Photo credit: Greg Endries/NBC
That’s harsh, of course, but it was a dreadful hour of television, one that seemed designed solely to make the case for why variety shows shouldn’t exist anymore. Granted, Harris is a gifted performer, but there’s a such thing as too much, and Best Time Ever is definitely too much. In one segment, Harris has Gloria Gaynor pop up to sing “I Will Survive” in a karaoke game show featuring surprised (but not really) viewers in their living room. This is supposed to, once again, include the audience and make them feel like they are a part of something but there is something about the way it’s handled that just ends up enhancing the separation between the show and the audience, between Neil Patrick Harris and the “normals,” between the expensive spectacle on a large set and the grainy camera footage of a plain living room.
But there’s still more! Reese Witherspoon is the series’ first guest announcer, and she succeeds in looking gorgeous and maintaining a smile when the banter bombs or as she’s forced to play up the ditzy blonde stereotype (and then, later, awkwardly hold pom-poms as she half-walks/half-lazily dances down the stairs). At one point, Witherspoon and Harris compete in some American Ninja Warrior-like segment involving climbing and ziplines because… I don’t know? I actually, truly don’t know what the point of this bit was supposed to be. Regardless, it’s followed by another prank: Harris in disguise as the host of the Austrian version of The Voice.
The above screenshot sums up the show pretty well: Pharrell, the unwitting participant, is perplexed and grimacing with disgust while Harris, the smug and self-satisfied prankster, smirks and seems to be thinking, “Aw shucks, I’m even so good at pretending to be bad!”
Just to ensure that the hour is packed from front to back with nonsense, Carson Daly is there. Nicole Scherzinger shows up and sings “Don’t Cha” while invasively caressing audience members’ faces. Carrot Top shows up to make a “holy mackerel” joke. There’s a rapid-fire pop culture game show. Harris has his own mini-me who wears a suit and… well, keeps wearing a suit; he doesn’t do much else. And the whole thing ends with a big performance number that finds Harris doing magic, tending bar, and hopping on a pogo stick.
Best Time Ever moves at a hyperactive pace but feels four hours long anyway. It is smug and shallow, as evidenced by the enjoyment Harris takes in trotting out his celebrity friends (and Carrot Top) so us lowly viewers can watch cool people prank cool people. It provides no laugh, no solid entertainment, and no surprises. The series is not the best time ever. It is the best at only one thing: effectively killing the variety show.