Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (Ep. 4): 'Jamie Vs. Radio Rod'
Flash mobs! Cooking demonstrations in the street! A bet with a local DJ! Ah yes. There's no denying last night's episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution was filled with drama and intrigue. It's just a shame that none of it felt real.
At the start of the episode, Jamie made a playful bet with his biggest adversary, Radio Rod. If Jamie could teach 1,000 people to cook in one week, then Radio Rod would have to offer his support to Jamie's Food Revolution—and buy him a beer.
Rod wasn't worried, and smugly scoffed at the notion that Jamie might win. "The bet is a joke to me," Rod said. "He's not gonna get a thousand people. I can't even get a thousand people to listen to the show."
Cut to a shot of a solemn looking Jamie standing in his empty kitchen. After all, it was two days later, and hardly anyone had shown up to cook. In fact, the place was so quiet, if you listened carefully enough you could hear Alice's chicken nuggets sizzling from the school cafeteria across town. Was Rod right? Was Jamie doomed to fail?
So what do you do when you need to inspire a thousand West Virginians to cook healthier meals? Why, you go to a college campus and stage a flash mob, of course! Under the tutelage of a choreographer, Jamie and several students broke out into what felt like a three-hour long interpretive dance number in the quad at Marshall University. You know, because if college students can relate to anything, it's interpretive dance.
The performance, which featured electric cook-tops and people exuberantly cranking invisible pepper mills, constantly fluctuated between "silly" and "over the top". I will say the 30 people watching from the sidelines seemed to really enjoy it, so that's nice. But personally, I found it to be one of the corniest, most contrived things I've ever seen on television in my life. Don't believe me? I submit to you Exhibit A, a photo of Jamie Oliver gloating over a bowl of noodles like he just unearth the Holy Grail. Sure, Jamie's an excitable chap, but is it ever okay to be that enthusiastic over stir-fry? Because I'm thinking no.
With only two days left to go in his bet with Radio Rod, Jamie staged a cookathon in the streets, and even took his portable cooktops to a local steel warehouse and taught a bunch of guys in hardhats how to make stir-fry. But despite all his hard work, Jamie was still short 200 people. He needed help. He needed...Rod's help.
Jamie took Rod to a local mortuary, to show him the reality and severity of the obesity epidemic in his state. And wouldn't you know it: As the funeral director showed them a gigantic coffin and explained that obese people have to pay for two burial plots, like the Grinch after hearing the townspeople singing in harmony, Radio Rod miraculously begin to change. Since the dawn of time, Radio Rod had been Jamie Oliver's biggest, most public adversary. But by the time the two men left the funeral home, they were bosom buddies. And rumor has it, by time they got to their cars, Radio Rod had already promised to name his first born child after Jamie.
As the last day of the bet rolled around, Jamie's promotional whirlwind had finally started to pay off. Why, he only needed 100 more people in order to beat Radio Rod! The excitement was in the air, and the handsome skinny people from Good Morning America even showed up to film it.
As I watched the crowds of people pouring into Jamie's kitchen on that final day, the cynic in me couldn't help but wonder how many of those people were really there to learn something—and how many were there to cash in on their five minutes of fame in front of the GMA cameras.
After yet another stir-fry cooking lesson and several blatant advertisements for Green Giant vegetables, Jamie fulfilled his quota. And guess who was the 1,000th person on his photo board? That's right, none other than Radio Rod! What are the chances?
As young students, we all learned that plots must center around the struggle between a protagonist (the good guy whom the audience loves), and the antagonist who challenges him (the bad guy whom the audience hates). That's precisely why tonight's bet between Radio Rod and Jamie Oliver seemed so staged. It was all too perfect, to the point that it seemed lifted straight from an old Greek tragedy. For me, it wasn't entertaining or educational. It was just... ridiculous.
The issue of morbid obesity is a serious one, and as someone who has lost loved ones to heart disease and diabetes, I'm a huge champion of Jamie's cause. But surely there has to be a better way to convey his important message other than via poorly contrived story lines and laughably staged rivalries.
But then again, maybe I'm expecting too much. At the end of the day, it's only a Ryan Seacrest reality show, after all.
What did you think of the episode, Serious Eaters?