Bracing for the Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations Finale.

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:


“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.

10 thoughts on “Bracing for the Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations Finale.

Add yours

  1. Fear not, Troy. He’s simply moving to CNN to do the same show but in locations that aren’t as tourist friendly. He felt constrained by the Travel Channel only wanting him to go where viewers would possibly like to go for a vacation. Ever since his Beirut episode, Anthony was “hungry and wanted more.” CNN heard about his dissatisfaction with the Travel Channel’s restrictions and offered him a show that would enable him to go where no travel show has gone before. I’m looking forward to the new series. Can anyone say “Syria”? 🙂

    1. I totally agree with Tony nt wanting to be restricted.He doesn’t seem to fall in the category of restrictions.Tony appears to be a worldly guy who has done a whole lot things in a short period of time.I Luv that about him.Plus the fact that he loves food.

  2. I know his name, familiar with the commercials and trailers for the show, and as an avid Reality TV fan and participant as well as home cook who manages to still get time in front of the tube, one may wonder why I have never watched the show–

    I don’t like eating weird things or seeing animals in peril, let alone killed, it’s creepy.

    I love a good reality show fight, the drama and risks that human beings accept on their own, maybe the more irrational the better. But, as Bourdain’s show rolled a few weeks ago, with a cute, caged pig awaiting impending slaughter by some southern hicks fiddling “Amazing Grace” or whatever the tune was, I didn’t find it the least bit funny, or interesting.

    Maybe I’m just the odd one out, but the world is changing. Last year Martha Stewart was on Leno and showed her favorite items for a Halloween display. The jar of pigs feet she held up brought a slow, lowly groan from the crowd, which translated to “how un-PC of you, Martha”. People are fine with others eating pig’s feet, or seeing them in the store, but when paraded as an item to increase the ghoulish factor of a scary display, there was no popular approval.

    Troy’s book, “Reality TV”, touches on some important points concerning ethics in filming, not just because of ratings, but the need to maintain some humanity in the industry. What might have seemed pretty funny or extraordinary during that day of filming might just be the end of the show when the editors take hold and it’s seen as a blip before or after dinner that night.

    Bourdain is an obvious success just out of name familiarity, if anything. The market for food-oriented programming doesn’t seem to be going away — competition-based series still have a strong following. The question is how to brand him to people like me other than “the chef who explores and exploits gross things eaten around the world”.

    1. THANKFULLY Bourdain does NOT cater to people like you. He is purposely politically-“incorrect” because he’s honest about himself, the world, his love of meat, and SICK of people like you. I’m sick of people like you. I would NEVER watch any TV show produced by you. EVER. Honestly, I wouldn’t. You think you’re what’s right with society but I view you as one of the things that’s wrong with society. I know you cannot conceive of yourself that way … and that’s one of the problems with people like you.

      I love it that Bourdain shows where our food comes from and is okay with that. If you like bacon or ribs, a pig has got to be slaughtered for its meat. FACT. If you don’t like eating meat, don’t watch his show. How it is slaughtered is besides the point. I saw that episode that you’re referring to and many others of Bourdain’s where animals were alive one moment, killed the next, and then shown being prepared, cooked, served, and eaten. Oh, and this is exactly one of the reasons WHY his show is so popular.

      As for the Martha Stewart incident, it was MEANT to get that reaction from the audience. What did you want her to show for a scary Halloween display? A nice bouquet of flowers? *rolls eyes*

      If I get my own reality TV show (which is one of my goals), I will be attacking people like you on camera. I cannot tell you how much I absolutely HATE people who obsess about political correctness.

  3. I guess I see Bourdain differently. Having watched the show for years, I see Bourdain as much more than “the chef who explores and exploits gross things eaten around the world”. While I understand Brian’s issue with the program, I tend to look at him as a cultural anthropologist as much as a traveling foodie. His trip to Haiti was one of the best hours of reality television I’ve ever seen.

    Addressing your point, Brian — it’s always hard to be confronted with images of slaughter, and Bourdain hardly celebrates it so much as he shares it as a (valid, in my eyes) portion of the narrative. I remember Bourdain himself having issue in one location where he was asked to kill the evening meal himself with a large sharp stick (being the guest, it was some sort of honor) as it writhed and wailed in a sack. He seemed very uncomfortable with it.

    Like Scott, I think it’s more honest to keep an open dialog about where our food comes from, and No Reservations always did a good job of keeping that on-screen when it was relevant to the culture. I mean, most chefs are going to get their produce, poultry and meats from markets, but when they raise or catch their own, it’s always right there on screen because that’s their process. Some people can walk through an entire meat department and not once think about a sentient face being attached to every package, and you’ll never hear Rachel Ray or Paula Deen discuss where a disembodied fragment of an animal comes from, which is ultimately just feeding the way we make our food choices without considering animals.

    Ultimately, the choice of what to watch is always yours to make. As I always tell viewers, if you don’t like something, write to the network or advertisers. Better yet, write to them supporting the shows on air that you DO like — that way we can have fewer “save such-and-such-a-show” campaigns after something’s already been cancelled because they never heard from you.

    Thanks to both of you, Brian and Scott, for adding to the thread.

  4. My post simply elaborated on Troy’s disbelief concerning the end of a series and question of “What doesn’t this show get right?”.

    I’m not here for partisan politics or personal attacks, and I never staged one. No part of my comment condemns anyone who eats meat. If people want to jump to out of context conclusions on a personal level concerning a debate about what sells in the industry,,,well, that needs no summarizing.

    Back to the topic– “Dirty Jobs” was just cancelled. “Pawn Stars” seems to remain up. There still seems to be a taste for “ink” oriented shows, and though I’m not into tattoos, as an artist I might want to buy one of those guns, get a mohawk, and start zapping some skin to prove that “moderately gross” shows still sell well.

    1. We do have a fascination with things that are moderately gross right now. I don’t think there’s a lot of value in shock anymore (as it’s been done to death), but disgusting, messy, icky stuff can still be a hoot. Then again, I grew up in the early dyas of Nickelodeon, where you got covered in slime for saying “I don’t know.”

  5. Now I’m glad the Layover show is on Monday’s.At least I can watch him then,but that causes a delimma,Monday night football. Also daytime TV cooking shows are kinda boring now.From 1p.m.-5p.m. was Tony Bourdain.Sometimes a maraton on Fridays & or Mondays.

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