I love Anthony Bourdain. Everyone I know loves Anthony Bourdain. From his junkie/chef memoir "Kitchen Confidential" to his magnificent food and travel show "No Reservations" (which has inspired several imitators), he has always come across as the type of guy I'd like to have a drink or ten with.
So why is his new show "At the Table with Anthony Bourdain" so awful?
At 52, Bourdain is hitting his mid-thirties — quitting smoking, having a baby, etc. — and I assume he wants to spend more time with his family. So now he's doing this show where instead of flying to Laos or Dubai every other week he cabs it to a New York restaurant. Fine. The problem is that the new richer, more famous Bourdain seems kind of full of himself, and shows about people bullshitting their way through a meal don't work.
Bourdain has become caught in the same narcissistic muck that director John Favreau wallowed in several years ago with his loathsome watch-the-celebrities-eat show Dinner for Five. You can understand the thinking behind these shows: we all have a good time having dinner and getting drunky with friends, and as the night goes on (and more wine is consumed), everything seems so funny and interesting and hey, wouldn't this make a great TV show?
But a dinner party is not a television show; your dinner party is fun and interesting to you because you are with your friends. Your insidery repartee is great within your group, but when broadcast it takes on the quality of a loud conversation at an adjacent table, at best irrelevant, more likely annoying and offensive.
Which brings us to the first episode of "At the Table", featuring an unpleasant supporting cast of well-heeled, jaded New Yorkers: ex-celeb-club maven/perennial irritant Amy Sacco, Page Six gossipeuse Chris Wilson, New Yorker contributor and charisma black hole Bill Buford, along with the usually tolerable straightish guy from "Queer Eye" Ted Allen, who struggles in this company to be appealing and reasonable but is generally ignored or shot down.
Bourdain opens with probably the most inappropriate convo topic of late '08: is it morally wrong to spend $1800 on dinner for two? Oh no, everyone agrees, if you have the money, just enjoy it. In fact, why even discuss the morality of gluttony? Everyone knows that rich people should never feel guilty about spending gobs of money on whatever frivolous shit catches their fancy. Bill Buford helpfully adds that if you didn't spend the $1800 on dinner it's not like you'd give it to the poor or anything. Okay, next topic! But first, let's pause for the waiter to serve and explain these tiny plates of nitrogen-frozen fois gras with a tarragon foam and truffle shavings.
Jesus, how out of sync with the times can a television program be? This show isn't just alienating to the red state "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" crowd, it's alienating to anyone who doesn't go on speaking tours.
This is television created by and for rich people, and it's an embarrassing and sad departure for our former New York everyman.
Tony, please, please leave the wife and kid and get back on a plane. Or write another book. Or just go away for a while.
UPDATE: you get the feeling from the promo they think the show is kind of crap too...
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