Anthony Bourdain is a lot of things to a lot of people, but in a new profile The Hollywood Reporter's Gary Baum posits that Bourdain may be the ticket to saving CNN. One of the country's most well-respected news outlets is struggling to attract new viewers, and Bourdain's brand has presented an important opportunity to capture that elusive millennials category. Parts Unknown has also delivered a much-needed ratings boost in recent years: The show pulls in nearly half a million viewers each week, the highest number for any cable network at 9 p.m. on a Sunday.
While Bourdain tells THR that he just wants to "make interesting one-hour hunks of video," he comes across as a sort of dining diplomat, passing through Iran, for instance, to give viewers a different look at a country that most of the rest of the media has pigeon-holed as a terrorist state. Bourdain rejects the idea that he's any kind of diplomate however, and doesn't even identify as a journalist: "I want to let people lose themselves in other people's experiences in a successful way."
Still, as Baum notes, Bourdain's "style of barbed humanism is resonating beyond the headlines." For the bad-boy of culinary tourism, "Food no longer is mere subject. It's springboard and skeleton key... [it's a matter] of life and death." As Bourdain notes, he's not disagreeing with the news headlines, or trying to prove them wrong. He's using food as lens. And in so doing, CNN exec Jeff Zucker notes that "he's shown everyone that you can learn as much from an episode of Parts Unknown as you can from any of our field reports. And that's an incredible thing."