Not a big time TV watcher, it’s a testament to how good Anthony Bourdain’s show was that I became so hooked on it. Super white, yet unapologetic about it, Bourdain’s propensity to eat or drink just about anything (and do so relentlessly), as well as his fearless travel plans, made me wonder what the hell he would do next. You wanted to see what Bourdain would do in any country, states, island, hell, if he went to the moon, I would pay to see that. I even read his book, which was very revealing about the restaurant industry (bread baskets are re-used, filet mignon is overrated).
Which is why I find his new show, “Parts Unknown” so disappointing. The scenes are long. The talk is longer. The eating is not relentless. Maybe Bourdain no longer has the stomach to do what he once did, I don’t know. But I find myself with a feeling I rarely had watching “No Reservations”…. boredom. I just don’t care about “Parts Unknown.” I saw the Iran episode. It sucks that some people disappeared because they were interviewed in his show, but it was still really boring to watch (I hope that couple resurfaces).
Which is why I’m so glad that Bourdain’s first show “A Cook’s Tour” is on YouTube. Bourdain was 45 or 46 when he did his first show. He was greener, rawer and had not cultivated a sophisticated taste for travel. Clocking in about 23 minutes an episode, these things are perfect for the tablet. You have to see his “Dining with Geisha” episodes, his Los Angeles episode where he seeks out the perfect doughnut or his Cambodia episode, which redeemed him from his “No Reservation: Cambodia” Episode (probably his worse NR Episode). Watch as Anthony eats strange foods with his French boss. Watch as Anthony drinks beer and fires machines guns at the same time. Watch as Anthony cuts apart a durian fruit and describes it.
“A Cook’s Tour” might be better than “No Reservations.” The shorter time frame is perfect for this guy. He never outstays his welcome. And packs every minute with something. You can learn a lot about storytelling. I wonder if Bourdain has the same production team today as he did in “A Cook’s Tour” and “No Reservations.” Maybe it was a combination of things… a team that pushed him to the brink and his willingness to sacrifice himself. I’ve definitely traveled to some countries because Bourdain made it look so good. When I was in Lisbon, I went to a bar that Bourdain had frequented. They said that he drinks even more than he does on his show (he threw down about 6 beers in an hour).
It’s not the man, it’s the myth. It’s the way his stories, or legend, if you want to go that far, were told (produced, edited, etc). “A Cook’s Tour” is the way I prefer to remember the Jesus of travel writers. I Can’t Believe It’s on YouTube.
Written by: Norith Soth