All of which made this year’s holiday offering from the Travel Channel’s ford-porn hit No Reservations such a surprise. Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef and bestselling author, as well as the program’s host and guiding intelligence, has put together an hour of television that is at once a masterpiece of the “Culinary Journey Through Our Grand Traditions” genre of holiday specials, and a spoof of the same. The show pulls you along like a fizzy dinner party chased by a drug-addled dream (including a bubbly rendition of a Catalan carol about a pooping log sung by Norah Jones), and ends in the kind of mayhem that may seem appropriate after long days with too many relatives and too much to drink. Spoiler alert: Firearms are involved.
As many envelopes as Bourdain pushes, however, there was one part of his holiday vision that proved too much for his network. Moving into the last act of the special (after asking various chefs about global Christmas cuisines, including the all-important question “What Would Jesus Eat?”), Bourdain pops into a Bavarian restaurant for sausage and conversation. Talk turns naturally enough to Krampus, Santa’s ill-tempered companion throughout Austria and Germany, who goes far beyond coal in the stocking when reminding children that he knows who’s been naughty or nice.
For Krampus fans—who are becoming legion—this Yuletide boogeyman comes and goes much too quickly. And it turns out Bourdain thought so, too. What he’d hoped to air is a bit of mischief that would have elevated the No Reservations holiday special from simply very good to subversive classic. In homage to the stop-action ghost of Christmas specials past, Bourdain made his own Krampus Carol, complete with a horned demon licking the faces of children before he beats them with a stick:
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