What would happen if you sent your uninhibited grandfather and three of his friends on a seemingly haphazard excursion across Asia? If Henry Winkler, William Shatner, George Foreman and Terry Bradshaw are any indication, there would be plenty of hilarity.
“Better Late Than Never” is a surprisingly delightful (albeit ridiculous) late-summer entry for NBC, which usually does well this time of year thanks to reality staples “America’s Got Talent” and “American Ninja Warrior.” Unlike those offerings, this new series is billed as an “alternative comedy” – in other words, an older-skewing celebreality show – thanks to flashy split-screen editing, rapid scene cuts, current music and situations reminiscent of “Bad Grandpa.” It’s an American remake of the popular South Korean series “Grandpas Over Flowers.”
The premise is simple enough: Winkler, who also serves as executive producer, calls up his three real-life buddies and asks them to go on an adventure alongside the unknown “sidekick” type, Jeff Dye. Over the course of the series they travel to four countries and explore six cities, in which they push each other to go a little further, sleep in ridiculous quarters and experience the local culture.
In the premiere that means heading to Tokyo, where Winkler, still best-known as Fonzie from “Happy Days,” mugs for the local tourists (even though they don’t know him), Shatner takes the guys out for a dinner of pork genitalia, and Dye books the group into a Capsule Hotel – a place where Japanese men reportedly book a stay in a coffin-like room on nights they’re too drunk to go home. It sounds gimmicky and completely set up, but with this bunch it works. These are men who have certainly earned their fame on their own merits, but parlayed it over time into lasting legacies thanks to cheesy album releases, cameos, commercials and the like. None of them are afraid to poke fun at themselves or are worried about not being taken seriously, and that’s where the real fun comes in.
Shatner cracks jokes about Priceline and former athlete/grill-master Foreman can admit he’s too damned old to climb steps to see Mt. Fuji in all its glory. Meanwhile they all ride each other over their respective idiosyncrasies and will do pretty much anything for a laugh. That includes riding a mechanical horse, jiggling around in a vintage weight-loss machine and fighting each other in giant life-sized robots at an after-hours club.
These guys may not be as young as they once were, but they prove you’re never too old to accomplish the things on your bucket list. Sure, there is some concern for their general well-being thanks to challenging treks, a hectic schedule and situations that don’t exactly look comfortable for a 20-year-old to partake in, let alone an octogenarian. But by the end of the episode that becomes one of the jokes, as they ponder who might drop out first. (Current bets are on Shatner, at 85 the oldest of the bunch.)
If you’ve ever dreamed about taking a vacation with your wild and wacky grandfather, this will certainly provide you with all of the motivation you need. But if that isn’t in the cards, “Better Late Than Never” is definitely something you can watch together.
“Better Late Than Never” premieres Aug. 23 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.