Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Can Neil Patrick Harris break through multiple decades of viewer habits and convince them to watch television live again by promising The Best Time Ever?

The celebrated Oscar, Tony, Emmy, TV Land, Spike Video Game and World Magic Awards host aims to parlay his performing without a safety net (and only a five second broadcasting delay) into a live variety show, The Best Time Ever (though the available preview clip suggests plenty of pre-taped segments, too), premiering Tuesday, September 15 on NBC.

Not only is Harris hoping to make Americans give up recording a show to watch later at their own convenience, he’s also determined to make us fall in love with primetime variety programs again.

It’s a pretty tall order on both counts.

Once upon a time, America couldn’t get enough of variety shows. Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater was credited with literally doubling the sales of television sets in 1949. A single appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show (1948-1971) could launch a performer’s career (Yitzhak Perlman first popped up at the age of 13 on his way to becoming the best-known classical violinist in the world), sell out a Broadway show (it made Camelot a hit when the newspaper critics dismissed it) or start a nationwide discussion of Elvis’ suggestively gyrating pelvis (despite popular belief, he wasn’t merely shot from the waist up). And then there were The Beatles....

To read more about the history of variety shows in America, including The Smothers Brothers, Sonny & Cher and The Brady Bunch, as well as Neil Patrick Harris' chances of leading their comeback, go to my post on BlogHer at: http://www.blogher.com/can-neil-patrick-harris-get-america-watching-variety-again-live

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