By STEWART SMITH
At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s a time when Anthony Bourdain isn’t being filmed.
The former chef, acerbic wordsmith and globe-trotting foodie made his mark on the culinary community when he unleashed his revealing, behind-the-scenes look at professional kitchens with “Kitchen Confidential” back in 2000. That opened the door to him eventually becoming the star of “No Reservations,” a Travel Channel program in which Bourdain travels to almost every location imaginable on the planet as he explores cultures and their cuisine. It’s a fascinating show, made all the more watchable thanks to Bourdain’s particular brand of commentary and criticism. He’s been to so many places over the show’s 127 episodes (so far), that I’m wondering how many more seasons they can wring out before Bourdain has visited every place there is on the planet.
In the meantime, though, there’s “The Layover.”
Trotting across the globe at a near-constant pace as Bourdain does, that means lots of layovers in big cities such as Los Angeles, London, Rome, San Francisco and Hong Kong for anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. In other words, just the right amount of time to make a mad dash around each metropolis and sample as much as possible.
The show does feel remarkably similar at first to “No Reservations,” and that may give some viewers a reason to wonder why they should even bother keeping up with “The Layover” when, at first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much daylight between the two. If what you’re looking for is more of Bourdain’s well-written insights into a city’s culture and cuisine, your best bet is to simply stick with “No Reservations.” The more measured pace of that show allows it to really soak up a city. The best way to approach “The Layover” is if you’re looking to plan a vacation – or really any sort of trip – to any of these major cities.
This is a collection of Bourdain’s favorite restaurants and bars, a good many of them the sort of out-of-the-way, off-the-map locales that only embedded locals or seasoned travelers would know to look for. My favorite of such revelations being PDT (aka “Please Don’t Tell”) in New York City’s East Village. It’s a tiny hole in the wall, but you can only access it via a phone booth’s hidden door inside hot dog joint Crif Dogs. Inside the bar they serve all manner of exotic cocktails, as well as a whole gourmet section of Crif Dogs’ gourmet hot dog menu that can only be ordered from inside PDT.
As for the DVD, it’s a fairly slim set with only ten episodes on two discs and nothing in the way of special features. I doubt anyone is looking to pick up this set with the hope of seeing anything behind the scenes, but it should be noted just the same. The presentation is in 1.78:1 widescreen and 2.0 Dolby digital. It upscales decently if you’re watching via a Blu-ray player, though it’s a shame this wasn’t in HD on a Blu-ray set as some of the locations (such as Rome) and definitely some of the food would benefit from an HD presentation.
If you’re not planning on taking a trip anywhere, it’s a little difficult to recommend “The Layover” if you’re already a fan of Bourdain’s other show. That said, this does offer a good introduction to Bourdain’s style if you’re unfamiliar with his work as well as being a perfect way to plan your world travels.
“The Layover Season 1” hits DVD on Tuesday, June 5.
Stewart Smith is the Entertainment Editor for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. Contact him at 903-596-6301 or by e-mail at email@example.com.