George Foreman

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — For George Foreman, putting himself on TV in a reality show isn't much of a leap.

"Forty years ago, I won an Olympic gold medal, and my life has been an open book anyway. And sometimes guys are peeping over the windows and peeping over the gates taking pictures of me anyway. I just said, 'Come on in.' That's all," Foreman said. "It's a great opportunity, I think. To be on television (is) every child's dream, and I'm still a child at heart."

But "Family Foreman" features not just George but his entire family — his wife and 10 children. And they weren't enthusiastic about doing the show quite as quickly as George was.

"At first they didn't because most of them has been celebrities for a long time. They started off doing these Meineke commercials, the grill commercials, Oscar Mayer wieners commercials. So, they're like, 'Can we have a break now?"' But I thought, 'This is a good chance for people to find out something about you rather than your father.' And they jumped on board instantly. It was my son George (George Foreman III) who decided to do this."

("Family Foreman" debuts Wednesday at 11 p.m. on TV Land and repeats at various times throughout the week.)

We'll meet all six Georges — George Sr. and his sons George Jr., George III, George IV, George V and George VI. And all five of his daughters, including Freda George and Georgette.

Foreman admits it's a "crazy situation" to name all your sons George but added that, after the first two, the family voted each time a new son was born to keep up the tradition.

"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 come up with?" Foreman asked. "It would be confusing if they weren't all George."

Foreman said he wasn't worried that his family members would embarrass themselves on the reality show.

"Whatever people are going to do, they're going to do anyway," he said. "I just want to have fun. The best thing in the world is to wake up in the morning with a feeling like, 'We're going to have some fun.' And you're going to meet a lot of people. And that's what the show is all about. You can't predict the future, but you can have fun anticipating some fun."

His wife, Mary Joan, was not, however, enthusiastic about doing the show.

"She said, 'I don't want to be on TV. I don't want to be on TV,"' said George III. "I was the one who had to coordinate everything. I was the liaison between production and the family. And she was the easiest one to work with. She'd get on camera and wouldn't want to be quiet. We found out she was the real star."

But there are lots of stars in "The Family Foreman."

"There's 10 kids. Everyone is a star. Everyone's made for TV. Great personalities," George IV said. "And that's exciting. I loved watching them get in front of a camera and just change personalities. And they're all stars, dancing around. I love it, love it."

"We're a pretty easygoing bunch," said George III. "And especially when everybody is around him (Dad), we're on our best behavior — you can believe that. So I never worried about that because everybody was always around my dad, and they have to be on their top (behavior)."

Foreman promises the show won't be preachy — even though he's a preacher — but he does hope it sets an example for others.

Foreman said it was "important" for him to show an intact family "because I go around the country and there are a lot of fathers jumping ship these days. ... So I constantly kind of impose on them that, 'Hey, a family consists of mom, dad, children, blah, blah, blah, and knows their neighbors and the whole deal."'

Foreman, 59, has been divorced three times, and three of his 10 children resulted from those marriages. He didn't marry the mothers of two of his other children.

But they're all one big, happy family.

"Growing up with nine siblings, there's never a dull moment," George III said. "In all honesty, it was always a lot of fun. A lot of teasing going on — he's the ring leader. You would never know that he's the best person at effectuating practical jokes, and he's always playing jokes on us."

"And he rubbed off on each of us," George IV said. "Now we all constantly tease each other. Imagine 10 of the biggest jokesters in one room. It's fun, but it's hectic, I'll tell you that."


E-mail: scott@desnews.com