Neil Patrick Harris is back on series television and he plans on giving viewers the Best Time Ever. And maybe a boost to their back accounts, too.
Based on the long-running British variety show Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris is a (mostly) live, happy hodgepodge of music, pranks, game-show elements and more — with Harris as the self-described P.T. Barnum at the center.
“I want to create a show that I can gain the audience’s trust and have them put down their remote control, sit back and just watch,” Harris tells us. “Let me change the channels for you from segment to segment to segment. So it’s essentially six or seven different shows all at the same time. It’s a big grab-bag of random awesomeness.”
Best Time Ever combines a live studio audience — some of whom will become part of the festivities along with, yes, the folks at home — with weekly A-list actors and musicians in various humorous capacities.
“We’ll have ‘Sing-Along Live’ where a famous musician will come out and sing a classic song, and people will have called in and will be watching the show with their friend and we’ll use their Skype and have the producer hidden in their bathroom. I will go to them live and they’ll have to finish the lyric to the song, and if they do they win some money,” Harris says. “In every show there will be someone in the audience who won’t have realized that we’ve been following them for months, filming them in scenarios that they’re not aware of. So say someone has a famous celebrity that they’ve never met. They may not realize that a) they’re going to be on the show and b) that celebrity will have been at their house multiple times in different disguises.”
Harris gets to head out on some comical field trips, too, so consider yourself cheerfully forewarned.
“Tomorrow morning we leave for a state — which I cannot say — to be a participant in a couple’s wedding and they don’t know I will be there at all,” he chuckles. “I will be the puppet master to their wedding, and they have no idea that it’s happening. So once this show takes off, you never know where I or our team will be and how you’ll be involved in it. There’s been a lot of pre-production, which has been kind of fun. I’ve been doing a lot of tweets, and NBC has as well, asking people to submit their friends and their relatives as potential marks for the show and then we have teams of producers finding out who might be viable, going to their hometown, observing them from afar, seeing if they’re a good fit. So, yes, it’s a lot of labor for a labor of love!”
But for those of you traumatized by a past unintended-audience-participation incident — ask me about the time I had to sing “It’s a Memorable Tune” onstage with Up with People. Go on. Ask me. — fear not. Harris says Best Time Ever is all about the uplift.
“It’s important to me that those people aren’t made to do something embarrassing, or something that they would not enjoy,” he stresses. “It’s really to make them feel more special. … I think it’s more for fun and redemption and a good laugh, but certainly at no one’s expense. I actively try to avoid that. I don’t like when people are forced to participate, in something that might make them uncomfortable.”
Each episode’s finale, “The End-of-the-Show Show,” will feature Harris taking part in a splashy production number. “Just music, dance … who knows?” says Harris. “So, that will be live — and probably the scariest part — but I’m just going to create a buoyant, jubilant energy to make you sit back and forget about what emails you have to write and what your day looks like tomorrow, and just enjoy yourself and have a laugh. And who knows — maybe win some money.
Harris even gets his own mini-me, Little NPH, for on-the-street segments and more.
“Little NPH is fantastic — and I’m just glad it worked out because he’s seven and he’s been bred for this,” Harris jokes. “About eight years ago we came up with this idea, and through technology and science, we’ve finally gotten him up to a reading level and a communication level that we find appropriate. DNA is in place. A sense of humor is in place. Let’s just hope his ego stays intact.”
Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris premieres Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 10pm on NBC.