Nearly eight weeks have passed since CNN broke the news on the morning of June 8 that Anthony Bourdain killed himself in France while filming his hit series “Parts Unknown.” But his presence at the network hasn’t diminished.
There are still pictures and posters of the dynamic, globe-trotting chef throughout the cable news network’s headquarters overlooking Columbus Circle in Manhattan. One has a heart scribbled on it, a testament to how Bourdain was a beloved figure in the company. Another looms large on the wall of the office of Amy Entelis, the executive vice president of talent and content at CNN who oversees the network’s original series and films, and launched “Parts Unknown” in 2013.
“We sometimes feel like it didn’t really happen,” Entelis said of Bourdain’s death in an interview last week. “Sometimes a thought runs through your head thinking that maybe it’s a dream.”
Messages from viewers feeling the loss poured into CNN’s websites and on social media, many of them recounting a personal connection to the program in which the cook-turned-author used local cuisine to report and comment on social issues and the human condition.
“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,’ ” Entelis said. “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.”
And Bourdain’s sudden demise not only leaves a significant emotional hole among the troops at CNN — it presents a programming challenge. It means the end of “Parts Unknown,” the signature program for CNN Original Series. It helped make Entelis’ division a significant contributor to the WarnerMedia network’s ratings success and record profitability in recent years.
In the first half of 2018, commercials on first-run episodes of “Parts Unknown” went for an average of $8,601, the most of any CNN program, according to Standard Media Index. CNN relied heavily on the program during slow breaking-news periods, running it 166 times from Oct. 1, 2017, to June 14 of this year.
The good news in the short term for Bourdain’s legion of fans is that CNN has enough material to create a final season of “Parts Unknown,” which will premiere this fall.
Only one episode — a trip to Kenya with W. Kamau Bell, the host of CNN’s “United Shades of America” — was completed before Bourdain’s death. It will be the last to have Bourdain’s written narration, which gives the series its personal tone.
Four others set in Manhattan’s Lower East Side — in addition to the Big Bend area of Texas along the border of Mexico, the Asturias region of Spain and Indonesia — will be completed by the directors who filmed them for the show’s production company Zero Point Zero, Entelis said. They will use audio of Bourdain gathered while shooting on location. Follow-up interviews are also being shot to help tie elements of the programs together.
“Each one will feel slightly different depending on what’s gathered in the field,” Entelis said. “They will have the full presence of Tony because you’ll see him, you’ll hear him, you’ll watch him. That layer of his narration will be missing, but it will be replaced by other voices of people who are in the episodes.”
(Excerpt) Read more in: LA Times