So, I have cable now. The Travel channel only has three shows. They are the one where a guy eats the most revolting things he can find and you watch, the one where you watch naked “aboriginals” narrated over, sometimes with white people trying to get them to like them, and Tony Bourdain’s show.
I read Kitchen Confidential after the initial hoopla and didn’t care for the tone. That is because this joker is born for TV. Each show is narrated by him in an ironic tone but the underlying message is one of hopefulness. We have more in common than what separates us, he repeats every episode. Sure he drinks and smokes and swears too much, but he is a classic American optimist and when he turns to the camera you can see that all his swagger is held up by his desire that you love him.
Every episode has some physically humiliating activity that he endures with a bad temper and a winning whitened smirk. It also has a family meal, where he is provided for by the locals with the best homemade food of the country and which he thanks them for genuinely, certain to note when they have probably sacrificed a weeks food for this stranger and his film crew. He is trying to do something new with his show, and he is careful to point out the artificiality of the production and his persona while maintaining it vigilantly. It works.
His tagline is “I write, I travel, I eat and I’m hungry for more.” This makes for perfect TV. I sit in the snowy suburbs of Boston, eating microwaved trader joes indian food, a stranger to my neighbors, and I imagine being this guy- vulnerable and ballsy, neurotic but outgoing, drinking and smoking without repercussions, writing his way to the top. Love it.