NBC has apparently grown weary of reality television that focusses on talent shows. Better Late Than Never features four older (one much older) American celebrities on a travelogue for the aged. They are led across Asia by a man at least half their age. (In Shatner’s case, Dye is young enough to be a grandson or even great grandson…Just saying.)
William Shatner is the oldest at 85. The iconic performer is still a marvel to watch, even when he is not acting. (Even injured he is a force to be reckoned with. At the 2014 Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas he zoomed all over the con on a motorized vehicle because of a broken foot or ankle.) It is Shatner’s presence that could make this interesting.
This is a man that has evoked the ire of most Star Trek cast members at one time or another. The late James Doohan loathed the man and was not adverse to saying so when he was alive. George Takei is still feuding with Bill and even Nichelle Nichols has stated that Shatner was often oblivious of his co-workers.
In truth, it appears that the star has a bigger than life personality that can easily override those with lesser abilities. To survive in the Shatner shade one must, like Henry Winkler in the first episode, be ready to stand fast against the force that is William Shatner.
Winkler earned his fame, like Shatner, on the small screen as well. He is equally iconic. How could he not be? Henry was the “Fonz” on Happy Days. With a leather jacket (after the first season), two thumbs up and a cool “hey,” Winkler made Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli a household name nearly a decade after Shatner commanded the Enterprise.
The final two older gentlemen represent the world of sport. Football legend Terry Bradshaw, and boxing legend George Foreman complete this quartet of aged American travelers. The former Pittsburg Steelers quarterback bravely sports a straw cowboy hat and sandals in Tokyo. He also has a fear of heights and is derisory towards professional actors.
George Foreman is the quietist of the lot and also the most easy going. Not bad for a two-time world heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist.
Jeff Dye is a comedian and upcoming actor who is given the chore of leading these men around Asia, beginning with Tokyo.
It is celebrity reality television that caters to Americans who are of a certain age. Ones who have not spent hours browsing the YouTube videos of, for instance, Eat Your Kimchi‘s Simon and Martina, who are currently living in Japan.
Younger viewers are most likely already aware of capsule hotels at the very least. Another thing that most YouTube habitués will recognize are the Japanese (and Korean) television game shows. These differ from anything on offer in America and in England.
Eating, featured quite often on a number of YouTube channels, was the star of this first travel installment. The five men feast on pork vaginas and ovaries. All “on a stick” and accompanied with other delicacies that are not mentioned.
They also eat in a restaurant where the chef’s main cooking ingredient is dirt.
Better Late Than Never is a cute-ish idea and it is funny, in that contrived way that reality TV has with scripting scenarios meant to be amusing. It loses some of its charm when one considers that these gentlemen earn much more than your average wage earner and could afford to do this on their own dime, so to speak.
It is played for laughs. The humor is derived from a combination of “ugly American” obtuseness and disdain for anything foreign. It is no coincidence that the food eaten was odd and slightly nauseating. (However, it is odd that they chose Japan to show weird eating habits. China has cornered the market on grotesque foodstuffs…)
The “Today” show that all five men appear on also features food and like many Asian TV programs is nothing at all like American television. Henry gets the Wasabi in a game of sushi Russian roulette and the entire thing is high octane entertainment from the Japanese hosts.
All in all, it is funny and not a bad way to spend an hour of your time. For those who know nothing of Japan it will be somewhat informative. Fans of any of these men will enjoy seeing them interact with one another “naturally.”
Better Late Than Never airs Tuesdays on NBC. It will not win any Emmys but it is interesting and good natured in its purpose.