Early Review: ABC's 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution' is Satisfyingly Entertaining

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Food for Thought

- ABC's new miniseries Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution about a British chef who wants to change the nation's eating habits premieres on Sunday, March 21. Check out our early review and see if it is worth watching.

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Vitemo's Review of ABC's 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution'
Editor's Rating: 4.5 out of 5

In a 2008 report, MSNBC rated the area around Huntington, West Virginia as the least healthy in America. The Center for Disease Control classified forty-five and a half percent of the residents over twenty years old as obese. The Southern culture of cooking fried food, rich gravy, along with the easy access to national fast food joints and the presence of more pizza serving establishments in the area than there are gyms and health clubs in the entire state of West Virginia makes it difficult for the people to break out of their ruinous lifestyle in which 21.6% of middle age adults are diagnosed with coronary heart disease.

Jamie teaches a group of kids at his Huntington cooking center, Photo Courtesy of ABC

In order for the people of Huntington to change their attitudes and improve their span and quality of life it will take a revolution. In the new documentary-style program on ABC premiering Sunday night, renowned British chef Jamie Oliver goes on a mission to plant a seed of change.

In the U.K., Jamie used his success as a celebrity chef to start multiple campaigns including Feed Me Better that successfully motivated the government to set up the School Food Trust charged with the goal of improving meals and increasing the nutritional intake of school children while still keeping costs under budget.

In Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, a six episode series produced by Ryan Seacrest, Jamie travels to Huntington to improve the dietary habits of the people. His arrival is not met well by the locals as his ideas of healthy eating are discouraged by a local radio DJ, the head cafeteria nurse, the newspaper, and the elementary school principal who urges him to follow the strict government guidelines that seem arbitrary. He discovers an audible cue of one of the reasons why the region's health indicators are so poor when he witnesses the children line up and produce a chorus of thumps as they tap their cafeteria trays against the insides of a trash can and dump pounds of wasted food and money. Soon after his arrival, Jamie ends up breaking down from all of the obstacles put in front of him. Change is hard.

From the start of his mission, it seems like no one can help Jamie but God. Luckily for the chef, a local pastor is willing to help. After a sermon, the pastor goes over a directory and points out all of his congregation members who have been afflicted by heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. The emotional impact can be felt as he describes how his flock is dying all around him.

Jamie also finds support from a local family, the Edwards, who are looking to improve their eating habits. The mother, whose husband is out working hard as a truck driver, seeks what every mother wants -- to give her children a better life. During his first visit, Jamie lays out the overwhelming amount of food the family consumes during one week. Seeing the sight is shocking, but serves as motivation for the family to achieve a better diet.

What is clear while watching the premiere episode is how much Jamie cares. Although the people of Huntington question his motivations, think that he talks down at them with his British accent, and believe their visitor is just there to make great television, Jamie keeps his sight set on his ultimate goal -- a happier, healthier life for the West Virginia residents that will hopefully catch on and incite change for the entire nation. He himself is sacrificing his time with his wife and children to work on this project. Jamie's humanitarian nature is evident as he pleas his case to those who distrust him.

The show production is helmed by Craig Armstrong whose credits include ABC's Extreme Makeover series. The emotional style from the home improvement show has been successfully imported into this series. There are several moments in the first episode when the music enhances touching moments while a person is discussing how they want themselves and their loved ones to break free from the cycle of taking so much food that it slowly destroys their lives. I found myself holding back several tears during my screening.

The show's real life drama is also well paced and gives different perspectives as they include interviews with Jamie, his critics, the citizens, and government administrators. As far as documentary series goes, the production effectively presents an interesting story of one man's struggles to set about change. The premiere ends almost like an action series episode, with the hero at the edge of a cliff pulling himself up. Questions of whether or not he will succeed are raised as the credits roll. I can't help myself for wanting to tune in to see what happens next.

The combination of the chef's passion on full display and his worth while mission wrapped in a beautiful and entertaining presentation makes Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution vital viewing.

- Kristofer M.

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Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution premieres on Sunday, March 21 10/9 c, repeats on Friday, March 26 8/7 c, and will be followed by the second episode.
What do you think?
Do you think Jamie will succeed in Huntington?

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