Posted on | January 17, 2011 | 5 Comments
When a parent drops a child off at school, he or she is entitled to a small set of reasonable expectations. These include: 1) That their child will be educated. 2) That school meals will be available if the child does not bring a packed lunch. 3) That the child will not be exploited.
Item one is not going well. Item two happens, if not to the standards that some would wish. Item three includes keeping out child molesters and celebrities who view the world as background.
That British TV chef Jamie Oliver has arrived in Southern California preaching the gospel of healthful eating is fine. The city has plenty of pulpits, but the cafeterias of public schools are not among them. If he wants to help the school district improve its meals, then it would have been politic and orders of magnitude more sincere of him to offer to donate his expertise to the meal formulators, while leaving the cameras in the studio. Camera crews do not feed kids twice a day, every weekday, nine months out of 12. They do distract classes. ABC does not pay for school meals, taxes do. Most importantly, children at schools are not TV extras, they are kids. As kids, they deserve protection.
LA Weekly reports that Oliver describes his series as a “documentary.” Maybe by Golden Globe standards, but it’s a documentary about him. ABC’s Food Revolution is not News Hour. An ABC casting call includes it with The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Wife Swap and Take the Money and Run. If the school district wants Oliver in, it would have to arrange it in a way that didn’t disrupt classes, respected the privacy needs of students and acknowledged real-world cost constraints.
As it happens, it has elected not to turn its cafeterias into a TV studio and it’s entirely within its rights. Oliver says, “In my country [England], it would be illegal.” Really? Show me the canon of English law that assures reality TV programs access to school lunchrooms.
Given his backing from fashionable and wealthy quarters, along with his new Westwood headquarters, maybe Oliver should try Crossroads, or Oakwood, or Harvard Westlake, or some other high-toned private school. Surely the elite parents of students there wouldn’t mind ABC filming their kids eat.