CNN Cancels "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy" After Two Seasons

| Fri, 12/16/2022 - 01:38
Stanley Tucci at a past edition of the Venice Film Festival

Actor Stanley Tucci has stopped searching for Italy — for now, anyway.

As part of a wider CNN rebranding that brought about cancellation of all its original programming, the network has axed Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, a popular travel- and cuisine-themed TV series that ran for two seasons and cast its star, previously known mostly for his film roles, in a sleek new light. Tucci confirmed the news earlier this week during an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, telling viewers he “hoped there would be” a third season.

“Hopefully we’ll end up on another streamer [or another] network — we don’t know,” Tucci told Fallon and the audience.

“I have plans to do season three and more,” he added, before quipping that searching for a new network was “not as appetizing” as exploring Italy.

Mapping Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy

Premiering on February 14, 2021, when much of the world was still under severe Covid-related travel restrictions, Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy saw its host explore culture and cuisine in episodes that focused on whole regions (including Sicily, Tuscany, Puglia and Liguria), geographical and cultural areas (Naples and the Amalfi Coast), and major cities (Rome, Milan, Venice, and even Tucci’s home base of London, where he highlighted how Italian immigration has shaken up the city’s dining scene).

During his Tonight Show appearance, Tucci seemed to attribute some of the show’s success to the stay-at-home lifestyle and restrictions of 2021. “We had a captive audience,” he said. “People were sort of desperate to get out, and they lived vicariously through us.” 

The show went on to become a two-time winner of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Hosted Nonfiction Series and to receive a 2021 Critic’s Choice Award for Best Travel/Adventure Series. It has also provided ample fodder for Italian travel-focused tour companies, many of whom are now offering Stanley Tucci-themed travel packages taking visitors to the sites he visited onscreen. Since the show's premiere, Tucci has also published a memoir, Taste: My Life Through Food (2021), adding to his prior credits as author of The Tucci Cookbook (2012) and The Tucci Table (2014).

Critics say Tucci's a charming TV host, a less thorough tour guide

The highest-profile criticisms leveled at the show have still been fairly mild, with some prominent food writers, like Helen Rosner of The New Yorker, claiming that the show mostly coasts on Tucci’s charisma rather than any culinary discoveries or cultural insights: “[Balsamic vinegar in Modena, pizza in Naples, and risotto in Milan are] not new, and [the show’s] gloss on the less glamorous aspects of Italian culture and history are rarely more than decorative,” Rosner wrote shortly after Searching for Italy’s premiere.

In The Atlantic, Sophie Gilbert acknowledged that the show positioned itself as wholesome escapism before comparing it to another CNN travel series, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, noting that where Bourdain’s premise was about showcasing underexplored traditions, Tucci’s emphasis was on “the most obvious spots on the Italian itinerary.” 

More recently, senior reporter at Eater Bettina Makalintal pointed to an over-saturation of Italy travel-and-food shows in the vein of Tucci’s, imploring networks to give other countries’ culinary traditions their due. 

Fallon, during Tucci’s recent appearance on his show, was more generous with his praise. “You’ve inspired people to travel and to cook,” he told Tucci. “It’s a big deal.”