Channel 4's Jamie Oliver deal leaves a bad taste
Rather than giving the ubiquitous chef yet another gig, the broadcaster could have made a much stronger connection with financially anxious viewers, writes Stephen Arnell
On Friday The Jamie Oliver Group issued a press release that stated:
Starting at teatime this Monday on Channel 4 Jamie Oliver is set to show the nation some easy-to-follow recipes, tips and hacks, specifically tailored for the unique times we’re living in with so many people staying at home.
Zoe Collins, chief content officer at the Jamie Oliver Group, said: “The show is a direct response to thousands of requests we have been receiving from people who are looking for some inspiration and assurance to help them through this difficult time – and Jamie is a trusted voice to deliver that. We intend the show to be uplifting and very, very useful."
Sarah Lazenby, head of formats and features at Channel 4, added: "Who better than Jamie to help us all navigate the day to day challenge of eating well and feeding our families? Sharing his phenomenal skills, he’ll help to inspire and comfort the nation, as he teaches us how to make the most of what we have."
Fair play to Channel 4 in reacting so swiftly and positively to the pandemic.
But, to my mind - and it seems to others - Jamie Oliver is entirely the wrong person to front such a show.
The recent failure of his restaurant chains and the subsequent mass redundancies and unpaid debts have left a bad taste in many people’s mouths.
Hardly ‘a trusted voice’.
His continued millionaire lifestyle and unquestionably Marmite persona also appear to be exactly what’s not appropriate at this time.
Whilst many viewers could already be in some financial and food distress, we can be pretty sure that Oliver will be doing alright.
Oliver’s new £6m residence Spain Hall (Essex) – includes 70 acres of grounds.
If you read the comments sections of the Mirror, Mail, Sun et al, you'll know that Oliver's piece of what could reasonably be termed ‘faux-altruism’ has gone down like the proverbial cup of cold sick.
Please stop this @Channel4News . You've got it badly wrong. At this time of crisis and lockdown and empty shelves we need a cook with empathy and experience with shortages - like Marguerite Patten in WW2. Not Jamie Oliver. This is the time for @BootstrapCook ?????
— Vix Lowthion ???⌛ (@VixL) March 21, 2020
Does he imagine that people have forgotten the shuttered restaurants, elbowed staff and angry creditors?
It appears that Oliver will be getting paid for this latest project, unless he has a Damascene conversion and sees which way the winds of public opinion are blowing.
Even if Oliver bites the bullet and forgoes his usual wedge, I expect that there may well be a rush release online book with recipes and virus-related 'wisdom'.
Again, one would hope that Oliver would be canny enough to do this as a freebie.
I suspect, that like the humble cockroach, Oliver will probably survive Armageddon - and be hawking his recipe books.
One could say ‘fair enough, that's his hustle’, but why were Channel 4 so lacking in foresight that they bought into it?
The perils of a too-swift reaction the JOG pitch without thinking through the possible public reaction.
Surely a laid-off cook from recent virus-related restaurant closures, one of Oliver's booted employees from Fifteen or someone like Jack Monroe - ‘The Boot Strap Cook’ - could have fronted the show.
After all, Channel 4 is supposed to be committed to encouraging new talent - isn't it?
Stephen Arnell is a broadcast consultant