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

bourdain layover singapore.jpg
Travel Channel
Anthony Bourdain is your travel guide to Singapore in The Layover
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).

In 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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4 comments
Jonathan S. Levitt
Jonathan S. Levitt

I agree, I just watched it found it sanitized much like Singapore. Seems like the original Bourdain is dead..i guess the idea behind the show is ok...but really who has a layover of 30 hours in singapore when I think layover I think 12 hours, and I also think its hard to leave the airport. Where is the sympathy for him? He just flew in at least on business class, and stays at a super deluxe 5 star hotel? Most of us can't afford that....why not just arrive and do what many of us have to do take an airport bus, and be more like common folk. NOTE TO TV Producers STOP F*CKING with a good thing, if I wanted this kind of show I would watch that lame guy on PBS with blonde hair Rick steeves europe.

Yak
Yak

He basically gave us the Fodors version of 24 hours in Singapore. I expected better from Tony.

Steve
Steve

I agree, I'm a big Bourdain fan, have read most of his books, and like most of No reservations. This was a snooze fest and could have been home on PBS.  We don't tune in to watch him do a travel log, however enlightening.

wiggy
wiggy

Tony's still young daughter is of an age when she might soon start to spot her Daddy on TV.  Don't we all sober up once we have children?

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