he (the show tells us) had in transforming the school lunch program in England. Because we in America like everything – including our waistlines – bigger, he's not just going to muck about with a school lunch program though, he's trying to change the way an entire town eats.
The truly amazing thing about Oliver throughout all this is that on the show he truly comes across as simply wanting to help people out, wanting to see folks eat healthier, live longer, and be happier. One has trouble imagining that Oliver is doing it completely out of the goodness of his heart – surely he wants money and/or accolades as well – but on the show it certainly looks as though it is a completely altruistic effort. I'm as jaded as anyone out there, and I almost believe he's working completely and totally for the betterment of our country. It's amazing.
The show does fall into the almost necessary trap of showing Oliver slaying demons, or non-believers in his food revolution if you prefer. We're only three episodes in at this point, so the bad guys haven't yet crumbled to his way of thinking, but it does seem clear with both the way Alice the Lunch Lady and Radio Host Rod have been set up that eventually they'll either come around or be told by a higher authority to sit down and shut up. That's actually unfortunate as Oliver, the kids, and a bunch of the adults seem completely genuine in the series, and the almost necessary turnaround of the villains won't. Rather than strengthening Oliver's argument, those wins are going to make the show feel more scripted than it currently does.
Now, at the same time, I want to see Oliver beat Rod and Alice, I want to see them lose. They are great villains and perfectly epitomize the two main areas Oliver is trying to tackle – school lunches and community attitude. Both Alice and Rod are against changing anything although they have different reasons for it. Alice says it'll be too hard and Rod argues that no one wants to be told what to do. Alice is right — it may be a little more difficult to cook food than to reheat frozen chicken nuggets, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. Rod may also be right — people don't want to be told what to do, but that doesn't mean that educating all of us about what we're eating versus what we could be eating (and how easy or difficult the change may be) shouldn't be done.
On this past week's episode, Oliver himself said French fries were fantastic, and they are, but they shouldn't be eaten on a daily basis. I think in the end that's one of his biggest takeaway messages – you can go out and eat French fries and pizza and chicken nuggets from time to time, but they ought not be staples of anyone's diet, and it's not necessarily that much more difficult to cook up something fresh and healthy.
Oliver actually gave one family on the show all the ingredients and recipes they needed to cook delicious, healthy meals, and when he went back to visit them it appeared as though they hadn't followed through on actually cooking the dishes. That is really what he's going after, the mindset that says that it's easier to order out something that's really bad for you than cook something that will take little time when you have everything you need right there. That is the first step – when presented with two options choosing the healthy one. After that he can move on to having people walk across the street to get a healthy option when the unhealthy one is right in front of them.
It's a process, but what Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution shows us is that it's a process that can be fun, that can be delicious, and that does make for some pretty great television.