Science! Gotta love it. The striving progression of human development through technological endeavour, the expansion of intellect and comfort, the bettering of life, or so we hope, for all mankind. That’s how I like to think about Science. It’s about wowing ourselves with our ingenuity (“My toaster has wi-fi? Awesome!”), breaking boundaries and generally re-asserting our chipper little selves as the smartest carbon blobs on the planet.
In TV terms, there’s hard science and there’s soft science. Hard science would be, say, Supersymmetry and You: A User’s Guide to the Large Hadron Collider. Soft science would be Pauline Quirke’s Eggy Smell Showcase. Now, at 7:30 on BBC2 you’d probably expect something between the two: Pauline Quirke Smells of Supersymmetry, for instance. What we actually got was Jimmy’s Food Factory, which went so far beyond ’soft’ that, so I’ve been reliably informed, the Large Hadron Collider is actually being used to determine whether there’s a single microparticle of content in any of its thirty brain-atrophying minutes.
I always like to stay positive, but finding something good to say about the show is like trying to find the elusive Higgs boson with a butterfly net. The premise, I suppose, isn’t too shabby – self-starting farmer and chum of Saint Jamie Oliver Jimmy Doherty whips up processed food in a barn using B&Q supplies and a little ingenuity. If you’re hoping for a wacky mashup of Heston Blumenthal and The A-Team, prepare to be underwhelmed like your whelm has never been undered before.
For a start, there’s Jimmy: I never caught Jimmy’s Farm so I can’t judge him on his previous televisual outings, but by crikey, the man’s bland. And I mean beige, BHS slacks bland. If, later on in the series he attempts to make cauliflower tofu, I’m confidently predicting some sort of mundanity feedback loop where the screen will fade to grey accompanied by a low, atonal hum. Yet he’s not only bland, but irritating: whether it’s his constant and desperate turd-polishing or if this is what he’s really like I’m not sure, but his squealing delight at the most prosaic of occurrences grates after only a second’s exposure. So much so that, when attempting to make his own instant coffee with a bin and an industrial hairdryer and Jimmy soberly informs us that “This might explode”, the instant and rational response is: “Good.”
The series feels like a six-minute segment on Blue Peter not, as it’s ostensibly touted, a Science Programme. Jimmy even manages to undermine what might have been a passable section: Robot Milk. Yup, you read that right: Robot Milk. Dream, if you will, of a heavily-bosomed Cyberman for moment, and then prepare for crushing banality: It’s a robot that automatically milks cows. “It looks like they’re REALLY enjoying it!” yelps Beigeface. Cut to: shot of a cow. Chewing.
Hopefully, a lot of you will remember Jamie Oliver’s engaging, blistering and downright-thought-provoking Jamie’s Fowl Dinners that aired in 2007, which took an unflinching look at the poultry industry. With TV like that for comparison, Jimmy’s Food Factory just doesn’t hold any water. This kind of investigative-enlightenment schtick has been done before, and it’s been done far, far better. You might also think that Food Factory could improve over the coming weeks – but I’m pretty sure it won’t. Next time, Jimmy investigates a truly mysterious and esoteric processed food, the magical making of which we mortals can only conceive of in our most fevered dreams: Sandwiches. I wish I was making that up, but I’m not. God help us all.