Too Much of a Good Thing – Neil Patrick Harris – Overwhelms Premiere of Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris NBC-TV Reviewed by Christopher Stone
Clearly the host, Neil Patrick Harris, is having the best time ever.
In its premiere episode, Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris was overpowered by Neil Patrick Harris, the multi-talented gay husband and father NBC-TV hired to host its reentry into the hour-long variety show format.
Like Donald Trump on the campaign trail, or Neely O’Hara in Valley of the Dolls, NPH sucked all of the oxygen out of the television studio, displaying talents that include such fringe abilities as scaling fifteen stories in multiple bounds, and performing a backwards flip off of a pogo stick. In so doing, NPH left no air or energy for the program’s hapless guests.
Best Time Ever has the ratings, and the potential – although it’s not going to bring back the variety hour format. But the series bright future will only be realized if its hyperactive host becomes a little more Ed Sullivan, and a whole lot less like a presidential candidate on uppers.
NBC asked for trouble by naming this, or any series, Best Time Ever. Quite simply, the title is presumption and hubris personified. The network should have taken a humble cue from the British series that spawned the American version. The original is named Ant and Dec’s Saturday Takeaway.
Celebrity Guest Announcer, the Academy Award-winning Reese Witherspoon, was wasted – given relatively little to do beyond recounting all of the remarkable things Neil Patrick Harris did during the frenetic hour.
Also underutilized was singer-dancer-actress, Nicole Scherzinger, ostensibly NPH’s Girl Friday, but in truth, little more than eye candy.
In a daredevil challenge segment, Witherspoon, a self-proclaimed sufferer of acrophobia, gamely scaled fifteen stories – rather deftly, I must say. Even so, NPH snatched the challenge flag and victory from her, when he should have been a gracious host and thrown the victory to his gutsy guest who overcame a paralyzing fear in order to be a good sport.
That was NPH’s biggest misstep of the evening. Afterwards even celebrity guest, Carson Daly, wanted to know, “How could you not let Reese Witherspoon win that?”
Gloria Gaynor killed a karaoke segment in which she sang the 1970s gay anthem, “I Will Survive,” surrounded by dancing girls and sexy young men on skates. But even the once and future Disco Queen was upstaged, not by the host, or by her dancers, but by the technology that allowed three sets of home viewers to break into her song, supplying lyrics in order to win cash prizes.
Taking a self-indulgent cue from ABC-TV, a network that shamelessly and relentlessly promotes itself, as well as its parent company, Disney, Best Time Ever, devoted one of its longer segments to promoting NBC-TV’s Emmy Award winning reality series, The Voice. In this paean to self-aggrandizement, Neil Patrick Harris, incognito as Jergen Vollmer, the fictitious, alleged host of a new Austrian version of The Voice, looked like Sigmund Freud, and sang like a tone deaf toad, warbling Dreamgirl’s iconic, “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.” Later, NPH unmasked himself to The Voice’s flummoxed and shocked, if dubious, judges.
As if the host’s omnipresence were not enough, NPH introduced America to a Doogie Howser-sized Little Neil Patrick Harris, a cute enough moppet who was reading Gone Girl at the time NPH interrupted him in order to introduce the kid.
Carrot Top, like the other guests, had precious little to do. So little, in fact, that his presence seemed nothing more than superfluous garnish.
An opening segment, “Best Days of Your Life,” should have been about the Alabama newlyweds that NPH plucked from obscurity in the studio audience and brought on stage. But the host quickly made the segment all about himself, admitting that he had been secretly following the newlyweds all summer.
Suddenly the Bride and Groom were playing second and third fiddle to NPH who had masquerading as a mascot at a Crimson Tide football game they attended. He resurfaced as a parking valet at the Plaza where they stayed in Manhattan. Not surprisingly, NPH even made his way into their honeymoon bed.
Rather than having their Best Time Ever, the honeymooners looked like does caught in the headlights that had just learned they were being stalked. For their effort, NPH did award the couple an Antigua honeymoon, but you can bet, upon their checking into their resort hotel, they’ll search for an incognito NPH in their shower and closet.
Best Time Ever’s host must learn the value of waiting in the wings, or in his dressing room, long enough to allow his guests their place in the sun.
In the second episode, this one with Alec Baldwin as the star announcer, and Bonnie Tyler as the karaoke guest singer, the host did leave some air in the studio for others to breathe, and Alec Baldwin seemed born to the role of Announcer. The hyper host even allowed the studio audience member he brought on stage to make the segment about her fiancée, and not about himself.
Sure NPH’s backwards flip from a pogo stick was impressive, as was most everything he crammed into the Benzedrine-fueled, premiere hour. But someone needs to tell him that what is attractive yearly on an annual awards ceremony may be unattractive and excessive when one is hosting a weekly variety hour.