It was a head scratcher when Anthony Bourdain announced he was packing his bags and leaving The Travel Channel (where he had two hit shows) and taking his talents to CNN to do yet another show wrapped around travel, food and culture. Parts Unknown may have the same ideas as No Reservations, but now Chef Bourdain has press credentials and a budget that allows him to discover exotic destinations while sharing his unique perspective and insights.
CNN's ratings were tanking and newly crowned head-honcho Jeff Zucker brought Bourdain on board to help aid in his mission to "broaden the definition of news" and increase weekend ratings by airing the show on Sundays at 9 pm EST. For Season 1, CNN greenlighted eight one-hour episodes. The Myanmar premiere on Apr. 14 was the most-watched cable news show in the 25-to-54 demo that weekend, drawing in 747,000 total viewers.
The next three episodes were set in Los Angeles, Colombia and Quebec. The latest episode, in Tangier, Morocco (watch below), is close to Bourdain's hippie heart. This is a famous ex-pat stomping ground, where Beat Generation legends William S. Burroughs and Paul Bowles took up residence. Burroughs, who Bourdain calls his hero, lived in Tangier for four years where he wrote Naked Lunch, whose locale of Interzone is an allusion to the city.
Bourdain begins his journey hanging out with former British journalist Jonathan Dawson, who says the modern-day traveler comes there for holiday to "smoke a little dope, stay at a cheap motel and then go home with bed bugs." Since hashish is Morocco's most profitable export, there's plenty of THC to go around. Besides hash, you can pick up marijuana, kif and majoun (a cannabis-infused edible made of kif, chocolate, honey and various nuts); a psychedelic segment of the episode is devoted top mixing up the concoction.
For those planning a trip to Tangier, Bourdain recommends a visit to Cafe Baba, which "smells like my dorm room in 1972," he observes with a giggle. A student tells him that smoking a spliff is "a functional part of daily life" in Morocco. At a garden party, when Bourdain asks, "Who smokes hashish at this table?" they all raise their hands. Bourdain narrates like he's Burroughs, dropping drug references one after another. Too bad he can't smoke on camera and has to be coy about whether or not he does or not. Basic cable is basic cable; perhaps Bourdain should've moved to premium cable where he wouldn't have to censor his own personal behavior.
This Sunday, Parts Unknown treks to Libya. In June, Bourdain will return to Peru and explore the Congo. Season 2 on CNN picks up in September with journeys to Spain, Italy, Israel, Denmark, India, Tokyo, New Mexico and Detroit.