Anthony Bourdain’s beloved CNN show, “Parts Unknown,” began in 2013 as a chronicle of Bourdain’s adventures through culinary and cultural realms that were off the beaten track. “People said, ‘I was afraid to travel before I watched the show,’ ‘I followed his route,’ ‘I was an addict and I connected with Tony and now I’m fine,'” Amy Entelis, a CNN executive behind the show, told the Los Angeles Times after Bourdain’s death in 2018. “Others were angry that he’s not in the world anymore. It’s an incredible outpouring. A lot of people are experiencing what we are.”
Upon Bourdain’s death, only one episode of the show’s final season, Season 12, had been completed with Bourdain’s narration. The episode followed Bourdain and “United Shades of America” host W. Kamau Bell through Kenya. Other episodes — which traversed the terrains of Texas, Mexico, Indonesia, and beyond — were completed by the show’s directors via a collagic approach, featuring follow-up interviews and voiceover narration from Bourdain’s guests. The finale — which aired on November 11, 2018 — went back to Bourdain’s roots on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Bourdain’s narration injected “Parts Unknown” with its raw, personal, and irreverent energy, but after his death, the show’s directors had to capture the host’s spirit through the perspectives of people who were around him. “What Tony did was inimitable,” Entelis told the Los Angeles Times before the final season was completed. “What we want to do is find a show that captures what Tony is all about.”