I’ve been trying to find time to finish my second book, 50 REASONS TO LOVE REALITY TV, for the last year or so, but I’ve been utterly swamped. Too bad, because it means my number one reason to like reality TV will be moving on next week: Anthony Bourdain, whose Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations airs its finale on Monday night.
What doesn’t this show get right? It satisfies our curiosity about the world and cuisine on multiple levels, and Bourdain’s voice is so clear in this series it’s unmistakable. This isn’t a guy who was plugged into a format, this is a real portrait of a person and his passion for people, food, and the world.
Here’s that number one entry from the book’s preview edition on Amazon Kindle:
1. ANTHONY BOURDAIN
“To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.” — Anthony Bourdain
Perhaps my favorite reason for loving Reality TV is chef, author and television personality Anthony Bourdain, whose Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations has earned its place as one of my favorite reality shows of all time. The tough-talking, no-nonsense Ramones fan and frequent picker-o-fights in his astonishingly frank series of books including Kitchen Confidential, The Nasty Bits, and Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook has artfully put himself forward as the Poet Laureate slash Arthur Fonzarelli of Food… and damn if he isn’t fun to watch.
I don’t say that just because he’s game to chow down on everything from the familiar to the exotic. Sheep testicles? Check. Fermented shark? Check. It’s his brilliant observational humor, which spills out on camera as easily and naturally as it does in his narrative voiceover, which he pens himself. It’s so good, in fact, that Bourdain’s been personally nominated for Emmys® twice for Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming.
How exactly did a kid who spent his college years working in the seafood restaurants of Provincetown, Massachusetts come to be one of the world’s most watchable globetrotting chowhounds? Well, the adventure began with his 2002 Food Network series A Cook’s Tour, which ran for 35 episodes over two seasons as Bourdain trotted from Tokyo to Thailand sampling local fare. Audiences who hadn’t already been bowled over by Bourdain’s book of the same title fell hard for the guy, and it wasn’t long before The Travel Channel was airing the strangely similar Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.
Bourdain’s No Reservations quickly expanded beyond the boundaries of being a “went-here, ate-this” travelogue, broadening to include storylines that often overshadow the mere foodie appeal of the show. Notable episodes include Season Seven’s premiere, “Haiti,” where Bourdain called attention to the nation’s ongoing struggle to rebuild after a massive natural disaster, and Season Two’s finale, “Beirut,” which garnered an Emmy® nomination in 2007 for its hair-raising account of Bourdain and crew’s escape during the early days of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.
All in all, Bourdain and his shows serve as some of the best reminders of how the genre can be both powerful and entertaining at the same time.
Oh… and I’ll have the black bean snails, please.