Despite its success in Britain, I really didn't think I was going to like Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution when I first heard about it. Not only did it have the potential to be pretentious and boring, but I also feared that Oliver would pull a Dr. Drew on us and make this show all about him and his ego. However, after giving Revolution a chance, I was wonderfully surprised at how much I enjoyed watching Oliver's plight. And after a week of pondering, I've finally figured why this show works as well as it does: It's a perfect mix of some of our guiltiest pleasures.
While both Gordon Ramsay and Oliver are highly opinionated British chefs on a mission to help people, their shows work on very different levels. The restaurant owners featured on Kitchen Nightmares requested Ramsay's help. Oliver, on the other hand, came to Huntington, West Virginia on his own because he believes the townspeople desperately need a healthy change, making his objective much more difficult and prone to resistance. So when Ramsay meets his adversaries, he has no problem cursing and belittling them, while Oliver must kill his with kindness and determination in order to be successful. Another big similarity between these shows: We get to see just how disgusting food preparation can be.
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern
The nasty food on Revolution has been downright Bizarre Foods bad. As much as I hate to cringe, there's something compelling about watching Zimmern stuff his face with wok fried bat and raw pork fat. And I had the same gag reflex after seeing Oliver make homemade chicken-carcass nuggets for a group of little kids, especially when all of the tykes said they'd happily eat that crap because they were, simply put, hungry. Interestingly, both shows emphasize how different cultures perceive food, but Zimmern has a positive message while Oliver just makes us really regret all those years of McNugget Mania.
Honey, We're Killing the Kids
Yes, it's a little on-the-nose, but the point of Revolution is to really break down what's going on in our school systems and kitchens in order to open up parents' eyes about the dwindling health of their children. Between Jamie showing everyone how much fat and sugar the school consumes on a monthly basis and taking the obese family to the doctor where the parents learned their son was on the fast track to diabetes, I was beginning to wonder when we'd see Photoshopped pictures of what the kids would look like in 20 years as morbidly overweight adults.
The most frustrating roadblocks on Oliver's mission are his opponents. After seeing how unhealthy the people of Huntington are, I find it amazing that people like the defensive radio host and Alice, the school lunch lady, are so against someone who is trying to help them. It's downright sad to watch as they rationalize their terrible habits, absolutely refusing to admit that their town has a serious obesity problem. I got some bad Hoarders flashbacks listening to them. For example, when Alice insisted that as long as chicken is the first ingredient in chicken nuggets, the food is perfectly fit for children to consume in mass quantities, I thought right back to the one Hoarder who believed that it's okay to eat year-old expired yogurt, as long as it had been stored in the fridge. It's obviously going to take more than a dumpster to fix these people's problems.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Just as EM:HE builds dream homes for the saddest American families they can find, Oliver chose to help the fattest region in the fattest state in the fattest country for Revolution. As obnoxious as Ty Pennington can be, his show works in inspiring change and demonstrating the power of a community. Jamie is like a way more tolerable version of Ty, and best of all, we got to see the British Chef dress up as a giant pea pod.
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