Skift Take

Anthony Bourdain and ZPZ take their inquisitive, open approach home for an honest, if not somewhat troubling, look at America's changing suburbs. The tactfulness in which the show examines such an issue should be a lesson for news and entertainment programs.

Last night’s episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown was more personal than most and the crew’s investigation into heroin addiction in Massachusetts approaches a growing problem with a new perspective.

The one-hour episode began in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where a young Bourdain first worked in a kitchen during a summer spent at the beach with friends. The trip down memory lane was particularly satisfying for fans who were able to see multiple photos of a lanky Bourdain with a head full of curls.

“There were no happier stupider times,” he mused while walking through town with an old friend John. “If you put on Marvin Gay right now, I’d cry.”

The duo walk through town indulging in local specialties — Portuguese kale soup and cod covered in Portuguese sausage and breadcrumbs — while talking about their reckless youth and their luck leaving the decade intact. For a man who travels the globe, with eating as a primary activity, it’s ironic to hear him refer to home-made pies of his past as exotic.

Bourdain also explore the eccentric seaside town’s past, visiting fisherman who are proud of their heritage and work despite their industry dwindling in Provincetown. The Zero Point Zero crew uses amazing photography to portray the fisherman’s work in a pleasant departure from video.

Tony then heads inland to Franklin Country to explore the heroin epidemic that’s spreading throughout this and other New England towns.

“Rural towns are now ground zero for the heroin epidemic,” Bourdain informs what-might-be a surprised audience.

He meets with a local narcotics detective and dealer-turned-informant for a glimpse at how this epidemic began. She explains how she needed the money to support her family, couldn’t get a job, and quickly started making money as a dealer.

Bourdain, in search for the full scope, also meets with a generalist doctor who claims the medical community must also take responsibility for the widespread sales of pain medication.

Bourdain also speaks about his own heroin addiction, very aware that he could have ended up with a very different life had he not gained control of it.

The episode is as much about America’s drug problem as it is its suburbs, changing culture, and disappearing industries.

“Again and again, all over the country, I keep running into situations like this where industry has died or fled or simply relocated,” he observes.

For a show that so often examines international destinations through an inquisitive but honest perspective, it is refreshing – if not somewhat troubling – to see the camera lights turned on Bourdain’s own home.

The episode; however, ends on a positive note. A community clam bake brings together residents who are interested in a community-based solution for their public health crisis. It shows individuals taking action, a signal of hope.


The Daily Newsletter

Our daily coverage of the global travel industry. Written by editors and analysts from across Skift’s brands.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: anthony bourdain, cnn, parts unknown, usa

Photo credit: Anthony Bourdain goes on a fishing boat in Provincetown, MA. Parts Unknown CNN

Up Next

Loading next stories