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Last 'Parts Unknown' Episode Set To Air After Anthony Bourdain's Death


Two weeks ago today, we learned TV host, chef and author Anthony Bourdain had died by suicide. But the larger-than-life Bourdain has lived on in two new episodes of his CNN show "Parts Unknown." In one of those broadcasts, Bourdain spoke about recovering from Cajun Mardi Gras festivities.


ANTHONY BOURDAIN: Feeling pretty good about the world, considering. Minimal hangover, minimal Mardi Gras-related damage, few bruises. My age, I should be happy I didn't break my hip.

CORNISH: The final new episode of "Parts Unknown" airs this Sunday. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans is here to talk about the future of the show and the host's legacy. Hey there, Eric.


CORNISH: So you've seen these two new episodes of "Parts Unknown" that are supposed to air after Anthony Bourdain's death. Tell us a little bit about what it's been like to watch them.

DEGGANS: Well, you could hear in that earlier clip where he talked about loving life or feeling good about life, it feels bittersweet to watch him now, given that we know how his life ended. And "Parts Unknown" most often is about life. You know, Bourdain found these distinctive people and cultures and explored their world through food and brought them to a TV audience that might never have otherwise known them. And in that episode about Cajun Mardi Gras, he delivered an explanation about Creole history that was literate, irreverent and informative all at once. Let's check it out.


BOURDAIN: Creoles are widely believed to be the first American cowboys, herding cattle in the plains and bayous of Louisiana long before white dudes started showing up in the West. In fact, Zydeco music was born out of cowboy culture, the rhythm of the washboard mimicking the trot of a horse on the trail.

DEGGANS: And you can hear in that clip another one of his great talents, which is writing that really sings and tells a great story and is really compelling.

CORNISH: Now, how has the network handled his death? I mean, as we mentioned, CNN broadcast "Parts Unknown," and he was their colleague.

DEGGANS: Yeah. They aired tributes the weekend after his death, and anchors from the channel have introduced each of these new episodes. Anderson Cooper, whose brother took his own life, will also host a CNN town hall special on suicide prevention Sunday before the last Bourdain episode airs. And he was particularly emotional when he talked about Bourdain during CNN's tribute show a couple of weeks ago.


ANDERSON COOPER: I mean, you never know what goes on in anybody's head, and you never really know what goes on in anyone's heart. But certainly, you know, the pain he must have been feeling, at least in that moment or in those moments, and the loneliness he must have been feeling, it's just terribly sad to think about.

CORNISH: Eric, you've reviewed television for a long time. What do you think Anthony Bourdain's legacy will be in the medium?

DEGGANS: Well, there are other hosts who lead similar shows, Marcus Samuelsson on PBS and "Everybody Loves Raymond" creator Phil Rosenthal on Netflix. But Bourdain refined and innovated this genre that was unique to his talents as a storyteller. And fans can still see old episodes of "Parts Unknown" on Netflix until about the end of September, and there's lots of content on their website, explorepartsunknown.com.

But CNN hasn't said much about what might happen to the show in the future, whether they'll try a new host or try to develop a similar show. I hope they find a way to keep doing it because I think his legacy should inspire more networks to take chances with hosts who might seem unlikely on the surface, but they're talented truth-tellers, and they're willing to show us parts of the world that we didn't even know we needed to see.

CORNISH: That's NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Eric, thanks so much.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOSE GONZALEZ'S "INSTRUMENTAL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.
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