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By Stephanie Frederic, Sentinel Entertainment Editor
When TV Land approached two-time boxing champ George Foreman about allowing cameras to shadow him 24/7 to possibly shoot a reality show with not only him, but his family too, at their Houston, Texas ranch, Foreman didn’t hesitate one second.
Now, selling his wife and all of his children on the idea of cameras all over the house took some doing, but it all worked out. A few months later, FAMILY FOREMAN, was born and the reality show is now on television, Wednesday nights at 10pm. Watching the Foremans is indeed good, clean, family fun. After-all, George Sr. is a minister in addition to a sports icon, entrepreneur and grillionaire.
“My life has been an open book anyway, “ says Foreman Sr. “And sometimes guys are peeping over the windows and peeping over the gates taking pictures of me anyway,” I just said come on in. To be on TV is every child’s dream and I’m still a child at heart.”
How did Foreman sell the wife and kids? Keep in mind, this is the man who has sold 100 million boxes of those George Foreman grills to seemingly every household around the globe, and he’s also the oldest man to ever hold the title of heavyweight champ and he did it at age 45.
“At first they didn’t (like) it, “ says Foreman Sr. speaking about the initial response from the family when talking about taking on reality TV. “Most of them have been celebrities for a long time. They started off doing these Meinke commercials, the grill commercials, Oscar Meyer Wiener commericals so they were like, “Can we have a break now?” But Dad made a convincing argument. “I told them this is a good chance for people to find out something about you other than - I know who your father is and they jumped on board instantly.”
It was his son George who decided to do this? That’s George No. 3. Which George you say? You see all of his sons are named George and his daughters are named Georgette. Seems like that would get a little confusing around the house right? When you see the TV show - it’s actually comical. If someone screams George, everyone answers.
How does Daddy Foreman explain the craziness? “I tell everybody when you’ve been hit on the head by Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Evander Holyfield, Muhammad Ali, how many names do you expect me to know,” he retorts with a big smile. “It would be confusing if they weren’t all George.”
The confusion has also helped one or two of the boys when there was trouble. “I love it,” says George Foreman IV who’s nicknamed Big Wheel. “Say you got a letter from school saying George missed class or George acted up today, or George was mean at recess, I’d say, ‘Who did it? It wasn’t me.”
“I didn’t like it because (Dad) would always read all my love letters,” says George III, better known as Monk. “When they came in the mail, he’d say, ‘Oh, George Foreman, hmmm’ and he’d always be in my business since the time I was a youngster.”
The three Georges appeared before the Television Critics Association in Beverly Hills and in their extended question and answer session about every subject imaginably from a ballroom full of TV writers, the Foremans - dad and the two of the sons - were an undisputed knockout.
On whether they have watched tape of Dad’s famous 1973 fight where Foreman beat Joe Frazier?
“Oh, yeah,” they respond. “It’s a short fight,” says George III. “So every time you watch it, you see it about five, ten times. But it’s amazing because when you look at him, it just seems like a totally different guy.”
“I love watching his old fights,” says George IV. “It reminds me of almost myself, like Oh, look at that,” Joe Frazier is a beast, but it’s great.”
When prompted to tell us something about their famous father that most people don’t know? At this point, Dad elevates his gigantic fist as if to threaten both young men and everyone starts laughing.
“That’s the real George Foreman,” No. 3 says. “In honesty, he’s the ringleader. He’s the best person at effectuating practical jokes and he’s always playing jokes on us.” George IV chimes in, “and he rubbed off on each of us. Now we all constantly tease each other. Imagine ten of the biggest jokesters in one room. It’s fun, but it’s hectic.”
And watching FAMILY FOREMAN on the reality show, you get to meet the entire family of George, George, George, and George and George, well - you get the picture. “There’s 10 kids, everyone is a star. Everyone’s made for TV,” says George IV. “True salesmen - just like dear old dad.
To help you understand who’s who on the show, we’ll have to use their nicknames. Monk is the oldest still living at home. He’s also his Dad’s manager and keeps him on schedule. Natalie is a student who is an aspiring singer, Big Wheel is a student and aspiring lawyer, Leola is the youngest daughter who just turned 21, Red is the budding sports star (They nicknamed him Red because they had agreed to stop having children), but then came Joe - he’s the youngest. The four oldest children are grown and living away from their father’s Texas ranch.
In the first episode, Foreman is fighting empty-nest syndrome. His youngest daughter is about to celebrate her 21st birthday and he’s wondering what on earth he’s going to do once they’re all gone.
Daddy Foreman gets a little sentimental, but then suddenly decides to start boxing again - professionally. Before he can wrapup his first training session with Monk, someone spills the beans to Mom and the real fight is on.
It’s hilarious to watch this heavyweight champion sheepishly defend his “need” to get back into the ring. It’s also fun to see how the kids deal with Mom and Dad not quite getting along. Unlike other reality shows, no cussing, no wild and wacky kids with outrageous behavior - no famous father hurling unmentionables at the neighbors - just a family dealing with a disagreement and working it out - without the crazy drama you see on most reality TV shows however, Family Foreman is still interesting.
“It’s so important, now for me especially, to show family and reality because I go around the country and there are a lot of fathers jumping ship these days,” says the legendary boxer. He’s a minister and a highly successful pitchman for the George Foreman grill and mufflers. But, the title of which he is most proud is “Dad.” And he seems to want to show America how a strong family really operates and exists especially in the African American community.
“You just got to spend time,” says George - the Dad. “Don’t be afraid to love your kids. Tell them you love them. That will ring louder than anything.” That’s exactly what viewers will witness when you tune-in to see in Family Foreman plus much more.
For more than 31 years, Daddy Foreman has been a preacher, a minister at the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Houston. “That’s what I really do,” says Foreman. “I moonlight as a grill salesmen to feed all of these kids, but in reality - that’s what I do. I’m a preacher.
And Foreman has no problems spelling out his faith on TV. “My faith is my faith.” He preaches 2-3 times a week in Houston. “I’m the speaker and the best floor mopper around”
George Foreman is also a great role model. FAMILY FOREMAN is entertaining, but it’s not quite the Cosbys, but close. And it’s the sport legend, and his pleasing personality and funny facial expressions that make the show worth watching.
“There’s never a dull moment,” says George III.
Almost makes you wish you were born into the family and your name was George.
FAMILY FOREMAN AIRS WEDNESDAY AT 10PM ON TV LAND