Interview with Jason Ehrlich of "Better Late Than Never" on NBC - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite
 

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By Suzanne

Better Late Than Never cast

Interview with Jason Ehrlich, Executive Producer of "Better Late Than Never" on NBC 9/12/16

Last week, I was on a conference call interview with William Shatner and Terry Bradshaw, two of the legends that are stars in this show. Shatner is one of my idols. Unfortunately, they only had a half an hour, and too many press people on the line, so I didn't get a chance to ask any questions. However, NBC was nice enough to let me have a one-on-one interview with the show's Executive Producer, Jason Ehrlich. He was very nice on the phone and a real fan of these guys. I hope you got to watch the show because it's really funny (Read My Review!).

Here's a recording of our interview, and here's the transcript by Gisele.

1. What specifically do you do for the show?

I've been executive producer and showrunner for "Better Late Than Never" for quite a long time, starting with the initial creative concept, which is "Where do we go?" and "What do we do when we get there?" I got to do a lot of research on all the countries and the locations, which was incredibly fun to figure out all of that -- all the wondrous things that are out there in the world. Then I was also heavily involved with casting. We brought in Henry [Winkler] first. We were so lucky to have him. And then we brought in Bill [Shatner] and George [Foreman] and Terry [Bradshaw] and rounded out the cast with Jeff [Dye]. My job was to talk them through. Those meetings were fantastic, 'cause you introduce them to the show, and then I would start to talk about what we were going to get to do, and they just got so excited, which was the best part. These incredible legends who have led such interesting lives suddenly to share with them all these things they were going to do that they'd never gotten to do was wonderful. Then we began the process of planning the trip, and we had a massive team that worked with us; Lisa Higgins is the co-executive producer of the show, and she helped to bring all of that together to figure out how to get 60 people in and out of these countries and get them moving around. As we figured out all the logistics of all of that, we were figuring out the creative narrative of what they were going to do all those days and all of that. Then we headed off on the road, and I was there every day making the plan for what we were going to do and making sure that everybody moved safely and healthfully through these countries; but more importantly, making sure that what we got on film was funny and incredible, and thanks to the chemistry of these guys, it was. They are funny and wonderful, and in every location, they really showed up to play and they dove in head-first and, reluctantly or not, they really took on every challenge and experienced this journey, and that was the best part. By the end of this, they had come so far in terms of what they were experiencing on this trip, which was incredible. Then we brought it back in, and this was a particularly-difficult edit, because there was just so much great material, and so it was basically figuring out how to piece it all together, how to put it together. That's when we arrived at a producer named Chris Stott. We wanted to do travel facts, but we didn't want it to feel like a travel log, more like a sitcom or a reality version of a sitcom, and so, putting the facts in on the full screen was his brilliance. He is a genius. And really made the show pace out nicely. And then it was important to us and it was important to everybody at NBC that we put in really great music throughout the cut and that it just becomes, and I think we achieved it, this really fun, wild ride, where you travel intimately with these guys, where you laugh along with them, and you watch the show saying, "I can't wait to see where we go next." It's like you learn something, you laugh, and my only thought is, hopefully, people are showing it to their kids, because I think they'll learn a thing or two. There's a huge general benefit. My son now knows all about Japan. He's so interested in Japan and Korea and China, just because I've been there, and he's seen my pictures, and I've taught him the languages, and all of that, and I hope that people will share this with their kids. It's a really fun way... One of the most important messages is we're so inundated with news about how awful the world is, but if you really go out there and see it, it's fantastic!

2. Whose idea was it to turn the Korean show into an American one?

I wish I could take credit for it, but that was Paul. The format was purchased and brought over here, and they picked it up at NBC, and I was an on-staff producer at NBC, and I heard about the project, and I kind of mentioned that I was interested, and I was lucky enough that they put me on it. I swear, I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. I get to travel around the world with legends, guys that I never imagined that I would ever meet, and here I am getting to become friends with them, travel with them, and do great work with them. It was just -- it's incredible, to make comedy and travel around the world. There are probably... I shouldn't say this on an interview, because there are many jobs out there that are ?? The one responsible for picking it up was Paul Telegdy; he is a visionary at NBC. I believe when he first heard about the show, he said "Just the thought of these guys wandering around, makes me smile."

3. How were the 5 men chosen?

They knew each other on a minor professional level. We introduced them, and they actually sat down, but I always say, "You really don't know someone until you've traveled with them." You'll know if you ever want to spend any more time with them after that. Luckily these guys do. We brought them in, and we got very lucky that the guys that we were interested in were interested in doing that. So, to have Bill who's an icon, to have Henry, who's a legend, and then we thought, "Who would you want to travel all over the world with?" Terry Bradshaw is just one of the funniest guys you'll ever meet, and he always has a smile on his face, and he's always in a good mood, and it just worked out so well. People know him from football obviously, but again, you think of Terry Bradshaw, you kind of get a smile on your face, and the same thing goes for George Foreman. The guy is an icon. He's had such an interesting, incredible life, and we were lucky that it all clicked. And the second Henry and George sat down for the first time they met, they bonded instantly. I walked into this meeting and thought, "How lucky am I just to be a fly on the wall of this meeting, let alone the producer of the show, but to see the two of them... The first thing they bonded over was their fear. Henry said, "I'm terrified to go on this trip, but the only thing that scares me more is not going." George said he felt the same way. He said, "I always use fear as a motivator, and he told the story on the show in the first episode, but he said the only time he didn't have fear was when he went into the ring with Mohammad Ali and that's when he lost. All of that from a 15-minute meeting over at NBC, and then we knew that they had to travel together.

4. The show is doing really well in the ratings. Do you think there will be a second season?

We hope. Everything is crossed, and we hope that we're going to get out and do it again. God willing, it'll be incredible. We know that they're talking about it. We know that they're figuring it out, and the people way above all of us are going to make those decisions. It comes down to business, but hopefully, the show is doing well and will be on a lot more.

5. Would it be the same celebrities or different ones?

Same guys. I would like to travel. We got so lucky that they have such great chemistry, and if we switched it up, I don't think we'd be as lucky. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. These guys are just wonderful. They all wanna go somewhere cooler, but I don't know if we're gonna be able to do that for them. Hopefully, eventually, you know, what a gift if we get to see the world together and show the world... That's one thing that's really... I want... The message that the world really is a wonderful place; but even more so, I hope that there are people that are sitting at home watching the show, nudging their spouses and saying, "We've got to go on our own 'Better late than never' trip. Everybody has a place that they say, "Oh, someday, I'm gonna go there. Someday." I hope that this inspires those people to say, "Well, let's go now." That's what's so wonderful about all of this is that the courage these guys had of trusting us and going out there and doing this was a great gift that they gave us.

6. What was Carol Leifer's involvement with the show?

So, Carol was great. The way that we wanted the show to work is that we don't ever want anybody acting, it's more about reacting. But we also want to be entertaining and all of that. So, we would let them react. They would do like if they were eating the yakitori, they react, and then Carol was great at coming up with some of the situations and allow these guys to really react in fun ways. What we were all responsible for was basically making sure that we came back with a really fun and entertaining show, so Carol really helped. Carol herself is a legend and a good friend, and it was really fun getting to work with her. Some of the interview bites, they would say something, and we could punch them up, and we could make them a little funnier. But to be honest, Henry and Bill in the two-person interviews, are pretty darn funny on their own. They're amazing.

7. Why only 4 episodes?

We actually went to six different cities, but NBC was fortunate enough to give us a really good lead-in with "America's Got Talent." With the Olympics being on and the election coming up, there was this slot that we could fit into, so they came to us and said, to their credit, "Look, we want to give you the best lead-in you could get, being AGT, but here's the price and, unfortunately, we had to shorten it. So what we did was, in some episodes, we visited two cities, and that's why we did that, but it was a very good lead-in and so it really helped get the awareness up for the show. If we do more, hopefully, we will do a lot more than four.

8. Do you think NBC was surprised that these four "old guys" would get such good ratings?

Yes and no. I think that we just loved the show and so, I think, you really never know what's going to work and what doesn't. As long as I've been doing this, you never know what's going to work and what is not going to work, but you always know what you love. And we loved this show, and everybody over at NBC really loved it and supported it. It's kind of like this little darling show that everyone has gotten behind. It's just been so wonderful and terrific.

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