After Channel 4 sent Kevin McCloud up to Castleford to give t’folk of Yorkshire some good southern sense about not living in a dump, here comes saintly, matey Jamie Oliver, storming into Rotherham, determined to stop the townsfolk coagulating into one big pile of rancid fast food. A noble exercise, but a bit boring.
What was good about it?
• Jamie’s zeal with his The Pass It On campaign – people learn to cook and then teach friends – is to be applauded, if only to prevent hard-working taxpayers from having to fork out more for the NHS to treat benefit claimants who can’t even be bothered to cook or wash up and therefore eat all their meals with their fingers from styrofoam containers – and don’t even know that water bubbles when it boils. (Hey, did we just sound like the Daily Mail there? Just shows how TV that exploits the vulnerable can backfire badly.)
What was bad about it?
• Jamie being too easily forgiven by Julie Critchlow after calling her “a big, old scrubber” when she countered his healthy school meals campaign by pushing junk food to kids who couldn’t stomach anything that didn’t come deep fried or full of sugar.
• His efforts to get Rotherham’s stubborn, uneducated people to sort themselves out would come from a higher moral ground if he didn’t resort to sloppy language and swearwords (eg “F**kin’ hell we’ve just lost a meatball!” and “These people can’t even turn a f**kin’ hob on.”). Maybe Channel 4 should now send Brian Sewell into Jamie’s Essex home to teach him how to speak properly.
• While Jamie’s School Dinners had many admirable moments and minor breakthroughs, it seems that this series is going to be hamstrung by the subjects, people who refuse to better themselves. They may rustle uphome-made meatballs and basil-fried salmon to impress Jamie, but one suspects the chippie won’t be going bust just yet.
• It’s hard to feel sympathy for Natasha who had too little money to get on a bus to buy some mince yet forks out more than a tenner a day on fast food and fags. Jamie was sympathetic when he should have been angry. Gordon Ramsay wouldn’t have taken the “there, there, love” approach.
• “If School Dinners was like Star Wars, then this is going to be like The Empire Strikes Back.” What does that mean? Does it mean anything?
• Although the mission is doomed, no doubt the producers will conjure up a bit of magic, maybe with Natasha and her family working out how to use cutlery and eating their way through a salad.