Review: Better Late Than Never

better-late-than-never-nbcThis review is Better Late Than Never. That’s because the series Better Late Than Never has already aired two hour-long episodes.

That’s already about 100 minutes too much of this sorry little celebrity travelogue.

The casting is intriguing for TV buffs: William Shatner, 85, Henry Winkler, 70, Terry Bradshaw and George Foreman, both 67. Who doesn’t love these guys?

If even one was named Letterman, however, you’d have a much more interesting series. This thing is crying out for a sense of irony.

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One of the more natural moments from the series

It’s also painfully obvious that the series is scripted. You can see and hear where pithy comments are dropped in during post-production. Everybody is hammered into their boxes: Shatner is a know-it-all prima dona, Bradshaw is a good ol’ country hick, “Fonzie” is, well, Fonzie. Forman has a bunch of kids named George.

With them is their “mascot,” comedian Jeff Dye, who doesn’t add much to the proceedings. They should have cast a TV critic, preferably Alan Sepinwall. He could have asked the right questions, nudged things along and he’s way funnier than Dye.

Shatner pissing everybody off is pretty much the story. He drives Bradshaw nuts but by the end of the second episode they’re in love. It’s like Love Boat meets The Osbournes.

The exotic locales are interesting, but this Amazing Race is less amazing at this senior’s pace. Seeing these TV icons giggling at night after too much Saki or slapped around by Korean ninjas gets old fast.

The product placement is off the charts, too. Episode Two had so many lingering shots of the Intercontinental Hotel in Hong Kong I think I collected points just for watching. Shatner asks Foreman about the George Foreman Grill and that leads to a two-minute infomercial.

The whole thing, in fact, feels like an infomercial. It doesn’t seem to belong on network TV, not even in the summertime.

Watching made me think of the PBS food and travel series I’ll Have What Phil is Having. That’s a superior blend of celebrity and travel and the difference was Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal. You bought into his road trip because he was so enthusiastic about where he was taking everybody, plus he is smart and witty and a great tour guide.

These four look like their having fun at times, but there is no hiding the fact that they’re all going through these motions because NBC called and offered to put wads of cash in their bank accounts. Good for them, but unless Letterman is ready to hit the road, no more of these manipulated home movies for me, thanks. If you can’t get enough of these guys, it airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

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