Netflix has lost its best show, just when I needed it the most

Anthony Bourdain
(Image credit: CNN)

When conversations turn to what TV shows you’re watching, we tend to give people the headlines, the big splashy dramas that dominate most of the conversations around television. 

I’m no different. Right now, I’d tell you how disappointed I was by Hulu’s lavish new biopic Pistol, which I was really looking forward to -- and despite the presence of Danny Boyle behind the camera, managed to make the creation, explosion and implosion of The Sex Pistols look really rather dull. And then, I’d tell you to get yourself Apple TV Plus and go watch Slow Horses and The Essex Serpent, and then, if you hadn’t already tried to excuse yourself and go to the bathroom, I’d wax lyrical about how the BBC’s family drama The Split would be winning all the awards if it had been made by HBO or Netflix. 

That’s how I tend to talk about TV. But there’s the other side of what we watch, the more comforting side, the shows that fill a gap if you have a spare half an hour and you don’t want to start a new show or the ones that you watch when no-one else is around. These are just as crucial. Netflix has just lost my absolute favorite, Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. And honestly, it could not have come at a worse time for me. 

How early is too early?

My daughter is nine months old. She’s a total delight, but she has now started to wake up punishingly early, sometimes before 5am, with a look that tells you that there is absolutely no prospect of her going back to sleep, however much rocking or shushing you try.

Now, while being forced out of bed and downstairs to the lounge before the birds start to sing is annoying and rather exhausting, it does have some advantages. Unlike my three-year-old son, who has very definite opinions about what he wants to watch, my daughter has yet to express any preference. She’s also happy to sit on her playmat and grab things, blissfully unaware of what’s going on on the screen behind her.

You can’t just watch anything at that time of day. I’m still too sleepy to follow a complex narrative. I tried to watch the new run of The Witcher and kept having to rewind to check what was going on. Documentaries are fine, as long as they’re simple to follow, and there aren’t too many numbers involved, but what really works is travel and cooking shows, and Parts Unknown is the perfect mix of both.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it followed the travels of the now sadly departed Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain is a chef who’d spent the early parts of his career in elite New York restaurants, but, from 2002, had started to make travel shows.

First, he did A Cook's Tour, which ran for 35 episodes on the Food Network, the same place now where I go from Man Vs Food rewatches, and then he made Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations for the Travel Channel, before, in 2013, he upped sticks and went to CNN, where he launched Parts Unknown.

Parts Unknown took him everywhere, from Myanmar to Manila, from Cuba to Copenhagen, some of it was about food, a mix of fine dining and local haunts, but every episode dived into the politics and culture of the place.

Bourdain had a gift from taking the viewing with him. He had opinions, strong ones, but you never felt like you being lectured to, just in the company of a man who adored traveling and wanted to take you with him.

Parts Unknown

(Image credit: CNN)

Comfort viewing…

Netflix in the UK used to have all 12 seasons, everywhere Bourdain had been. It was perfect. Sometimes, if my daughter was up viciously early, I’d opt for the comfort of somewhere familiar, like Bourdain’s trip to Scotland, where he goes from extolling the comfort of deep fat frying unspeakable things to the wilds of the Highlands, ending up with a face covered in a stag’s blood, or I’d try somewhere I’d never been before.

All in all, there are 104 episodes, I’ve probably seen 30, and I was really looking forward to making my way through the other 74. Netflix also told me which ones I had seen before, which, in my sleep-deprived state, it was easy to forget.

Parts Unknown left the platform at the end of May and I feel like I’m in mourning.

Searching for an alternative…

Nothing will replace Parts Unknown. There’s a good reason why when the tragic news of his death was announced in June of 2018, so many people posted about what he’d meant to them and the trips he’d inspired. A quick search on YouTube too and you will find countless examples of tourists following Bourdain’s footsteps on their own vacations.

But, I do need something. I’ve already worked my way through Stanley Tucci’s Searching For Italy, so I'm taking recommendations for a show with food, travel, heart, and, preferably, a long-term home on a streaming service. Or, you can come and watch my daughter between 5am and 7am, either’s fine.

Tom Goodwyn
Freelance Entertainment Writer

Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…