Better Late Than Never: Winkler, Shatner, Foreman and Bradshaw Tour Asia. Hilarity Ensues.

Better Late Than Never cast 2016 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
Terry Bradshaw, William Shatner, Jeff Dye, Henry Winkler and George Foreman are "Better Late Than Never"

Better Late Than Never premieres Tuesday, Aug. 23 at 10/9CT.

Henry Winkler and William Shatner are sitting on a bus in Thailand, watching George Foreman and Terry Bradshaw sing karaoke duets.

No, it’s not the start of an epic joke. Or the kind of post-bender dream that makes you wonder if you should give up the sauce entirely or indulge a bit more often. It’s just one of the excellent adventures the four legends of sports and entertainment tackle together in NBC’s new Winkler-coproduced series Better Late Than Never.

Inspired by the Korean reality smash Grandpas Over Flowers (that’s not a joke either), the show features the quartet — plus comic Jeff Dye, who serves as their bellhop, chauffeur, instigator and whipping boy — embarking on a 35-day trip through Tokyo, Kyoto, Seoul, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Getting to know each other as they embrace — and sometimes not — the local culture, cuisine and people, the gents show off talents, facets and funny bones that could surprise even ardent fans.

“It was delicious,” beams Winkler, 70, who helped select his travel mates. “It was from 7:30 in the morning until 10 at night. It was traveling with 100 people and 300 suitcases, and nobody and nothing got lost. It was exotic, it was eye-opening, it was beautiful, it was strenuous — it was a gift that fell out of the heavens!”

As did some of the local fare. Shatner says he willingly munched crickets (but passed on slugs), while Winkler marveled at “George Foreman walking down the street, eating bugs with the wingspan of a 747.” The former Fonz himself braved a meal of still-writhing octopus. He offers a tip: “You have to watch that a suction cup doesn’t grab hold of the inside of your cheek. Once ya got it in there, it doesn’t taste bad.”

While the men immersed themselves in the wonders of each locale and all the culture-shock comedy that resulted, both Winkler and Shatner say their most treasured moments came, literally, at the hands of their fellow travelers. In other words, if you’ve seen Shatner take blows from the 67-year-old “essence of Buddha” Foreman in the series promos, fear not. He asked for it.

“I said, ‘I want to catch a pass from Terry Bradshaw — four-time Super Bowl champ — and I want to get in the ring and box with [two-time world heavyweight champion] George Foreman,’” the 85-year-old Shatner boasts. “George had told me how he was a killer in his youth. He wanted to smash people, he was such an angry young man, and that’s why he became a boxer. I thought, ‘Hmm. I want to see what’s behind all that, what’s behind the Buddha.’ I started to box him and I saw the killer emerge.”

“I still am about 12 years old and giddy at the fact that I dropped seven footballs — and then I caught the football,” Winkler adds. “Terry was excited, genuinely excited, and that made me feel like a million dollars.

“You watched Terry Bradshaw, at the table, go from this fun-loving Oklahoman, this energetic Oklahoman [Shatner’s half-joking take: ‘He’s always up to something, like a recalcitrant child. And he’s got to be dealt with like a child.’],” Winkler continues. “And all of a sudden you watched him become the four-time Super Bowl winner. You watched him tell stories, and you watched how he planned out how to get from their goal line all the way down the field, and the emotions and the decisions and the jokes and the fear and the worry. It was unbelievable. And that happened with each and every guy.”

Winkler called out Shatner’s mental agility in particular. “He has read every book written on the planet since Copernicus,” Winkler muses, “and he remembers every word that he has read and will share it with you at any given moment.”

Just don’t expect every word to be based in fact.

“If there was any competition, it was who could be funnier or who could joke,” Shatner confesses. “I didn’t want to enter that competition, so I would mostly make up ‘facts.’ I was able to sell them that I knew what I was talking about — which amused me no end!”

And laughter is the best medicine, which, says Winkler, is what Better’s all about.

“Watching Better Late Than Never will cure the common cold,” he promises. “It’s so important to your health that it’s a must!”

Better Late Than Never premieres Tuesday, Aug. 23 at 10/9CT.

About Lori Acken 1194 Articles
Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.