Critical Condition: Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris

Can one of US TV's showbiz favourites topped one of UK TV's when Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris (TV2, 8.30 Friday) goes head to head with TV3's Graham Norton Show?

Can one of US TV’s showbiz favourites topple one of UK TV’s when Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris (TV2, 8.30 Friday) goes head to head with TV3’s Graham Norton Show?

Best Time Ever is a show in the truest sense — a spectacle of mastery broadcast live and presided over by Neil Patrick Harris, who can seemingly do anything and is fearless no matter what he does. It draws on a tradition of madcap variety-stunt-sketch-musical-whatever programs, notably Britain’s Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway (the official basis for this series) … Harris’s unflappability is the glue that binds all the disparate bits together. You keep waiting for him to lose his cool or fail spectacularly, in much the same way that certain people watch NASCAR races mainly for the possibility that somebody’s car will wreck and burst into flames.”

“In the quest to thwart delayed DVR viewing, ‘live’ has become TV’s popular watchword. And with Neil Patrick Harris having demonstrated his diverse talents hosting every imaginable award show, it’s hard to blame NBC for wanting to see if some of that charm could be bottled and applied to a weekly series. The result, Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris, made its debut, yielding an energetic but slightly headache-inducing hour, one that only marginally exploited its star beyond his pleasant disposition. The result was loud and brash, but at best, a so-so time was had by all.”

NYT“The show, alternately frenetic and drab (and sometimes both simultaneously), was a lot of things. Most glaringly, it was a promotion for NBC’s other properties … It was a prank show and a stunt show and a karaoke show … What Best Time Ever decidedly wasn’t was anything resembling a traditional variety show, the kind that had its heyday in the 1960s and ’70s and then went out of fashion seemingly overnight. That was a good instinct in that it’s hard to imagine such a show making an impact today … But the alternative that Best Time Ever served up was misguided to say the least.”

USA Today“So that’s what killed variety. Actually, to be fair to that late, great, long-gone genre, NBC’s Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris is not so much a variety show as it is a live, hour-long collection of late-night and daytime talk show bits dragged into primetime … If nothing else, beyond discovering that variety resists revival, we learned that Harris can and will do almost anything in his efforts to amuse. Climb high into the sky on live TV? Sure. Juggle? Yes. Do a back flip off a pogo stick? Why not? It was impressive, but if there’s a line between show business and show off, Harris is in danger of crossing it.”

“I foresaw three possible outcomes for its opening night. 1. We’d get the most fully realised and electric expression of what was promised, a showcase for its spirited, talented host and a frenetic, authentic, anything-might-happen cavalcade of subversive pranks, high-concept games, gonzo theatrics and extemporaneous interplay. 2. We’d get the worst possible expression of all that. 3. We’d get something that landed somewhere in the middle. Option 3 proved to be case, of course, but the shocker was how much closer it was to option 2 than option 1: The premiere was stiff, impersonal, and sloppy.”

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