OH Jamie, what have you done?
In the past I’ve warmed to this made for TV chef when he’s been on the road, rooting out recipes and cultivating communities everywhere from America to Marrakesh.
But where I feel less comfortable with Jamie Oliver is when he mixes social awareness and celebrity. Definitely not my dish of the day.
Take his latest prime time TV offering, Jamie’s Dream School.
Jamie is once again on a mission. We’ve had his crusade to improve school meals (great idea, what happened to it?) and his plan to get Rotherham cooking in Jamie’s Ministry of Food. Loved the enthusiasm and some of the recipes, hated the stereo-typing of a whole town as being incapable of feeding itself properly
The ingredients for his latest campaign menu made me feel distinctly queasy too.
Take one educational expert acting as headteacher, add a tablespoonful of big names and 20 young people who haven’t been able to stomach school.
And that’s what I found hard to digest. Not the fact that some of the star turns were clearly out of their depths but that vulnerable teenagers were made the subject of yet another television experiment.
For that is precisely what this Channel 4 series is.
This week’s starter portion of Jamie’s latest lesson on how to solve the nation’s ills had historian Dr David Starkey, fertility expert Professor Robert Winston (teaching science), artist and entertainer Rolf Harris and round the world yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur in the teachers’ roles.
Dr Starkey may find himself off the menu and in detention after his behaviour in week one.
Here is one of our most eminent historians, a familiar face these days on TV but faced with noisy, disruptive teenagers, what does he do? Insult one of them. Not a recipe for success then.
Poor Rolf Harris looked bewildered but blamed himself for not being able to make much of an impression on 20 youngsters who had no reason to have heard of him or the artist Monet. His efforts to bring out one teenager’s talent for graffiti left the youngster frustrated and Rolf at a loss.
Only Ellen MacArthur, who pitched youngsters against the elements out at sea, seemed to have some understanding of how to communicate with kids who are out of their depths in school.
But it doubtless helped that she had just four of the Dream team on board a yacht which meant the teenagers had their hands pretty full keeping the boat on track. No time for texting here.
But the reality of Jamie’s Dream School seems to me to be just that. A Dream.
Meeting the educational needs of children is complex. For those who don’t relate to the mainstream system it can be a nightmare.
A quick-fix, celebrity driven series is unlikely to raise any new issues and, as yet, doesn’t seem to have a clue about how to enable young people to express themselves.