TV Show Review: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, “Sichuan,” Season Eight Episode Three.

I am an unabashed fan of Anthony Bourdain television. I’ve pretty much watched every episode of every series Anthony Bourdain has been responsible for. Strangely enough, it never occurred to me to write anything about them… until now. This is largely because in this episode of Parts Unknown, Bourdain spends almost the entirety of this episode torturing his good friend, Eric Ripert.

For those who are unfamiliar with Ripert, Eric Ripert is the executive chef and part owner of Le Bernardin. Le Bernardin is a three Michelin starred restaurant in New York City that specializes in seafood. Accordingly, Eric Ripert is one of the most well known and respected French chefs in New York City, in North America, and in the western world. How wonderful is it then that we get to see him suffer for forty five minutes from spiciness and alcohol poisoning? And Bourdain does torture the hell out of Rupert in this episode to hilarious effect. They have a real bromance brewing and it’s really fun watching them make off color jokes and constantly make fun of each other.

Parts Unknown episodes generally try to give the flavor of a place with a heavy emphasis on food. Some episodes try to show the opposing views of an issue relevant to that location. That obviously does not happen here. There’s no general freedom to publicly criticize the government in China. Instead we just get some humorous scenes that show off some of the food in Sichuan. This was still really entertaining, even though I would have liked some commentary on the politics of the country and the opinion’s of Chinese citizens. On the other hand, there’s no point in asking for opinions if it means putting Chinese citizens at risk of “disappearing” or getting sent to jail. Especially if it’s just for a some travel and leisure show on CNN.

Anyways, it’s a fun episode and really educational. I’ve had a lot of authentic, Chinese style Chinese food (in contrast to American style Chinese food, e.g. Chinese takeout), and I’ve never been good at verbalizing the differences between Chinese and American food. This show definitely helped in expressing that difference. Most Americans I know who’ve tried authentic, traditional Chinese food generally find it disgusting because the goals of western cuisine and Chinese cuisine are different. Where Americans like the texture of battered, fried, fatty food to what many in this world would consider a disgusting degree, Chinese people like gelatinous, liquidy, chewy, and meaty food to a degree that many in this world would consider disgusting. This is why so many beloved Chinese dishes consist of sauce covered organs or other chewy parts of the animals (like pig ears, chicken feet, intestines, etc.).

It’s realizations likes this that make this show so interesting. There are few shows that are as successful at accurately conveying foreign places in a digestible, hour long program for American audiences. It’s just fun to learn about new places and see things that you would not see unless you purchased a plane ticket, flew over for a while, and knew someone who actually knew the nuances of the area and was willing to show you around. Thanks to Parts Unknown, I get to experience something similar with substantially less hassle.

Score: 8/10

TV Show Review: Arrow, Season Five Episodes One Through Three

Arrow returns to the CW for its fifth season and it already feels better than last season. Arrow, for lack a better description, is pretty much Batman with arrows. Sticking closer to the street level, crime fighting aspect of the show is largely why this episode feel so much better.

At the end of last season, they just defeated the magic using Damian Dark and saved the city. This season begins with the Arrow squad all but disbanded (except Felicity) and Oliver on his own again, balancing his time between fighting crime and being the mayor of Star City. New gangsters and criminals move in and Oliver must build a new team of crime fighting allies in order to oppose the new enemies in his city.

There are a lot of new faces this season and they each bring new life to the series. Some bring comic relief, some bring a little more drama. I won’t go into the new team members because there hasn’t been enough episodes to explore each one. However, you can be sure that each will get an episode for the purpose of character development.

What I didn’t like was the formulaic stuff. New mystery villain, shoots arrows. Maybe the big reveal will be something more rewarding and less cheesy than having someone die and then having another misleading red herring every episode that someone is going to die.

Score: 6.8/10 Good start to the season. Looking forward to seeing more team dynamics play out, maybe some scenes reminiscent of what Joss Whedon has done.

TV Show Review: South Park Season Twenty Episode Three, “The Damned”

This is exactly what South Park should be. Each episode should be taking current events — and I mean the events of this very week — and then making jokes on those events. The use of immediate events gives the show relevance that would not otherwise be there. Fortunately, this episode does that.

As for what happens, Hillary Clinton goes to debate Trump/Mr. Garrison and Hillary screws up Garrison’s confession and attempts to quit. Like many would agree in real life, Hillary just can’t seem to get out of her own way despite Mr. Garrison/Trump’s self destructive incompetence. The parallels to real life are a plenty in this episode.

Also hilarious is that Kyle’s dad finally goes too far and his internet trolling victim kills herself. This leads to a standard South Park conspiracy theory plot line where some hilarious “truth” will be revealed.

The scene with Cartman at the McDonald’s at the end of the episode also got me. I think it was a combination of them innocuously eating french fries with sweet and sour sauce (which I also do) and Cartman’s reaction to potentially seeing a vagina.

Score: 6/10