Hit or Sh**: NBC’s BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
It’s entirely understandable that the four aging celebrities on BETTER LATE THAN NEVER would want to travel to Asia and check boxes off their bucket lists while making silly, occasionally racist remarks. What I don’t understand is why NBC thought we’d want to watch that. Granted this is far from the worst reality programming that I’ve ever come across, and maybe there are baby boomers out there who are comforted to know that celebrities from their era would be just as awkward in another culture as they would be. Heck, we even get a couple minutes of real talk from these guys about the dread of their impending deaths! But hidden gems aside, the bulk of this pilot is four senior citizens and their unbearable sidekick Jeff going to various iconic places in Japan and making the same tired jokes based off of the same tired stereotypes that those guys probably heard when they were 14.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER opens up with Henry Winkler, ostensibly the leader as the one who is currently most famous, calling up his longtime friends (?) William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw, and George Foreman. He also invites this asshole named Jeff Dye to hold their bags and shit. After deciding to go to Asia via spinning a globe, they land in Japan and Bradshaw immediately declares that there are a lot of short people there. BOOOOOOM.
The previews promise that at some point Foreman will box Shatner, which could make it all worth it
All of BLTN’s major flaws are made known during the first 15 minutes of the show and fester throughout the remaining 30. Problem Number One is most certainly the overbearing grandpa-level racism. They’re never directly mean or dickish to anyone, but the show’s humor relies so heavily on the audience feeling befuddled by things like cubicle hotels or a karaoke bus or a Japanese talk show or any of the things we learned about Japan by reading Cracked in middle school. We’re expected to feel the same level of culture shock as they do, but most people saw all of this on Youtube years ago.
Problem Number Two is the celebrities thinking that we will perceive their relationship with each other as genuine friendship. Now, I have no idea what any of these people do in their private lives, and they may very well be homies off camera. But every conversation they have with each other — every argument, every zinger, every stunt — feels forced. They fit too cleanly into their archetypes, and suffer from the common reality TV problem of not sounding like real people. Winkler is happy-go-lucky, Shatner is a sassy dick, Bradshaw is brash and outspoken, and Foreman is the quiet one. Jeff is a non-presence on the show, speaking only to provide plot movement and to deliver the one-liners that were too cringey for Shatner.
For reference, this was not considered too cringey for Shatner
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER is supposedly only going to be four episodes long and, with any luck, will never be heard from again. Any value that can be derived from their conversations about sports, acting, and life — the things that these people actually know things about — is overshadowed entirely by unfunny activities, pre-planned zingers that try to pass as spur of the moment wit, and a persistent inability to make their racism funny.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER airs on Tuesdays on NBC