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Series / Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

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"One day I was making television about eating and drinking, the next, I was watching the (Beirut) airport I’d just landed in a few days earlier, being blown up across the water from my hotel window. I came away from the experience deeply embittered, confused—and determined to make television differently than I’d done before. (...) Our Beirut experience did not give me delusions of being a journalist. I just saw that there were realities beyond what was on my plate—and those realities almost inevitably informed what was—or was not—for dinner."

—Anthony Bourdain, blog post reflecting on his 2006 Beirut mis-adventure
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The Spiritual Successor (really more a Channel Hop with a new name) of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain's Travelogue Show of off-the-beaten-path exploration around the world through the lens of a former chef exploring culture through food, with a larger dose of topical current and political events courtesy of the show's new home on CNN. The jump occurred in 2013, spurred in part by Bourdain's dissatisfaction with a change in management at Travel Channel and lured by the promise of CNN being able to get him to places that would otherwise be inaccessible to him, such as Iran.

In format and tone the show was pretty much identical to the later years of No Reservations, featuring an older, wiser, mellower Bourdain, no longer the subject of the Butt-Monkey leanings of his earlier years. Fitting for the show's new network, there's a lower emphasis on checking out tourist destinations and a higher one on exploring a place's history and politics.

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Sadly, during filming of an episode set in Strasbourg, France, Bourdain took his life at the age of 61; he will be dearly missed. While it is unknown what will become of this particular episode, CNN has announced plans to air the final completed episodes in September.


This TV show provides examples of:

  • Author Appeal: The Congo episode comes from Bourdain's fascination with "Heart of Darkness".
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: After partaking in a bit of Toilet Humor with fellow diners in Quebec, Anthony looks into the camera and deadpans, "This. Is CNN."
  • Broken Pedestal: Subverted (heartwarmingly) when he meets punk legend Iggy Pop in Miami in Season 5. No only is Iggy no longer a raging hellion, but over the course of eating breakfast and walking along the beach with Bourdain, is very candid and philosophical.
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  • Comfort Food: The Detroit episode ran on this type of food. Whether it was a popusa diner operating out of a woman's home, a roadside southern BBQ dinner in the midst of its decaying neighborhoods, or a trip to a local Coney Island where so many Detroiters eat each day, Anthony put a spotlight on the city's working-person's culture and cuisine in this episode.
  • Content Warnings: Occasional episodes that deal with more "mature" subject matter, such as drug cartel violence along the Mexican border, or some of the fetishistic subcultures to be found in Tokyo's nightlife, are preceded by such warnings.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The Thailand episode can basically be summed up as "Anthony and his buddy get royally wasted". This culminates in a bizarre animated sequence, set to the Nutcracker Suite played on an electric guitar, that goes on for quite some time.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Bourdain calls the Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist who accompanies him in Detroit a food-"Philistine" in the narration and says to him in person "If you ever did that in my restaurant (pour his gimlet into the soup and say it tastes better in front of the chef) I'd cut your throat"!
    • It's not a new fantasy — in his comic book Bourdain imagines a world ruled by food-mafias and anyone who can't eat a sushi properly forfeits his head.
  • Downer Ending: Anthony's death after filming an episode in June 2018.
  • Erudite Stoner: The Morocco episode analyzes the writings of a few of these types who spent a lot of time in Tangier.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: Anthony has a tendency to catch himself in the act of doing this, and then shrug it off with a "But what the hell do I know?" sort of attitude.
  • Food Porn: The point of the Lyon episode, which is basically a paean to the culinary traditions of that French city and culminates in a visit with one of Anthony's idols, legendary chef Paul Bocuse. (Anthony's guide in this episode is another renowned French chef, Daniel Boulud.)
  • Foot Note Fever: Encore episodes get factoids and Tweets a la Deadliest Catch.
  • Forced into Evil: In the Sicily episode, Anthony realises that he’s not really fishing for fresh seafood, his host’s right-hand man is throwing dead fish into the sea for him to “catch”. He gets so depressed by this that he gets drunk and admits on the narration that he didn’t recover until long after they’d finished filming the episode. Sure enough, for much of the rest of the episode he seems polite but unengaged, and his narration is much more snarky and unenthusiastic than usual.
  • Ghost City/Ghost Town: Parts of Detroit are very close, but those who live there — and those who returned — haven't given up.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: The Peru episode exemplifies how much Bourdain and fellow chef Eric Ripert have become this. They wear similar clothes as they travel to their co-owned chocolate plantation.
  • Homage: A factoid from the Koreatown episode is that the camera crew referenced Collateral for nighttime driving scenes.
  • Mad Artist: Hedonistic Korean-American artist Dave Choe. He paints Anthony's portrait while still in his bedclothes, then takes him to Sizzler (admittedly a place Anthony has never been) while wearing a bright red suit. Additionally, he's got weapons hidden all over his studio plus an AK-47 pinata and his portions feature low-riders and a gaggle of hot women in bikinis. His mom is just as creative and weird (if not weirder), drawing all over family photos and stapling doily angels to her son's portrait of Barack Obama that hung in the White House.
  • The Mafia: Naturally the subject comes up when Anthony visits Sicily. He talks to restaurant owners who have differing opinions on the practice of giving bribes to the mafia in exchange for their protection.
  • Mood Whiplash: The Massachusetts episode (opening line: "This is where I bought my first bag of heroin"). On the one hand there's the quirky, gay-friendly little fishing village where Anthony discovered the cooking industry and the idyllic, all-American towns upstate; on the other hand the fishing industry is dying, a lot of Anthony's friends from that time are dead, and those idyllic towns are full of addicts and drug dealers because painkillers were over-prescribed in the 90s and when the FDA started limiting their sale the addicts found that heroin was easier to get at.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Usually Once per Episode, epic cooking montages. Especially during the China episode, where it focuses on a group of four or five guys doing regular cooking.
    • Chef Sean Brock takes Bourdain to a Waffle House (which he'd never been to before) while he tours Charleston, SC.
  • Naughty Tentacles: Bourdain talks about the phenomena with none other than Urotsukidōji creator Toshio Maeda.
  • Nausea Fuel: The Tanzania episode gives us an "in-universe" example when Anthony visits a Maasai tribe. As the guest of honor, he's asked to slaughter a goat for their meal, which starts suffocating it by pressing on a vein it to keep its blood inside the body. He admits in the voiceover that he barely avoided throwing up while doing it.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: Anthony delights in being proved wrong about places that are perceived this way by most Americans. But sometimes uncomfortable remnants of such regimes can still be seen in these places - usually right before Anthony and his crew are asked to turn the cameras off. The Iran and Libya episodes are good examples.
  • Reality Ensues/Conspicuous Consumption: In the Haiti episode he felt bad about getting to eat food while there were starving children literally watching him. So he talks to the producers and they agree to buy the lady chef out as her business as been suffering as no one can afford to buy her food. So the lady makes money and the starving kids get to eat, good idea right? Not exactly. What happens is exactly what Anthony should have expected but didn't. The hungry people start fighting for the food and one person even uses his belt on a smaller kid.
  • Recovered Addict: His trip to Cape Cod and Western Massachusetts in Season 4 centers heavily on the heroin problem that exists in the state, touching on Bourdain's own addiction to the drug that he developed while spending his formative years there. It is one of the more sobering and personal episodes of the program.
    • As well as very prescient, as HBO would produce a documentary on the same subject in late 2015.
  • Scenery Porn: The Alhambra fortress in Grenada, Spain, especially for the cinematographer who moved to Grenada after marrying a local girl.
    • Scenery Gorn: The abandoned Packard plant in Detroit, Michigan (horrible paraphrasing: "The only other place I've been to that looks like that — seriously — was Chernobyl") is called Scenery Gorn in all but name. The one guy who lives there reports that people come from all over to explore, do graffiti, and take pictures.
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: "Uncle Kentaki" fried chicken in the Libya episode.
  • Shout-Out: The Jamaican episode kicks off with a tribute to James Bond a la openings and Rum Lives Forever. Why? Ian Fleming main inspirations came from Jamaica, and said author owned a beautiful villa there.
  • Sound Effects Bleep: Averted, there's no *bleep*s and "shit" occasionally gets a pass.
  • Take That!:
    • The Russia episode contains shot after shot at Vladimir Putin.
    • In the Myanmar episode, Anthony and a group of local rock musicians are all in agreement that Creed is the worst band in the world.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: "I took walk in this beautiful world..."
  • You Didn't Ask: The Philippines episode mentions the hardships of the Filipinos at the hands of empires like Spain and Japan... but omits... the United States, who, although had made ammends and even started preparing them for independence at the end of the Colonial period, were very brutal in the begginning, with betrayal of the original independence fight, applying several methods of torture including a first for waterboarding and mop-ups against the Filipinos.
  • Wine Is Classy: The banker in the Shanghai episode has had a whole floor of his building converted into a wine cellar, going so far as to present Anthony with a locker full of ridiculously expensive wine.

Alternative Title(s): Parts Unknown

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