Originally written for and published on BroadwayWorld.com
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s this: there’s very little that Neil Patrick Harris cannot do. Whether it’s swinging from a giant Tony Award at Radio City Music Hall, penning a best selling memoir, or suiting up as everyone’s favorite eternal bachelor, it’s safe to say Mr. Harris is a man ofmany talents. So when it was announced he would be starring in his own variety hour this fall, there was little doubt he’d be able to pull it off. That being said, there were also expectations. Large expectations. But more on that later.
Best Time Ever can best be described as a late night Ellen with some Broadway-esque flair. In layman’s terms: it’s a quirky, fun hour that includes (hilariously) trolling unsuspecting audience members, messing with celebrities, playing pranks, telling jokes, and not-so-impromptu karaoke sessions. Oh, not to mention Neil Patrick Harris’ loveable, insanely contagious humor and personality.
The first segment of the premiere, Best Day of Your Life, followed Neil Patrick Harris’ as he photobombed severalevents in an unknowing couple’s everyday life. From their trip to NYC, to the Alabama vs. Wisconsin game in Dallas, to their actual wedding– he documented himself behind the scenes, appearing occasionally to photobomb and laugh with the audience. It was creative, it was entertaining, and yes, it was funny.
The second segment, titled, Singalong Live, took three different contestants appearing via Skype, along with “I Will Survive” singer Gloria Gaynor. The object of the game, in a very “popcorn reading” fashion (elementary school throwback, anyone?), is to stay on beat and sing the right lyrics when it’s your turn. The winning contestant receives a cash prize. Reminiscent of the reality show Don’t Forget the Lyrics, the segment already felt a bit tired and forced. And Gaynor’s appearance, though timeless, felt a bit random. But hey, such is the nature of a variety show.
Neil Vs. pits our charismatic host against an array of competitors (whether it be his assistant Nicole Scherzinger, a mystery guest, a guest-starring celebrity, an audience member, etc.) to compete certain challenges. The night’s challenge? Neil and Reese Witherspoon take on a skyscraper obstacle course. It felt veryAmerican Ninja Warrior combined withWipeout and Fear Factor, and as much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t get invested in the segment.
Carson Daily made a cameo to introduce the segment Undercover, where Mr. Harris takes a trip to the set of the The Voice, undercover, of course, to give the celebrity hosts a day they’ll, in his words, “never forget.” Posing as an aspiring contestant, Harris sits down with, and later blind auditions for, Gwen, Pharrell, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton, essentially messing with them the entire time (fake thick accents and cheesy puns included). Though it would have been hilarious to be sitting in that The Voice audience when Harris revealed himself, the hilarity didn’t exactly translate on his own show. Honestly- the segment just made me fall in love with Blake Shelton and Pharrell a bit more.
Get Lucky brings the game show to the variety show. A randomly selected audience member is selected to play for 16 spectacular prizes. By answering questions about this week’s news, THE PLAYER unlocks different prizes by choosing random numbers (very Deal or No Deal-esque). Quick, interactive, and engaging.
The End of the Show Show brings out all the evening’s guests, some juggling bartenders, party music, a big brass band, and Little Neil (who is actually pretty darn adorable). Oh, and some pogo stick jumpers, naturally. Is it too much to ask to get this Tony Award winner to do some sort of belting, lights flashing, kick line finale?! Apparently so.
It’s hard to not like the show if you like Neil Patrick Harris, because the show is essentially everything Neil Patrick Harris is- it’s fun, quirky, charming, and creative. That being said, the show is so ambitious that it tries to fit everything it can into one short hour, making it feel a bit rushed. I would love to see the funnier segments last a bit longer, utilizing the celebrity guests a bit better with interviews, and some SNL style comedy sketches. While I wasn’t necessarily rolling on the floor laughing, I never got the (extreme) urge to flip the channel, either. Will I tune in next week? Probably- but to be completely honest it will most likely be in the form of a few-days-later DVR recording. Admittedly, Best Time Ever isn’t *exactly* that- it’s more of a plain ole’ regular tell-your-friends-about-it-later okay time.
But it’s okay, nonetheless.
Photo credit: Virginia Sherwood | NBC