The new year begins with the return of one of my favorite cable series, "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" (9 p.m., Travel). This season, the gourmet vagabond will take viewers on a gastronomic trip to exotic and unexpected locales, as well as some old favorites. Who knew Ireland was a food lover's destination? Bourdain will also travel to Ghana, the Pacific Northwest, Namibia, Russia, Los Angeles, New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong, French Polynesia, Brazil, Argentina, Bavaria, Tuscany and Papua, New Guinea. If I'm not mistaken, that last destination used to be known for cannibalism.
Bourdain doesn't take the tourist route, and he often seeks out politics and controversy as he travels. He begins his trip to Ireland in Belfast, comparing pubs and contrasting the graffiti and mural styles of the warring religious factions. He soon discovers that both sides of the centuries-old dispute love their Guinness and that Ireland's recent prosperity may go a long way toward ending "The Troubles."
Bourdain also celebrates Ireland's culinary boom. Like England before it, the Emerald Isle is shedding a long reputation for bland and predictable cuisine. He visits trendy restaurants that fuse Irish and Asian tastes, extols the island nation's "discovery" of seafood not wrapped in newspapers and surrounded by "chips," and visits a chef who blends old traditions and new ideas to create a blood pudding not to be forgotten.
¢ In other travel news, "Antiques Roadshow" (7 p.m., PBS) offers the first of several shows from Hawaii.
¢ Walter Cronkite hosts "Great Performances" (1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., PBS, check local listings), a presentation of the New Year's celebration from Vienna featuring the Vienna Philharmonic, under the direction of Zubin Mehta.
¢ Michigan and USC meet in the Rose Bowl (3:30 p.m., ABC).
¢ Horses, hunks and hotties loom large in the third-season premiere of "Wildfire" (7 p.m., Family).
¢ Boise State and Oklahoma meet in the Fiesta Bowl (7 p.m., Fox).
¢ On three episodes of "Heroes" (NBC), awkward power trips (7 p.m.), some discover melded powers (8 p.m.), dramatic news (9 p.m.).