Published on: April 21, 2010by Kate McMahon
Drama. Matters of “life and death.” Tears. Cheers. An impassioned aspiring hero. An acid-tongued nemesis. And Alice, the feisty cafeteria lady, defending her breakfast pizza.
Welcome to “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” a hit on TV and the impetus for articulate, heartfelt discussion in online communities about food, health and future of our nation’s children.
The six-part series stars Oliver, the chummy Brit of “Naked Chef” fame and one-man marketing marvel, taking his “revolution” to Huntington, West Virginia, which has been cited as one of the most obese and unhealthiest cities in America.
The reality show, which premiered in March, airs its final episode this Friday on ABC at 9 pm ET. Though panned by many mainstream TV critics, “Revolution” has consistently won its Friday night ratings slot and is a huge success with women ages 18-to-34.
Not surprising, since the tousle-haired, 34-year-old Oliver oozes charm while preaching the importance of changing the way America eats, and more specifically, feeds its schoolchildren.
"The time is right for people to rediscover the sense of pride, satisfaction and fun you can get from cooking for the people you love,” says Oliver. Okay, who is going to argue that?
Well, the combative local talk radio host, DJ Rod, for starters. “We don’t want to sit around and eat lettuce all day. Who made you king?” he says, kicking off a public feud. And the public school food service staff, hindered by budgetary constraints and bureaucracy, doubts his pledge that the kids will give up french fries and greasy foods for healthy alternatives. Oliver clearly meets his match with Alice, the quintessential cafeteria lady.
And there are the kids – elementary school students unable to identify an array of fresh vegetables, including a tomato -- and high schoolers struggling with devastating weight and health issues. The perfect ingredients for a reality show.
In addition to ratings, “Revolution” has generated dialogue and interest all over the internet, and is a prime example of social networking making a product/show/cause even stronger. Oliver, of course, has a sophisticated website, which includes links to the show and a petition saying America’s kids deserve better food and health prospects. Almost 400,000 people have signed it online. He has links to recipes, health information and online dialogues. On Facebook, there is one page devoted to Oliver’s kitchen in Huntington where locals are learning to cook. In addition, a fan has started a separated Facebook page supporting the “revolution,” and it has almost 91,000 fans. For quick hits, more than 418,000 people follow Oliver on Twitter.
In all of these forums, true concern about food, children’s health and the health of our nation, resonate. There are more genuine posts, and fewer complaints, than any blogs or chat sites I have read. Clearly, Jamie Oliver has reached his audience, and has created a meaningful dialogue with them.
Which bring us to the finale on Friday. The ABC promotions say “Jamie's accomplishments in Huntington begin to unravel when he leaves the city; with the media hounding him, Jamie returns to Huntington for his most-powerful demonstration yet.”
We’ll be watching and will report on the outcome of this revolution.
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- KC's View: