Healthy makeovers on ABC reality menu


ABC is teaming with British chef Jamie Oliver and Ryan Seacrest for a new unscripted series that gives healthy makeovers to an entire city.

Oliver will travel to the unhealthiest places in the U.S. and find ways to use nearby resources to improve local eating habits. The network has ordered six hours of the project from Ryan Seacrest Prods.

The series is loosely inspired by 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 KIIS FM morning radio show 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 not only will tackle a city's schools but also 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 appeared as a judge on ABC's successful one-off series "Oprah's Big Give," where his personality impressed the network. Although the health and fitness reality genre (dominated by NBC's "The Biggest Loser") has proved a tough nut for networks to crack, ABC co-head of alternative series Vicki Dummer points out that Oliver benefits from having successful experience doing this sort of program in the U.K.

"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 been named, but it's expected to be a place cited on "fattest cities" lists. ABC expects to air the untitled show next year.(partialdiff)