Cast: Henry Winkler (“The Water Boy,” “Happy Days”), William Shatner (“Star Trek,” “TJ Hooker”), former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw (“Fox NFL Sunday”), Boxer and grill salesman George Foreman, Jeff Dye (“Money from Strangers”)
Airs: The series premieres Tuesday, August 23 at 8 p.m. on NBC
The premise: Henry Winkler, William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw, George Foreman and comedian Jeff Dye travel throughout Asia for 30 days in search of an intimate life-changing experience. The five navigate their way through different cities, chatting with locals, immersing themselves in local traditions and enjoying exotic food all while dealing with the unexpected twists and turns that any trip presents. The one hour series will visit Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan; Seoul, South Korea; Hong Kong; and Phuket and Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Highs and Lows:
If you enjoyed the 2007 Moran Freeman/Jack Nicholson film “The Bucket List” you’re certain to like “Better Late Than Never.” The series is part travel show, part reality series and part comedy, which leads to it being immensely watchable. Four icons from the world of sports and entertainment being game enough to explore a culture they are clearly unfamiliar with is quite a sight.
In the pilot episode the group goes to Japan. Viewers will observe these well known pop culture figures be brave enough to try almost anything. That includes participating in a Japanese game show, sleeping in a hotel with rooms the size of a large refrigerator and climbing a lot of stairs. Hey, when you’re old enough to collect Social Security stairs are no joke. Not one of these gentlemen is under the age of 67 (Shatner is 85), so seeing how willing they are to dive into new experiences is inspiring.
Interspersed between all the silliness are factoids about local culture that show up onscreen. We’re actually learning something while watching famous Americans be silly for the camera.
The pilot is buoyed by three figures. I’ve always hated the Pittsburgh Steelers but I enjoy watching Terry Bradshaw be the loud American who just wants to have a good time. His self deprecating sense of humor is a hoot, especially when he mentions his singing career. Henry Winkler, who could be the nicest man in Hollywood, and William Shatner are a great pair and could have carried the premise of the show all by themselves. They bicker like an old married couple. Winkler makes fun of Shatner for his immense ego. Shatner teases Winkler for playing it safe. They’re the heart of the show.
Unfortunately George Foreman and Jeff Dye don’t really add anything to the group. Foreman seems like a nice enough fellow but doesn’t have the gregariousness to compete with natural hams like Shatner, Winkler and Bradshaw. Dye, clearly not the focus of the series, does what he should - stay in the background. But the times he’s onscreen helping narrate isn’t nearly as compelling as when one of the four main travelers are doing it.
Grade: (C+): While it can sometimes be hard to tell how much of the series is producer orchestrated, I still got a kick out of “Better Late Than Never.” If you’re of a certain age you can’t help but find the travels of these four seniors both adorable and humorous.
Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.