I had heard a little bit about The Best Time Ever but was hesitant to tune in. Despite my love of the show’s host, Neil Patrick Harris, I assumed that a live Variety Show would be campy and lame and not much fun. When nothing else was on three weeks ago I decided to give it a shot, as at the very least I could hate watch it. I’m happy to report that The Best Time Ever, really is just that. It’s this weird spectacle that works so well because it teases and then blows up our expectations of what the show is. Many times throughout the first hour I had to ask myself, “What am I watching?” Is that really Reba McEntire signing a Taylor Swift song amidst a whip duel and dance-off in an old time-y saloon? Yep! Ever wanted to see Jane Krakowski instructing Jesse Tyler Ferguson, via hidden ear piece, how to show a prospective contractor his very special doll room using his best Jack Nicholson impression ? Here you are. The show revels in this chaos. NPH proudly read his favourite Tweet about the program: “WTF is happening. This Shit is Bonkers!”
The show is cram-packed with celebrities, stunts, wacky props, musical numbers, costumes, and sparkles but its best stuff is the really amazing moments of people watching.
Seeing Alec Baldwin cringe at his own tastelessness after delivering a bad joke about a “20 foot high club,” with his wife is absurd and hilarious and perfect.
One of my favourite people watching moments happens when NPH plucks a woman (Jamie) out of the audience seemingly at random. He sits with her on stage and makes awkward small talk which leads to the revelation that she lives with her boyfriend, Curtis, of two years. “What do you think he’s doing now?” NPH asks as a screen drops down to reveal Curtis sleeping on the couch. The confusion as she realizes what might be happening is hilarious and very squirmy. We also get to squirm along with the audience as we watch and hope Curtis doesn’t embarrass her/us. It’s like a reverse Candid Camera because we are all in on it from the beginning. The set up is perfectly suited to me because my favourite part of Candid Camera is the big reveal at the end. My other favourite part of Candid Camera is watching with family and friends and laughing and experiencing it together. Here we get do do it with the contestant and the audience. It’s great! Back to Curtis. It turns out he is not sleeping on the couch but is currently a “contestant” on America’s Got Talent (in a cute little moment of cross promotion). After he finishes up a wonderful rendition of “Don’t Believe Me Just Watch,” Curtis moves on to a nature program to wear a python on his neck and then to the Ninja Warrior Obstacle course. While all of these stunts are super fun and entertaining, the best part is watching Jamie and the audience’s reaction to everything. There is this great moment when Curtis is getting a pep talk from Will Ferrell, when we all realize along with Jamie that a proposal is coming. He still has a few stops to make before he reaches us in person but Jamie’s anticipation and happiness is also ours. It was by far the best proposal I’ve ever seen on television because I was completely invested every step of the way, moving between embarrassment, laughter and happiness in this unexpected collective experience.
Another of my favourite moments was also an audience participation segment. NPH finds his parents in the audience. After some awkward small talk between the three his father and mother start to riff off each other by ribbing their son. As they kill it with the audience the proud look on NPH’s face as he steps out of character to be himself stole the show for me! Because NPH puts on this showman character throughout the show that this moment of realness was the perfect surprise.
It is these surprises that make this The Best Time Ever so much fun to watch. I use to despise when Jimmy Fallon would break character and corpse on SNL. It seemed like such a tired crutch to draw attention to himself. He used it so often that it was hardly ever a surprise. Here, I love every second of breaking character. These people are having SO MUCH FUN and I believe every second of it.