Review: The Diets That Time Forgot DVD

STUDIO: Acorn Media | DIRECTORS: Martin Fuller, Brendan Hughes
RELEASE DATE: 8/17/10 | PRICE: DVD $39.95
SPECS: NR | 288 min. | British reality television | 1.33:1 fullscreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

There’s a tendency to think that our ancestors knew something about life that we don’t, or maybe have lost in modern times. If nothing else, the 2008 British reality TV series The Diets That Time Forgot, now on DVD, will have viewers questioning that belief, at least when it comes to dieting and eating.

After host/historian Sir Roy Strong dangles the fact that 100 years ago, men were 20 pounds lighter on average than they are today, we’re introduced to nine overweight Brits (heavy in Britain is not the same as heavy in the U.S., as most of the cast of this show would likely be too lean to win a spot on The Biggest Loser.) All have agreed to move into a Victorian castle and try diets popular at the turn of the last century in a bid to lose pounds impervious to modern diets.

Over the course of six documentary episodes, contestants are divided into three groups to try three forgotten diets, all versions of popular modern diets, showing that although we have not necessarily lost some past knowledge, we also haven’t come as far as we thought.

There’s the Victorian diet, an early version of the Atkins diet that requires followers eat lots of protein, and the Edwardian diet, also called the chew-chew diet, which allows followers to eat whatever they want so long as they chew each bite 32 times. The final diet, popular in the 1920s, limits dieters to 1,200 calories a day.

The Diets That Time Forgot is less a reality TV show about drama and forcing contestants off than it is a way for producers to amuse themselves and audiences by forcing contestants to endure the cuisine and spa treatments popular in earlier times but obviously forgotten for a reason. Contestants must dress and exercise in the same era as their diet.

When they end up constipated midway through the series, they are forced to undergo treatments popular at the time — colonics, water cures that spray cold water on patients and other oddities. An Edwardian dieter chooses to sit in a vibrating chair, which she describes, while giggling, as “not unenjoyable.”

The diets themselves all seem to work, not surprisingly. In the intro, several of the contestants give away the real reasons they’re not losing weight. Our favorite excuse comes from a man who is in a band and “living the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.”

As a TV series, Diets is something to watch for the curiosity factor more than anything else.


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About Jennifer

Jennifer Netherby is a freelance writer who has written about movies, music and technology for Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Video Business, where she worked as a reporter for nine years. She’s addicted to British crime dramas and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.