Jamie Oliver putting U.S. city on a diet
By James Hibberd
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - ABC is teaming with British chef Jamie Oliver and Ryan Seacrest for a new series that gives healthy makeovers to an entire city.
Oliver will travel to the unhealthiest places in America and find ways to use nearby resources to improve local eating habits. The network has ordered six hours of the project from Ryan Seacrest Productions.
The series is loosely inspired on Oliver's acclaimed school lunch project in the U.K., where the chef set about to improve kids' nutrition. His effort to improve one school's offerings, documented in the 2005 series "Jamie's School Dinners," shamed educators into passing new measures to ban certain junk foods.
Seacrest said he talked about school lunches during a segment on his KISS-FM morning radio show in Los Angeles and was struck by the amount of listener response. Then he heard Oliver was looking to bring his public service campaign stateside. The resulting ABC show will not only tackle a city's schools, but workplaces and other avenues for change.
"I couldn't do what I do in terms of my schedule if I didn't eat right and exercise right," Seacrest said. "As a kid I was chubby, and I'm a firm believer that the fuel we put into our body results in a healthy lifestyle. Jamie's going to come over here, roll up his sleeves and use the resources of each town to help condition living habits to make it a better and healthier place."
Oliver previously appeared as a judge on ABC's successful one-off series "Oprah's Big Give," where his personality impressed the network. Though health and fitness reality genre (dominated by NBC's "The Biggest Loser") has proved a tough nut for networks to crack, ABC's co-head of alternative series Vicki Dummer points out that Oliver benefits from having successful experience doing this sort of program in the UK.
"Jamie has been through this mission before," she said. "He will be an advocate for change, but not act like, 'I'm from Britain and you Americans are fat.' I think he's really equipped to make a change and knock on the right doors."
The target city hasn't yet been named, but it's expected to be a place that has been cited on "fattest cities" lists. ABC expects to air the as-yet-untitled show sometime next year.
(Editing by Dean Goodman)