I’ve been watching a lot of Anthony Bourdain lately (his shows, not him, but he is the star of the show, so maybe it’s one and the same).
He’s the chef guy with silver hair who has had a bunch of shows on a variety of television networks. Now it’s called Parts Unknown on CNN. I’ve never seen the other iterations, but I think they’re basically the same.
The show is also on Netflix which gives it some maximum streamability.
This is a rather new fascination for me, and I think this is how it started.
I read a profile of Anthony Bourdain in The New Yorker (yes, I’m one of those people).
Then he did an episode on Nashville (which is where I live).
And then I saw some more episodes on demand within CNN and I started watching those.
Others I remember watching: Houston, LA, Pittsburgh, Montreal and probably a few more.
You can tell by my tastes that I’m primarily watching the American ones — which I think limits the appeal of the show.
But I’m also equally fascinated with his take on American cities because they follow such a predictable pattern:
- Anthony (or Tony as his friends call him or those bold enough to do so) does something a little off-kilter in the opening sequences (ice fishing in Montreal, smoking weed in Seattle), then comes back later to explain it.
- Tony investigates some type of “problem” or “misconception” about said city and its impact
- He then tries to “humanize” the issue or something, usually by having a conversation with people over good food
- Tony also tries to find “cool” people and talk to them, I guess, to really understand what’s going on in the city, but what he ends up finding is just what’s going on with a few people, not the city at large.
Rinse and repeat.
What’s kinda funny about this show is that Tony is really trying to be a pseudo-journalist and his backdrop just happens to be food. It’s not a cooking show, it’s not even a food show, that’s just what Tony happens to know.
I know this formula by now so why am I fascinated by it?
Here’s why: Because Anthony Bourdain gets to do whatever he wants.
He is an old person’s version of what’s cool I guess, because food is really awesome right now and everyone wants to be involved with food, and here’s a guy who’s very affable, talkative and has tattoos.
He gets to waltz into places and demand their best food. He gets backstage to whatever band he wants to check out. He gets to sit down with all the influential people in a city and just talk to them.
By having the show framed around “cities” and places, he doesn’t have to have a reason for going there.
He just goes because he has deemed it “interesting.”
This isn’t like a journalist going to Iraq.
This isn’t investigating breaking news.
Anthony Bourdain gets to do this because he’s cool or something.
I guess he’s a tastemaker and a tastemaker can do whatever he wants.
What makes this even crazier is Anthony doesn’t have a job to really “perform” either.
He’s not a musician. He’s not an artist. His only job is to ask questions that are pretty obvious and not too pressing. And eat.
Bourdain is ostensibly a chef, which is true, but in the shows we rarely even get to see him do that anymore.
Not like other food shows where the chef actually has to prove something.
And as I get older, maybe Anthony Bourdain actually is cool?
Instead Anthony Bourdain is just living out what all of else fantasize about — free vacations in nice awesome places.
This is what drives me crazy.
And why I keep watching.