More than once over the course of the last few years, these missives have asserted that the best show on the TeeVee is 'Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown'. That was said long before he died in June. As more information emerged about the circumstances, it seemed to me that the most likely situation was a Carradine. After the first 2 episodes of this final set, I'm not so sure. At the time of the suicide, he was in France with Eric Ripert recording an episode, and was later reported to show no signs of despair or other darkness. Ripert, by all accounts, was one of his closest friends. Perhaps first among many.
It was a bit eerie watching the remaining episodes of the then current season being broadcast. He was there in full view, but not. Then, CNN announced that episodes for season 12 in production were in various forms of completion, and would be shown. The season would be 1 fully complete episode, 4 episodes with sufficient location recording, but no post-production narration, and 2 'tribute' episodes. This could be difficult.
Sunday before last was the complete episode, Kenya, with W. Kamau Bell as tag-along sidekick. The majority of episodes over the seasons are just Bourdain going somewhere, meeting up with foodies, musicians, politicians, academics, chefs, cooks, and so on. The crunchier places require some number of fixers to keep things going, if only navigating language. This was a standard 'Parts Unknown', not to be missed, but known to be the last. Ever. What comes next?
Spain came next, last night. Again, a sidekick in the form of Jose Andres. And a good thing, too. Sort of. This episode proves what made 'Parts Unknown' so extraordinary: Anthony Bourdain's view of the human condition, spoken with heart and feeling and experience. Most episodes have Bourdain interacting with local folk for extended periods of time. I never took double stopwatches to time how much of Bourdain we got in situ, and how much post-production narration. I'm pretty sure it's more post, but not by a wide margin. I'll guess that the intent was for Bourdain to fill in the history of Andres, Asturias, the food, the people in post, because we hear very little of him in the episode. We hear Andres. I can't be sure, but I suspect having to do the post for the episode was not an easy experience. There's a short bit about a miners' strike that's just the sort of incident Bourdain would chew on. Loudly, mouth wide open. But we got only a bit of Andres and a local musician telling us about it.
We do get some tighter head shots, which struck me as out of the norm. His hair is silver, and his face is lined like a newly harrowed field. He looks tired. I don't know whether these episodes are in chron order. Which is to say, whether we'll see him change as he approaches his end. Will there be clues to his state of mind, and so on? Will we see him just a few days or weeks before France? Will we be told how these episodes mesh with France? Some of us really, really need to know. The Kenya episode had a few seconds of a wall GUI map of a game preserve, with incident locations and dates, that were February of this year. Just a handful of months left.
The remaining 3 episodes may be painful, if there's not a sidekick or two to fill the void. I'll watch, but I'll likely be angry at the bastard for doing what he did.