Written by: Allison Lips
Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris isn’t the best time ever, but it is a pretty good time if have low expectations for the show to begin with. The show is based on the popular British variety show Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which itself borrows heavily from its predecessor, the so-bad-its-good Noel’s House Party. So us Americans are left with a rip-off of a rip-off of a show that doesn’t suit our sensibilities.
Most of Best Time Ever is an excuse for Neil Patrick Harris to mug for the camera. Sometimes the mugging is ridiculously creepy. The first segment should be presented as exhibit A in NPH’s trial because he stalked a couple for the better part of a year at three different events: their wedding, a football game, and their New York vacation. People go to jail for that, NBC. Good thing, throwing an expensive vacation at the couple will prevent a future lawsuit. Unfortunately, appealing to our basest voyeuristic instincts by using unsuspecting victims doesn’t make for great TV. There’s a reason reality TV relies on attention whores willingly exploiting themselves and isn’t filmed from your creepy neighbor’s bedroom.
The other prank played on the premiere episode had NPH fool The Voice judges into believing that he is Jorgen, the host of the Austrian adaptation of the show. He was looking for advice. Of course, he was as strange as possible during his interviews with the judges. Then, Jorgen auditioned for The Voice, purposely hitting every note flat, so that the judges don’t catch on to the prank until the final reveal. Once NPH reveals himself, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton curse him out. No one blames them. Gwen Stefani and Pharell’s good sport smiles seemed out of place, especially after all Jorgen put them through. At least, this prank was more fun than stalkerish. It also wouldn’t have been out of place on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
For a show that bills itself as part game show, there are only two segments where people have the opportunity to win and a third challenge segment called Neil Vs. The first game segment spied on home viewers with a hidden camera and forced them to participate in karaoke for the chance to win $1,000. Right off the bat, one of the contestants was drunk, which goes to show the dangers of randomly surprising strangers who believe they are in the comfort of their own home. Again, does NBC not realize this show is a lawsuit waiting to happen?
The second game with an audience member took place in the studio and was a current events quiz with higher stakes than five points on a history quiz. However, seeing someone have the chance to win a car and 10,000 candy bars screams more Price is Right Live Show than interesting prime time television.
Neil vs. was the most boring part of the show. NPH showed he is a great friend by coercing Reese Witherspoon into a competition that involved climbing a metal contraption 15 stories high and zip-lining to the ground. This segment was taken from Saturday Night Takeaway where it works better as Ant vs. Dec because Ant and Dec are best friends who like acting as idiots for entertainment purposes. NPH only succeeded in terrifying one of his best friends and making the audience feel bad for Reese Witherspoon.
The best part of Best Night Ever was the End of the Show Show, which featured an unacknowledged visit from Ant & Dec. Chaos erupted on stage to the tune of Pitbull’s “Don’t Stop the Party” as NPH took the opportunity to show he knows his way around a drink shaker and a pogo stick. While it wasn’t great television, this part of the show was fun because it was totally bizarre and perfectly captured how hard the show is trying and failing to make something unique.
Best Night Ever has everything, except for Neil Patrick Harris, working against it. The show manages to make even the most spontaneous parts sound scripted. The crew doesn’t seem to understand that live isn’t a selling point. Also, Best Night Ever tries to be a family show in a time slot where kids should already be in bed because school is the next day. There’s nothing about Best Night Ever that isn’t confusing. NPH has to make sure he doesn’t use up all of the goodwill America has for him because this show will burn through it fast.
If you want to watch what is considered light entertainment in Britain, go onto YouTube and search for clips from Ant vs. Dec. The duo is much better at this structured nonsense than Neil Patrick Harris. For the basic framework with the wackiness upped, look for Noel’s House Party, which was lower key, but shared NPH’s fondness for freaking out audience members in both good and bad ways.