When titling a show “Best Time Ever” you set yourself a precedent that is hard to live up to, but the NBC show that aired on Tuesday night, 10pm, had all the ingredients to bring this to fruition. A likeable, accomplished host in Neil Patrick Harris? check! A tried and tested formula that has received acclaim overseas? check! Celebrity guest stars? check! Funnelling money and prizes to your audience? double check! Best Time Ever? Not quite.
The show itself is a carbon copy of the wildly popular UK version “Saturday Night Takeaway” which has run for over a decade picking up awards and viewers along the way. The problem with copying the format exactly is that they have taken parts from over twelve years of this show and tried to squeeze them all into the very first episode. Take ‘Little NPH’ for example, was there much point in introducing us to this character when he only sat by the sidelines?
While Harris is a fairly likeable celebrity who has killed it hosting the Tony’s and has a fanbase from the popular HIMYM character Barney, there was just too much of him. Used to performing live solo, Harris gave little screen time to anybody else, the audience members he was interviewing, or the celebrity guests who chose to join him. The entire episode was a parade of “look at me’, ‘look at what I can do”. You can tell Harris is desperate for this show to be a long running gig, he has been excited about the possibility of making the show for a while and as the whole thing panned out there was definitely a feeling he was having way more fun than any of us.
Guest announcer of the week was Reece Witherspoon who was a delight as always. She played up her ‘Legally Blonde’ clueless schtick which was cute but her scripted banter with Harris was full of tired jokes and an inherent awkwardness that failed to draw even the politest of chuckles. At her most endearing, Reece was chosen to participate in an American Ninja Warrior-type stunt in a segment called “Neil Vs”.
Harris began roaming through the audience (which randomly enough included Perez Hilton) spilling secrets he discovered about its members, to little reaction, before pulling two up on stage with him. Here he shared a super-cut of a year following the newlyweds to numerous events, including their own wedding, leaving the two visibly perplexed. Though the idea was a fun notion and ended in a honeymoon for the pair, however Twitter reacted negatively with shouts of stalking and harassment.
One segment that featured an undercover prank at the expense of ‘The Voice’ team had the makings of a funny skit but floundered on screen. Mentors Gwen Stefani, Blake Sheldon, Adam Levine and Pharrell Williams were tricked into an awkward interview with Harris in disguise, however the whole thing seemed as though it was cut short lasting just 20 seconds with little reaction from the group. Maybe there wasn’t much useable footage, maybe they were time constraints. We were then faced with the real awkwardness when Harris belted out an entire version of “I Am Telling You” for a blind audition which saw not one judge turn their chair. Ouch! The whole non-entity of the situation made the segment appear to be nothing more than free advertisement for ‘The Voice’.
Other fun moments came in a viewer-included finish-the-lyric karaoke competition that saw three people at home sing along to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” “Get Lucky” saw Harris pull another member from the audience for a sixty second quiz that saw her take home a number of prizes. Both segments were not without a hint of awkwardness but were enjoyable none-the-less.
The biggest highlight of the hour was the involvement of under-utilised Nicole Scherzinger. A regular at live television, Nicole brings the laughs as well as a warm personable vibe. She occasionally popped up to host while Harris was preparing for a skit or to treat us to some old Pussycat Doll dancing.
The ‘end of the show’ show was definitely a strong closer, reaching the dizzying heights of Harris’ previous Tony 2014 opening (if you haven’t seen this, youtube it), the five minute closing saw our host juggling cocktails, performing magic and backflipping off a pogo stick. With a number of performers joining him, including guests Reece, Nicole and Little NPH, the entire closing act was a well rehearsed, colourful way to leave the viewer with the hope the show could possibly get better in future episodes.
Though the show didn’t get off to the best start much of that has to do with a disconnect between the less than responsive audience and guests compared with the ultra hyped hosts. As a pilot episode of a live show thats still finding its footing there is a plethora of potential for this to be a long running staple of television similar to the success of SNL if NBC can fine-tune it before viewers lose hope. In the internet age it only takes one viral video to ensure the success of show, look at Emma Stones viral lip-sync talents that sparked Jimmy Fallons “Lip Sync Battle” and with a variety show such as this that shouldn’t be too difficult.
Personally we’re hoping for the best for Neil Patrick Harris, this show seems to be a love project and as a fan of the original we know this could be a great show if it can get off the ground properly. While the reviews haven’t been particularly complementary, ours included unfortunately, as a gay television personality it is important we support Harris’ new show, lest we forget what a great step forward this is for our community to have an openly gay man front his own family show.
Our verdict is: Desperate for you to have a good time, there’s nothing NPH won’t do to bring you the okay-ist time ever!