Where most travel-based shows have a touristic bent, Bourdain’s, which ranged from Korea to Koreatown, Iran to Antarctica, Chicago to Shanghai to Boreno to Senegal, were never about where you, as a viewer, as a consumer, could go — he often went places you couldn’t — and what to do when you got there. Its message is that true luxury is in the learning and the company, in being human among humans and earthy upon the Earth. And while ”Parts” looked with passing interest on the fancy works of mankind, it repeatedly came back to the land — including the sea — and how it shapes those who live on it, and off of it.
Every so often, the show would turn its focus on Bourdain himself, following him into a martial arts class or a tattoo parlor or through a night of drinking — he was a recovered drug addict but no teetotaler — or into some double-act adventure with his good friend the French chef Eric Ripert, who had been filming with him in France before Bourdain apparently took his life Friday. These episodes could feel like distractions from the series’ main business, but one sees now that they were part of the larger story he was writing there, that of a troubled evolving consciousness, a person in the world struggling to see the world and his place in it.