Travel shows and food shows seem almost designed for Sunday naps on the couch, because they follow such predictably soporific patterns, alternating bland host segments with sexy shots of exotic locales, plates of food, or manufacturing processes. This kind of generic infotainment doesn't get much squarer than The Travel Channel's John Ratzenberger's Made In America, which sends the Cheers regular out to mingle with the good people on America's factory floors. How do we know they're good people? Because Ratzenberger reminds us constantly, by always making sure to ask our helmeted and goggled citizenry to state their names and reaffirm how much they love their jobs. On the four-disc Made In America DVD set, Ratzenberger begins each of the 20 half-hour episodes by delivering deathless intros like, "I really enjoy the comfort afforded by a good bowl of soup," and he ends by reminding us how cushy we have it in the U.S., what with so many hardworking neighbors crafting our guitars and board games. The material in the middle of Made In America is reliably diverting, because hey, who doesn't like to watch crayons being made? But at the same time, who needs to own a show like this on DVD?
There's a lot more personality and rewatchability to the eight one-hour episodes—also spread across four discs—of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. Picking up where his often-forced Food Network series A Cook's Tour left off, No Reservations gives the gritty New York chef and part-time gonzo journalist room to explore more than just his own "reluctant adventurer" personality. Clad in punk-rock T-shirts and thrift-store sport coats, Bourdain rambles through the untouristy sides of tourist spots like Paris, Sicily, and Las Vegas, eating strange foods and getting to know the locals, all while delivering a sardonic but keenly observant voiceover narration. No Reservations can be too cute for its own good, as when Bourdain sneaks in homages to his favorite foreign films, or when he overplays his bad-boy image. But Bourdain's "I'll try anything" spirit and respect for simple food and haute cuisine alike make his show more unpredictable and philosophically complex than the average basic-cable time-waster. No Reservations is one travel show that actually demands to be watched.