Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Neil Patrick Harris' new live vehicle for NBC reviewed

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September 15, 2015 04:00 PM

Neil Patrick Harris can probably host anything: awards shows, open houses, book clubs, soirees, salons, an icebreaker between world leaders and whatever life form eventually turns up on Mars.

The thing is he has to have something to host. NBC has obligingly given him a spot in prime time for a live vehicle, Best Time Ever, but its Tuesday-night premiere turned out to be an unwieldy and peculiar mix of hidden-camera punking, celebrity challenges and one or three other things, including acrobatic guys on pogo sticks. And Carrot Top. My cable provider described Best Time Ever in a programming capsule as “an explosion of fun.” It was more like a meltdown of fun. And that does no one any good.

The show, adapted from a British series, opened with Harris revealing to a couple in the studio audience that he had been secretly insinuating himself into their lives: The camera cut away to taped footage of him disguised as a doorman welcoming them to New York s Plaza Hotel and even photobombing their wedding. Would you want to be informed retroactively that a celebrity, even one as urbane and bright as Harris, had been pussyfooting about in your existence?

What, for example, if it had been Carrot Top instead?

Gloria Gaynor sang her disco classic “I Will Survive” while remote cameras invaded the homes of several viewing families and asked them to perform karaoke along with her. Like the first stunt, this left you puzzling out the logistics of it all rather than wondering whether anyone was having a good time.

Also: Harris and an extremely game Reese Witherspoon (who was billed as the night’s celebrity announcer) were hoisted high on a metal scaffold, which they then climbed up and up and up, like Jack’s beanstalk, and from which they descended via zipline. It was a nervy, unnerving stunt, and left Harris perspiring–the night’s one genuinely novel moment.

The show ended with a big musical extravaganza that was like “Seventy-Six Trombones performed by everyone in the cosmos, including Carrot Top.

Well, it was a strange hour.

Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

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