I started writing very different impressions of Anthony Bourdain’s new series, The Layover, which premiered on Travel Channel last night. But I wanted to watch the Singapore episode again before shooting my mouth off, so I just checked Verizon’s On Demand for it in hopes of skipping the step of fast-forwarding through 20 minutes of commercials.
Predictably, it wasn’t there — but the as-yet-unaired New York City episode was.
Travel Channel strikes again. But more on that below.
Bottom line: Singapore left me underwhelmed. The 3- and 4-way split screens quickly grated. But let’s begin with what I liked…
- Testimonials and tips from locals — they found friendly, articulate characters who complemented Bourdain nicely.
- Tony navigating like a normal person. In No Reservations, he magically appears at destinations without logistics — unless his mode of travel is bizarre and feeds his idea of “the story.” But now we know he’s royalty at Singapore’s Grand Hyatt and thinks the airport is the world’s best.
- The subtitles. I loved the maps, lists, and spellings of locations, businesses, and foods.
- All the practical advice about transportation, hotels, and pricing (which will, unfortunately, date the series).
But aside from that, it was essentially Tony walking around, looking cool, and eating.
I get his reluctance to hit tourist traps. He’d have probably run in to Samantha Brown on that Ferris wheel. But I doubt anybody with one day in Singapore would eat 15 times.
At one point, I thought the show was wrapping up because it seemed I’d been watching Bourdain eat for hours, but the clock said it was only 9:29. That’s never a good thing.
But then I lucked into episode 2 in New York City. The format’s essentially the same, but used far less split-screen. It just felt better and held my interest.
If there’s anything Bourdain can teach us, it’s how to avoid being ugly American tourists. The tips NYC locals gave did just that. I was waiting for one to say, “Ladies, never wear a scrunchie.” (FYI: Sex & the City reference.)
After seeing New York, I like the The Layover. Let’s face it, if you were in foreign surroundings, who better than Anthony Bourdain to keep you safe and show you the good stuff?
Now, back to Travel Channel…
They are partnering with Rand-McNally’s Tripology.com to help viewers trace Bourdain’s footsteps in The Layover, virtually ensuring that Tony will indeed “destroy the things he loves.”
From their press release…
Viewers can go to Travelchannel.com to watch additional video from a particular show and then research locations and activities. The site then connects them with Tripology.com, an interactive referral service focused on connecting travelers with qualified top-rated travel specialists. With Tripology.com, a user tells specialists where they want to go and what kind of experience they want. The request goes to a Travel Channel tripologist who specializes in the area, and is armed with actual itineraries from programming. Usually within 24 hours, the user will receive an email or phone call from a Travel Channel tripologist who can help plan the trip, and book with them directly.
Travel Channel “tripologists.”
What a stinking job title. I imagine incarnations of those hapless schlubs from Room 214 who tried to make TC a force in social media. They’d never met Tony and could tell you nothing about him or his travels beyond what TC’s PR flaks dribbled out in emails and video snippets.
It smells like Travel Channel has found a way to skim a little off viewer-to-travel-agent referrals. If you’re sucker enough to trust them, you’ll probably be spending your vacation in the wrong country.