Bourdain’s Parts Not-So Unknown

By Karen

The opening montage was undeniably slicker (but did my eyes deceive when I detected a few shots in it from No Reservations?), but the sense of déjà vu quickly set in with the discordant rock theme by John Homme and Mark Lanegan (whose only lyric I think I got was “rain on my shoulder”) and the black and red logo with Tony sitting beside it.

The only thing they left back at Travel Channel was the ink blot.

We’d been duly warned that Parts Unknown wouldn’t be that different, but come on.

Tony’s first foray for CNN was to Myanmar (formerly Burma), I place I know mainly as Siam’s rival kingdom in The King and I. As a nod to his new masters’ focus on news, the episode opened with Bourdain talking in somber tones about the country’s recent political developments and reading a newspaper in the street, with some voiceover of Obama giving a speech there and a shot of “O-Burma” tchotchkes thrown in.

But then there was a quick segue to familiar turf: tea.

Tony soon met up with his former employer from Les Halles, Philippe LaJeunie, who happened to be in town, and they did some street-dining on chicken necks and little birds deep-fried whole.

My favorite part was the long, uncomfortable train ride to Bagan, and I wondered how they got that shot of the train’s underside from the tracks.

While I’m on the cinematography, there was also a stunning shot of Tony standing at water’s edge during a breathtaking sunset, and another spectacular sunset caught from the train. Burma definitely brought out the best in his camera guy.

Then at one point, Tony said, “There is shit going on they do not want you to see,” and didn’t get bleeped!

Score one for CNN.

Miami New Times reviewed the show and called it “No Reservations with slow motion.”

Obviously, Bourdain’s PR machine did a good job of spreading word about the show because its premiere gave CNN a nice ratings bump. But the question is, can he sustain it and build his fan base merely with the twist of eating the same old exotic stuff in places it’s assumed Americans aren’t safe?

Director Tom Vitale gave a good interview about filming the first several episodes to Bon Appetit.

For episode 2, Tony travels to Koreatown in Los Angeles, so I anticipate the usual dim sum and noodle scenes — but (gasp!) on American soil!

I’d turn out to hear Bourdain read the phone book (and will be seeing him live in Richmond on April 23), but how long will most viewers stick around to watch him keep milking the same cow?

35 Responses to Bourdain’s Parts Not-So Unknown

  1. Teresa says:

    There was the not unpleasant sensation that No Res had just switched channels and slapped on a new name. A tweek here and there but overall the same format with slightly less profanity – probably so as not to turn off any new viewers. I never missed a NR and I’ll be watching Parts Unknown too. I never get tired of listening to – or looking at Tony. The train ride was my favorite too.

  2. catsworking says:

    Teresa, my record for No Reservations is perfect, as well. And I’ll stick with Parts Unknown because Bourdain’s gotten to be a habit with me. But I think I’m more interested in the process and logistics of his travels than in the destination or most of the food, which was why I liked seeing the wretched train ride.

    For my recent vacation, I decided to replace my top-of-the-line-but-heavy-as-an-anvil Samsonite luggage with newer, lighter pieces, and it became an all-consuming obsession. I visited every store in town before settling on the luggage that was “just right.” It’s purple and I love it!

  3. adele says:

    I do look forward to Tony’s going to even more exotic places; I think I’ve said before that the travelogue was my favorite part of going to the movies as a kid.

    I didn’t expect anything different from No Res, and I thought overall the narration on the first Parts Unknown was really good — and the cinematography was just fantastic. I’ll keep watching, and I expect that just like with No Res, I’ll like some better than others. Next week’s Korea Town episode, for instance doesn’t sound that enchanting.

    Thanks for the link of the interview with Tom Vitale; even if I were 40 years younger, I can’t imagine dealing with some of the conditions the ZPZ team deals with. The lack of toilet facilities alone would kill me.

  4. catsworking says:

    Adele, Tony has been part of our lives for so many years now, it is comforting on some level to know that he’s out there somewhere, still doing the same old, same old, risking his neck to keep us entertained. (I’m being snarky. I think I’m getting too antsy for his next book to come out.)

    I just read that he’s got Paris on his list of destinations again and that delighted me. For some reason, I can never get enough of Bourdain in Paris. I’m making no progress in getting back there myself, so I can see it vicariously through him.

    Whenever I need a Bourdain fix and he doesn’t happen to be rerunning on Travel Channel, I’ll sift through my DVDs and it’s usually the Paris (3?), Venice, Sardinia, or Rome episodes I want to watch again. They’re timeless, like the movie, Casablanca. 😉

  5. Bacardi1 says:

    I was surprised to find that I really like Bourdain’s new show. Whether because I absolutely DESPISED his network “game show” (to the point where I didn’t get past Episode 1) or because I’ve enjoyed all of his shows centered around Asia, I don’t know, but I really did enjoy “Myanmar” this past Sunday & am once again looking forward to weekly Bourdain!

    Oh, and Karen – you’re right that there are a number of clips from “No Reservations” in the new show’s opening montage. I’m thinking that since Tony took his Travel Channel production company with him when he left, that they most likely own all that footage to do with what they like.

    An enjoyable coincidence this past Wed. was watching a Food Network rerun of Bourdain’s original show “A Cook’s Tour”, in which he was in Vietnam with former Les Halles employer Philippe LaJeunie. It was fun to see the two of them back then – so young – compared to on Sunday’s new show. Not that either one has aged badly (although Philippe is definitely showing his age more), but it was still fun to see.

    Bottom line for me? Thumbs up for the new Bourdain venue. He’s managed to redeem himself from the winter’s contest debacle.

  6. catsworking says:

    WHAT??!!! A Cook’s Tour is back on Food Network? I’ll have to look in to that. I’ve seen maybe half of those episodes and would like to make it a clean sweep. Thanks for the tip. I never watch Food Network anymore.

    And thank, Bacardi, for confirming my sighting of No Res stuff in the montage. I immediately wondered about copyright issues (not that I think they would violate any–but also knowing Bourdain is smart enough to retain rights if he can). Does anybody know if No Res is still being rerun on Travel Channel?

    I do think the new show has higher production values, and Bourdain seems very aware of his new status on a news network in his narration, which comes across as a bit more somber and thoughtful. Of course, he’ll probably blow us all out of the water next week by going gonzo in Koreatown.

    If I get a chance to speak to him next week when he’s in Richmond (I’m working on it!), I’ll be sure to let him know the consensus with the Cats Working crowd on Parts Unknown is paws up!

  7. Bacardi1 says:

    Karen – “A Cook’s Tour” is on every Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. on “The Cooking Channel”. I’ve been recording it since last October, but they could have been showing it for a lot longer.

    “Travel Channel” is still showing “No Reservations” reruns as well. Every weekday at 2 p.m., as well as sporadic showings on other days/times as well.

  8. Zappa's Mom says:

    My problem is the time slot-Sunday 9 pm-Im already committed to Masterpiece and then Mad Men….I’m sorry,Tony

  9. Bacardi1 says:

    I lucked out there (so far). Have no tv commitments for Sun. @ 9 p.m., & “Mad Men” not only doesn’t start until 10 p.m., but has an immediate encore showing at 11 p.m.

  10. imabear says:

    Really enjoyed the new show. The train ride was amazing. I did notice there were scenes with them in several locations on the train. At some points they were in a wood paneled car that looked like an old first class car, then in a car with white covered seats, and at one point Tony was in a berth. Amazing scenery at some points. I was surprised that the people who had been in prison were actually out again. One guy was there less than two years. I guess I’ve just gotten the impression that once they pick you up, they keep you. Still, probably not going to the top of my dream vacation list.

  11. adele says:

    ZM, Parts Unknown is re-shown the following Saturday and I think Thursday. Sunday is a full night; fortunately, Mad Men is on right after Parts Unknown, and then I catch Masterpiece on On Demand. Of course there’s also Call The Midwife at 7 my time on PBS, and I usually try to catch an On Demand showing of The Good Wife..

    Karen, you’re right, watching Tony travel, eat and talk (I do love the talking) makes me feel that all’s right with that little part of my world. I do generally like the more exotic places, but the European shows you listed are among my favorites. I could watch Rome and Venice over and over; anyplace in France is okay with me, and the Sardinia show was made with so much love — it’s such an unexpected place and Ottavia showed real star quality.

    A definite paws up from this Cats Working reader for the new show, and if Tony is wiling to risk life and limb to show us the Congo and Libya, then I guess I can watch him eat and drink his way through Korea Town — especially if Paris and Spain are in the wings.

    Completely off the subject, Alice and Dorothy have noticed that the cats haven’t been writing lately. Dorothy, who’s a bit of a rabble rouser was wondering if there’s a labor dispute at Cats Working World Headquarters.

  12. Zappa's Mom says:

    Thanks for the heads-up! I would like to catch AB’s show. As busy as my tv schedule is on Sunday,I’ve become enamored of “Vikings” on History Channel.I begin with “Amazing Race” at 8,”Masterpiece” at 9,followed by “Mad Men” at 10 and then “Vikings” repeat at 11. I love those brawny men wearing studded leather!

  13. Trisha says:

    I’m so spoiled by my DVR I never watch anything live. Sunday night my must sees are Walking Dead (season’s done now, though) and Celeb Apprentice, so I record AB’s show at it’s reshowing at 11pm. I wasn’t expecting it to be much dif from No Rez, so I thought the premiere was nothing new.

    It didn’t blow me away – I like epis like Mozambique, Haiti and Nicaragua better. This just seemed to be a lotta green, temples and noodles. The best part was the ferris wheel run by human power. I always like seeing something new and somewhat shocking, something you’d never see in the US.

    One thing I dont get is with all this talk about going places Travel Chan wouldn’t let him go, he goes to Los Angeles. Seriously!? You get 8 to10 epis with permission to go anywhere on earth and you waste one in LA. Shameful lol.

    PS Is it me or does AB look 10 yrs older on the CNN show than he did on The Taste? That makeup artist should get an Emmy.

  14. catsworking says:

    Thanks, Bacardi! I’ll have to set the VCR to tape it and see if I can catch the Cook’s Tours I’ve missed.

    ZM, last week I watched Tony’s show, then recorded it in the rerun later. That frees me to up to watch Nurse Jackie. I was watching Celeb Apprentice (is Gary Busey still there?), but then Sunday nights got busy and I had to give it up.

    I wanted to watch the series on Selfridges on PBS, but missed the first episode while I was away and never got back to it. I also like Call the Midwife, and I think it’s on again, but don’t know when.

    Also hooked on The Borgias, which also comes on Sunday night.

  15. catsworking says:

    Adele, I honestly don’t know what’s up with the cats and the blog lately. They just haven’t shown any interest. Cole is spitting mad over gun control (or the lack of it). Max is just being a kitten — his attention span seems more suited to tweeting. But I think Adele is gearing up for the Triple Crown races. I catch her poring over the sports section (or lying on it) looking for news of the contenders, but our paper don’t carry much horsey news at all.

    Good to know that Parts comes on other nights, just in case. Yesterday I was at my parents and they had CNN on all day for news about Boston. My godmother is in town, and her daughter (who would be my 3rd cousin, I think) was standing at the finish line at the Marathon when the bombs went off. Fortunately, she wasn’t hurt.

    But CNN was showing ads for PU (unfortunate abbreviation) at virtually every commercial break, so the tragedy was a blessing in disguise for promoting his show among the people who still think CNN has any credibility as a news organization. Personally, when they were closing in on the guy, I stayed with NBC.

  16. catsworking says:

    ZM, since I’ve got a thing for Norwegians, I’d probably like Vikings, but I haven’t caught it. Now that Lost Girl, Being Human, and Carrie Diaries have all ended, I’ve got room on the schedule for something else. Maybe I can find Vikings On Demand.

  17. chinagirl says:

    So watched the first epi on Myanmar twice just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and watched the LA epi and I agree with you Trisha with you. AB looks bad, ulmost as if he is unwell and Parts Unknown is not that good. Even the odd “F” word he used didn’t do anything to liven up the LA episode. Celeb Apprentice (yes Busey is still on and very odd last night) was much better.
    Parts Unknown has to pick up and AB better get a makeup artist stat!!!

  18. catsworking says:

    chinagirl, I’ve only seen about the first 15 minutes of Koreatown; plan to watch the rest tonight. I was wiped out last night and couldn’t keep my eyes open. Even missed Mad Men.

    Unfortunately, Tony has been aging fast through his 50s, and the new rough-and-tumble format of his shows won’t be helping that, I’m afraid. Every time I see him do something physically demanding on the show (you know, more than slurping noodles), I worry about him keeling over, given his exercise-free lifestyle. The over-exertion is OK for a kid, but what you get up in our numbers, you gotta know your limits — or else.

    So they’re letting him use the F-word without bleeps? Interesting.

    I’ll be seeing him in the flesh tomorrow night, and I’ll be sure to report on how he’s doing.

    I saw an add where they’re bringing back Brett Michaels (is that it, or Brent? Either way, I have no idea who he is), who was a former winner and first one kicked off this season. Why, oh WHY, Donald?

    Glad to hear that Busy is still there, and would love to hear that Omarosa is gone, that pure evil bitch. Is she?

  19. adele says:

    I had low expectations for the Koreatown episode, but I ended up liking it more than I expected. My parents lived in L.A. (the San Fernando Valley) from 1983 to 1995, so I was out there a lot, and I remember the devastation of the area after the Rodney King riots. I found both Roy Choi and David Choe interesting, and I love those old low-rider cars.

    I thought AB looked better in L.A. than he did in Myanmar — I think the heat and humidity of jungles really wears on him (it would kill me). I remember a couple of years ago when he was in Panama, I worried about the way he looked, but again, he was in a jungle situation — but no matter how you cut it, alcohol and cigarettes are hard on the skin, but while men look craggy, women get the worst of it.

  20. chinagirl says:

    Yup Brett was back for a couple of shows and is now gone, thank god, as well as Omarosa but it took a few shows!!!
    AB would look better if his hair was longer. I agree is looking very old and somehow seems to have lost that “spark”. Was expecting bigger and better from all the hype about the new show. Hope he looks better in person!!

  21. MorganLF says:

    What a crap time slot! Mad Men, Masterpiece, Game of Thrones, I had no idea the show even premiered! Actually Mad Men moved to 10 probably due to the Game of Thrones juggernaut. I’m dying to see Vikings will have to catch that on demand.

    So I can’t weigh in on the show haven’t seen it. Programming note: Monday is a wasteland of nothingness…….

  22. catsworking says:

    chinagirl, if Tony would just step away from the hair gel, he’d look much better. He had thick, wavy hair, but somewhere got the notion that spiking it like a wet dog was flattering. Just makes him look balding. Ditto for Ripert. It’s like they have sleepovers and do bad things to each other’s hair at times.

    Glad to hear Omarosa got what was coming to her. I never saw her the first time around, but what a manipulative see-you-next-Tuesday she was.

    Adele, I watched the Koreatown episode last night and was pleasantly surprised. David Choe and his family were the highlights. The emphasis of this show has shifted noticeably from Bourdain to the people he meets. They get a lot more screen time, and that’s a good thing because it opens up the format quite a bit. Instead of just envying what Tony eats, now we can be envious of all the cool people he gets to hang out with.

  23. catsworking says:

    Morgan, Monday was my best night for TV until 2 weeks ago. Carrie Diaries at 8, Being Human at 9, and Lost Girl at 10. I know, I know. I watch a lot of crap. But all their seasons ended at the same time and now all that’s left is Dancing with the Stars, which I gave up on years ago.

    Adele says Parts Unknown reruns Thursday and Saturday, so maybe you can catch it then.

    Mad Men finally started to heat up this week after a very lackluster season opening.

  24. Bacardi1 says:

    Morgan – “Mad Men” has always been on at 10 p.m. The only reason the premier started at 9 p.m. was because it was a 2-hour special.

    And Catsworking – I agree that the “Mad Men” premier was VERY disappointing. In fact, I’m starting to think I’m not going to miss it all that much when it finishes for good after next season. As far as the sorest point for me already this season? Megan. Dislike both the character (& her storyline) and the actress (if you want to call her that). Don either needs to get another divorce, or they need to introduce a murder into the script – lol!

  25. catsworking says:

    I got my wires crossed on Mad Men and thought it came on at 9 as well. Very glad to see it was later, although I’ve watched it On Demand because I didn’t want to stay up until 11.

    I think all signs are pointing to Don Draper coming to a very bad end in the final season. Megan’s turning out to be a pretty terrible actress. She was awful in that soap scene. So far, I’m finding this season very disappointing. The best storylines were this week with Joan and Dawn, that black secretary. Nobody else is doing much.

    And what was with he whole “Don as vampire” theme when he was doing the doctor’s wife, putting her cross to the back of her neck so he wouldn’t have to look at it? He’s dead inside and has to suck the life out of every woman he knows? Will Peggy be his next victim?

  26. Bacardi1 says:

    I can’t see Don with Peggy at all. She’s just too physically unattractive. And that baby voice – ugh! I was always hoping – in a perverse way – that Don & Joan would/will hook up. They’re already good friends, she’s a knockout, & Don would know up-front that there’s no way he’d still be able to wolf around on the side. Could you imagine Roger’s reaction if that happened? Now THAT would be priceless.

  27. catsworking says:

    No, Bacardi, you’re taking me too literally. Not WITH Peggy, but somehow sucking the life out of Peggy professionally.

    I think Joan has crossed over from Va-va-voom to “Step away from that bag of Oreos.” Yes, her face is beautiful, but there wasn’t an angle they shot her from this week where she didn’t look anything but huge all over. And her chin is beginning to disappear. I think she’d be a good match for Don, too, but she would never settle for that.

  28. Bacardi1 says:

    I think, in the end, Peggy is going to end up “being” Don. As Don just fades away. He’s already not hitting his usual mark re: ad presentations.

  29. chinagirl says:

    Karen, you are funny. Yes, yes, the hair gel!!! AB and Eric take being BFFs to another level, they are starting to look alike!! lol. The balding thing is so obvious in each shot, let it grow longer Tony!! I like how he is admitting he knows little about things and isn’t coming off as such a know it all. Koreatown episode was better and he eat at Sizzler!! Wow!!

  30. catsworking says:

    Yes, Bourdain in a Sizzler — and enjoying it — was priceless. I saw him in person last night and got another angle on the Ripert connection you’d never guess. I will be reporting as I get some of my pressing client work out of the way.

  31. Trishia says:

    I agree AB’s hair needs to be thicker, like on The Taste. When a man is lucky enough to have all his hair at that age, he needs to show it off. It’ll be interesting to see how the ratings do longer term. As for AB aging, his daughter will barely be drinking age before he’s in his 70s if he makes it. My mom is mid 70s now and it’s tough enough seeing a parent decline in your 40s, let alone if youre still in college.

    I actually really like Bret Michaels on Apprentice. I always hated Poison and ever other hair metal band that wore makeup in the late 80s. It was great when Nirvana came along and swept all that crap into oblivion with FAR better music (though I hate the grunge look).

    But what I like about BM on Apprentice is how calm and nice he is. He’s almost too passive. He won without ever getting into fights or yelling and seems to try very hard not to insult anyone in the boardroom. It’s kinda sweet. When Piers Morgan joined Trump on the other side of the desk in the boardroom, he was relentless with the probing gotcha questions and insults at Omarosa (which was great cuz I hate her) but in that same position, Bret was much more diplomatic. I just wish he’d stop with that headband and long air. 80s are over and clearly he’s balding or he wouldn’t wear it 24/7. lol

  32. catsworking says:

    Trishia, so what was Omarosa’s downfall? I thought it was really crappy the way she did in Janet Jackson and played the dead boyfriend card every chance she got.

  33. Trisha says:

    I forget the specifics, but she finally got what she deserved for not doing hardly any work during the challenges. There were other times when she deserved to be brought back but wasn’t bc the others were too wussy to do it, but finally she was brought back by I think Little John, so it was him, her and Dennis Rodman. Rodman let loose on her and called her on her fake tears. I loved how Piers let her have it everytime he was on lol. It’s sad when a 40+ woman who claims to be so educated stoops to ‘your mama’ as a come back.

  34. catsworking says:

    Trisha, I saw the first few episodes where Omarosa got away with murder and cried the dry tears and was STUNNED when Janet Jackson didn’t bring her back because that’s the week O would have gone for sure. I guess she’s famous now, thanks to Trump, but was a disgusting piece of work she is.

  35. Mary Austin says:

    I love the new show, and I’m surprised how much it is like his other shows–in a good way. I think he looks fantastic, but then I’m his age group, so maybe I’m biased. In my area the show is repeated throughout the evening, so we can watch in between our favorites, the Vikings, (cheesy, but addictive), and The Good Wife, in my opinion, an excellent show. By the way, Karen, you look great!

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