It takes its time
Parts Unknown takes the sometimes sweltering clip of NR and slows it down to a crawl. It dips inside the topic at hand, and feels it out fluidly, and with depth.
No Reservations, wasn't without faults. Often, the attitude was a little too breezy, grasping at serious topics, but either falling short or biting off more than it could chew. Conversely, Parts Unknown doesn't worry about incorporating madcap themes or high-concept ideals, and lets the culture and the people do the legwork. Never droning, or boring, it's a more nuanced and ultimately more rewarding look into the subjects at hand.
It's Bourdain at his most Bourdain-iest
Bourdain took a sizable portion of his No Reservations staff with him, and in combination with the increased resources available from CNN, and the dude's ever-escalating levels of fame and influence, they were finally able to make the show they always wanted to make.
Despite the serious overtones of many episodes, Bourdain is able to play into his larger-than-life persona. Take, for instance, my personal favorite episode of Parts Unknown, "Tokyo" (Season 2). This is Bourdain drinking, eating, conversing, and feeling his way through the seedy, sometimes creepy, epilepsy-inducing world of Tokyo night culture. It's classic gonzo-Bourdain -- his personality has never shone more clearly on television than in this succinct, slightly off-putting hour. He's boozing, his shirt is untucked in typical Tony swagger, and he's swearing like a sailor in a traffic jam. He's everything you've ever wanted him to be.