Jamie: a US Disaster-Chef

By Guy Adams

Jamie Oliver. Photo / Supplied
Jamie Oliver. Photo / Supplied

He crossed the Atlantic with a can-do attitude and the naive conviction that his cheeky-chappy smile and Mockney slang would help him hit the big time.

But, like so many other British stars, Jamie Oliver has discovered that American entertainment is a cut-throat business.

A year after he started Food Revolution to stop the world's fattest children eating burgers, pizza, chicken nuggets and chocolate milkshakes, Oliver's US career appears to be collapsing.

This week, the ABC network pulled the show - in its second series - from its prime-time slot because of disappointing ratings.

In its place, the network decided to air a one-hour recap of Dancing With the Stars.

Adding insult to that sudden injury, ABC said Oliver's final episodes would air in what is considered to be a "graveyard" slot - 9 o'clock on a Friday night.

Though critically acclaimed (its first series won last year's Emmy award for Outstanding Reality Show), Food Revolution has generated underwhelming viewing figures.

For its second series, numbers dropped by around 40 per cent to four million. To put that in context, Dancing With the Stars reruns tend to attract more than 10 million viewers.

Part of the problem could be the location of the second series in Los Angeles - a city where officials are famously disapproving of outside interference.

Oliver is clearly in the right: the proportion of obese children in Los Angeles has increased from 18 to 25 per cent in the last decade, and a typical LA school lunch consists of "hot and spicy chicken chunks", "beef steak fingers in gravy" and a pudding of "peanut butter and jelly pockets".

Further alienating part of Middle America was a headline-grabbing criticism Oliver made of Sarah Palin in February.

Asked to comment on her effort's to undermine First Lady Michelle Obama's healthy-eating initiatives, Oliver declared, "Clearly, on this issue, [Palin] is a fruit loop."

In a final effort to shore up ratings, ABC's Jimmy Kimmel last week had Oliver and Los Angeles schools superintendent John Deasy on his chat show.

During their conversation, the chef told Deasy that a glass of flavoured milk contained several spoons of sugar, and suggested that it would "kill kids".

Deasy responded that it was time to remove it from menus.

But, he added, Oliver's cameras would not be allowed to witness the change.

"It's an improvement we're going to be taking on our own," he said.

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