There are worse things than going on an adventure later in life and a quartet of older, accomplished gentlemen deciding to go to Asia is cool enough by itself – but when those four accomplished gentlemen are Henry Winkler, William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw and George Foreman, it’s something else again.
Better Late Than Never (NBC, Tuesdays, 10/9C) follows the quartet – and their sidekick, comedian Jeff Dye – as they visit the Far East and, yes, wackiness ensues.
The series premiere opens with Winkler making a conference call to Shatner, Bradshaw and Foreman. He has this idea that perhaps the four should go off on an adventure. A finger stops a spinning globe and it’s decided: they’re going to Asia.
Now all they need is someone to help them organize things – a sidekick, if you will – and a fortuitous phone call later, comedian Jeff Dye is with them on their once in a lifetime adventure.
Not much later, the group in Tokyo and are immediately out of their element and can’t even find their way out of the train station. Dye has arranged for accommodations – at a capsule hotel – and Shatner insists they dine at a non-touristy hole in the wall restaurant that serves some extremely different dishes. Next up, they appearing on a popular Japanese game show – to the delight of Bradshaw (who seems willing to try almost anything one – except for a couple of those exotic dishes) and take a glass elevator to the top of the world-famous Tokyo Tower.
Then they are off to see Mt. Fuji (Steps! My old enemy!) – at a nearby lookout point (Mt. Fuji is an active volcano, after all) and Bradshaw and Foreman take charge on a karaoke bus trip back to their hotel. And then there’s the bar with robot fighters…
What could easily have been a clichéd inspirational bit of frippery is, instead, a slightly crazed bit of international tomfoolery.
The group is game for all kinds of challenges (the lack of modesty on the part of one of the businessmen using the hotel calls for some pixilation and takes the group aback, while some of those exotic dishes are probably not for most non-Asians.
On the other hand, all four join in the fun on Pon, the Japanese morning game show that goes from slapstick to sneaky funny (the twins on the show are great!). Bradshaw in particular feels right at home amidst the shenanigans – and only one of the group manages to not burned out by what Shatner refers to as ‘roulette with sushi.’
As the group moves from place to place we get chirons that tell us that: Shinjuku Station is the busiest in the word, or Tokyo has almost three times as many Michelin starred restaurants (Paris has 94).
Technically the editing is slick but sometimes things are not cut that might have been – as when the calm, cool, collected Winkler inexplicably drops an f-bomb (bleeped and pixelated). In that case I’m guessing that it seemed so far out of character for ‘Fonzie’ that it avoided the cutting room.
Overall, the premiere is a fast-paced, wholly nutbar adventure. If more reality/unscripted shows were this much fun, I might be tempted to watch them
There are only four episodes for the first season Better Late Than Never. Maybe the show will get such good ratings that we get ten eps.
Let ‘er rip, NBC! You’got a good one here!
Final Grade: A-