Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations: Iceland Special Edition

imageJoseph Thonpson wrote this review.

Back in January, Anthony Bourdain may possibly have visited my favorite bar. I say “possibly” because his trip to Portland, Maine won’t air on the Travel Channel until 12 April 2010 and the execs are keeping mum about the specifics. At first I thought, cool. But after what he did to Iceland, I’m a bit nervous.

In many ways, my favorite bar differs greatly from Iceland. In the winter, it gets more than four hours of day light. It does not serve smoked puffin, roasted sheep’s head, rotten shark, or sheep’s testicle loaf. And there is a distinct shortage of Viking related stories. But in No Reservations: Iceland Special Edition, Iceland fails not for being Iceland. It fails because Bourdain begins under the weather and ends with a hangover.

For six seasons now, Anthony Bourdain and a string of under-appreciated, overworked producers have traveled the world experiencing culture at the micro level. He’s gone feather bowling on the coast of Lake Erie, and explored a hospital chic themed restaurant in Singapore. He’s brash, clever, obsessed with food, and game for almost anything.

Rather than the first episode of the second season, this special edition DVD treats viewers to a running commentary by Anthony Bourdain and executive producer Christopher Collins.

Bourdain comes across as a snarling, rabid, intelligent, cranky jackass. Collins plays the role of a mere comic foil. At one point, while watching a clip of himself trapped in a blizzard with Collins filming, Bourdain turns to Collins and says, “I wanted to kill you here and go to your funeral and kill anybody who came to mourn you.” Like a good sidekick, Collins says little in response.

Whoever chose to create and release this DVD is a genius. By showing the misery of his job (albeit with funny commentary and cutting remarks), Bourdain reveals his human side. He becomes one of us with good days and bad.

Even now, months after his visit, Bourdain’s name causes the light to change at my favorite bar. Upon it falling from a customer’s lips choirs begin to sing and the kitchen staff stands to attention. Such hero worship is great, but not sustainable. By showing that he is human, he makes himself accessible, somebody to whom we can all relate. And if he does get snarky about Maine, Portland, or my favorite bar we’ll all be able to laugh at a joke made by an equal and tune in next week to see how Vietnam fares.

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