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William Shatner & Terry Bradshaw – It’s Never Too Late

Updated: Mar 23, 2020

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER -- "A Thai Goodbye" Episode 10506 -- Pictured: (l-r) William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER — “A Thai Goodbye” Episode 10506 — Pictured: (l-r) William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw — (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

William Shatner & Terry Bradshaw

It’s Never Too Late

by Jay S. Jacobs

Better Late Than Never has one of the crazier television premises to come along in a while.  Take four pop culture living legends – two from television and two from athletics: William Shatner, a/k/a Captain Kirk of Star Trek, Henry Winkler better known as the Fonz, four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Terry Bradshaw and former two-time heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman – and dump them far outside of their comfort zone.

Why not, the producers (which included Winkler) thought, drop them off in the middle of Asia for a month, with only their wits, their camera crew, and a younger sidekick in the form of comedian Jeff Dye, to keep them safe?  Put them in lots of crazy situations and let the hijinx occur.  Oh, sure, this leads to inevitable reality TV staples like making them eat gross stuff, including steak seasoned with dirt and chicken vagina, but the natural gravitas and strong personalities of the stars often make things extremely funny and often surprisingly introspective.

The mini-series (the first season has only four shows) has become a surprise summer hit, and in the days leading up to season finale, we were able to take part in a conference call with co-stars William Shatner and Terry Bradshaw.

We’re right on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek today. Reflect back when you were a young captain, what did you think the odds were that that show would still be famous now? Also what did you think the odds were that 50 years later you’d be doing a TV show where you climb 800 steps?

William Shatner: Well, I think the same odds that Terry and I will be icons 50 years from now based on Better Late Than Never. After four shows you know it’s a phenomenon and it’s going to last another 50 years. Those would be the odds. We were doing a middling successful TV show for three years. It was canceled and everybody thought that’s it. On to the next thing. Then slowly it snowballed. Even while it was rolling down the hill, gathering speed and momentum, nobody fully realized it. Every one of the [Star Trek] movies that I made, six or seven movies, they would burn the sets to have room for some other show, because they figured that was the last movie.

Better Late Than Never

Better Late Than Never

The 800 steps, did you really walk up them?

William Shatner: Terry carried me over the 799th. He staggered up there and said, “I’ll help you buddy.” I just depended on him.

Could you reflect on the success of this show? Did you know going into it you had something special?

William Shatner: Terry?

Terry Bradshaw: I had no idea that this show would be successful. I’ve been a part of… I don’t know… four, five, pilots that never made it. Yet we got a chance to actually shoot this show. While we were doing it, I was so hot and miserable and hurting, that I never gave any thought that this thing would just be more than what it was; four shows, six shows. Then you sit around and you go, well will it be picked up? Who knows that? You just move on. I know it was fun. I wanted to continue because it was so much fun. But I’m not privy and savvy enough to know what America is going to want to watch. That’s what’s kind of cool about this show.

William Shatner: I agree with that. You just don’t know what America is going to watch. It’s a great phrase. We were staggering around in the monsoon season in East Asia. Tripping over each other’s feet. Eating each other’s worms and octopus. Unshaven, unkempt and miserable at times. Joyous at others. We were just fending for ourselves, trying to help each other with no thought of how this is going to sell. The fact that it is as successful as it is comes as a surprise, certainly to me.

Better Late Than Never

Better Late Than Never

Going into a potential second season, how different will it be knowing what you’re dealing with now, versus going into unknown territory the first time?

Terry Bradshaw: Can I answer? As a matter of fact, Bill, I talked to Jeff Dye this morning before I left Dallas. I said – and I don’t know that we have the second season – but if we do, now that I know Bill, George, Henry and Jeff and the producers and the folks at NBC and I understand now what they’re cutting this thing up to be, the second season will be more exciting for me. I walked into the unknown and I’ve got to tell you, it was so humid and so miserable. (laughs) All I would want is to make sure we don’t go south again or go to Asia.

William Shatner: Into the snow, we’ve got to go into the snow.

Terry Bradshaw: My God! Yes, I was miserable, just miserable.

William Shatner: It was miserable. I haven’t watched any of the shows, so I really don’t know what they’re doing. People have commented and I’ve listened to their comments. But the danger is now that we know what works and what doesn’t work, we’re liable to go and do what we think is working. Without the knowledge of what the reason that the stuff works is, because we didn’t know whether it would work or not. Is that obtuse reasoning?

Terry Bradshaw: I don’t think on a show like this though Bill, I mean, they could have said look, here’s what we want and our stumbling, bumbling personalities all came together as we tried to figure out what they want. That will be the same thing here. You can’t contrive this stuff. You can’t make up the dialogue. You just do it. Therefore I think it will be funny. If you haven’t watched any of it, I mean, it’s funny. Seriously funny. It is funny. It reaches my people. And my people, as you well know, talk like I do. It reaches them, they love it.

William Shatner: Hell, I talk like you do and I’m from Montreal.

Terry Bradshaw: I know.

William Shatner: It sounds wonderful. Keeping that spontaneous approach is critical. That’s what we would aim for. Yes, exactly.

I’m from Pennsylvania so I have to say go Steelers.

Terry Bradshaw: Yes, or Eagles. Or Eagles.

True. I know you guys really obviously didn’t go to the DMZ (Korean Demilitarized Zone) but did you really believe that you did? How did you react when you found out it was all fake?

Terry Bradshaw: Nobody told me it was fake. (laughs)

William Shatner: Nobody told me it was fake.

Terry Bradshaw: I’m telling you, I was not comfortable in a lot of things we did, but that DMZ deal… yes, I mean, you see it. I’m tall. I’m staring this thing down and I’m going, really? I mean, really? I mean I was a little bit nervous about it and then you know obviously Jeff sticks that thing. It’s funny. It’s stupid funny.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER -- "Phuket" Episode 105 -- Pictured: (l-r) -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER — “Phuket” Episode 105 — Pictured: (l-r) — (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

William Shatner: When we got there, I thought that was the place. It looks very much like it. When this North Korean officer was talking to us, I was looking at his uniform. It was quite warm. It was like the braid was unbraiding, and the elbows. I thought, wow, it is really a poverty-stricken nation. Then when it was revealed as a joke, I was put out. I sat down. I thought, “I don’t want to be part of this.”

Terry Bradshaw: Well, I was mad because I really wanted that story to be real.

William Shatner: Yes, we were both upset. We were both upset that it wasn’t real.

Terry Bradshaw: Exactly. When the guy on the other side, the North Vietnamese guy says, what? Go Pittsburgh or…

William Shatner: The fact that some people knew it was real and some of us didn’t, that stuck at me too. I mean, what is the policy? Is the policy to look like an idiot in front of everybody else or to be in on the  know? Those are editorial decisions that had to be made like working it out. Did Shatner and Bradshaw not know and we tell everybody else?

Terry Bradshaw: I told you, I didn’t know. When the parking lot was empty I thought man alive, are we that stupid that we’re the only idiots that are going to park? Then we parked God knows, out in the middle of nowhere.

William Shatner: Exactly.

Terry Bradshaw: We got closer and I’m like, really, are we stupid here? We’re going to go up to this? It looks just I suppose like the DMZ. I mean, I had no idea.

William Shatner: It was very much like it and the geographical conditions… well it was only about 20 miles away so the geography was very similar.

Terry Bradshaw: How about the jets? Do you remember the jets coming over Bill?

William Shatner: And the jets coming over.

Terry Bradshaw: Exactly. Nuts. Anyway, it got me.

William Shatner: Got me!

Terry Bradshaw: Yes, the guy spoke better English than I did though.