Film & TV

Anthony Bourdain's The Layover: Tony Turns Tepid Travel Guide

Anthony Bourdain has been known to take pot shots of his fellow Travel Channel alum, Samantha Brown, and cheery people in general. The Tony I've come to be obsessed with snarks on the nicey-nice worlds of Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, and Paula Deen. Bourdain, you see, comes from a world with a slightly seedy underbelly.

The former chef has admitted to drug use, fornication, and eating the banned tiny ortolan. The Bourdain of my dreams would have snarked his way through the first episode of Travel Channels' The Layover. The only problem? The show's host was the snarkmeister himself.

The first episode has Tony just off his 17-hour flight from New York to Singapore. He says that he'll only have about 30 hours in which to eat, sleep, and see the sights, as a countdown clock starts.

Tony takes a 25 minute cab ride to the hotel ($25), but suggests the alternate train, which takes about 45 minutes and costs two bucks. Pedestrian tips like this will be scattered within the hour, given by both Bourdain and helpful unknown locals who give such sage advice as "the three seasons in Singapore are hot, hotter, and shopping", and "don't eat so much you get fat."

As Tony checks into the Presidential suite at the Grand Hyatt (product

placement?) instead of some more authentic hotel or inn, he seems almost

embarrassed. "They treat me well," he explains.

As the annoying

clock ticks away the hours remaining, Tony visits a Singapore indoor

food court. Traditional hawker stands have been moved to indoor malls

out of concern for food safety by the Singapore government (who run the

island country with an iron fist inside kid gloves). The stalls now have running water,ventilation and no charm. "You don't have to worry about being

poisoned," says Tony, who never worried about such trivialities before.

As Tony settles into a bowl of offal soup from Brother Pig's

Organ Soup stand, a graphic pops up on our screen of things to eat while

in Singapore, including peanut pancakes and rice.

Tony then peruses the Thieve's Market in search of a bootleg copy of Roadhouse 2, "It promises to be better than Roadhouse, even sans

Swayze", he notes, as he makes a stop at the Botanic Gardens. At least

he advises us to pass on the Singapore Flyer, the world's largest Ferris

wheel at $25 a clip.

With 15 hours to go, Tony eats fish head

curry, passing on the offer of an eyeball. "Thanks, I've already had an

eye today", and stops at the Geylang red light district, where we're

told prostitution is tolerated (though Sex and the City is banned for being too risque).


atypical behavior for Bourdain, he skips drinks at a bar on

Arab Street and shops for a penguin snow globe at the world's most

hideous cross between Wal-Mart and Costco.  In fact, I don't recall seeing Bourdain as sober, lucid, and unhappy.

As if coming out of a

trance momentarily, he says, "Ordinarily I'd be beating a prostitute by

now...but that's illegal here. What's a libertarian to do?' It's an

out-of-place comment that makes me miss his award winning No Reservations all the more.

As Tony hails a cab for the ride to Changi Airport, he notes that this

is the airport you want to get stuck in. He peruses the entertainment

options for a bored traveler: butterfly garden, rooftop pool, cinema,water slide . After a dip in the pool, we see our guide getting a foot

massage, though this version of Tony is too tame to opt for the one where fish eat

the crud from your toes.

Though Bourdain does a tolerable job of showing us Singapore in a short period of time, I missed the wit and reckless abandon of No Reservations.

Though to be fair, I've been to Singapore and, while the food is good,

the country is overly manicured and spotless -- not a lot of fodder for

our intrepid voyager.

We'll give The Layover another shot next week when Tony takes us to one of the least plastic cities on earth, New York, where we hope to see him eat, drink, and fall in the gutter ... just for old time's sake.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss