Reviving the long-dormant variety show format is not for the faint of heart nor the anonymous, but then, Neil Patrick Harris is certainly neither (his "Gone Girl" role is vivid evidence of the former). He'll host a new 10-part variety show -- name and launch date to be set -- for NBC. It will be based on a long-running British variety series, “Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.”
In a statement, Harris said: "As I watched the show, I couldn't stop smiling. Now that I've seen many seasons, my face hurts. It's a game changer. Nothing like this has been done before, and its unique structure fits right into my random skill set. I can't wait to roll up my sleeves and have some fun!"
Harris -- who long ago put the "multi" in "multi-talented" -- has spoken often of his desire to revive the format for a network. For more background on this, go to New York Magazine's "Vulture," which broke this story earlier Tuesday.
“All of us here at NBC have been dying to work with Neil, as we’ve watched him brilliantly host the Tonys and Emmys,” said Paul Telegdy, president of Alternative and Late Night Programming for NBC Entertainment, in a statement. (Telegdy is himself British.) “This series will suit his extraordinary talents perfectly. He is a versatile and thrilling talent for us to welcome into the NBC family.”
As you and no doubt NBC well know, variety shows are tough bets -- that ill-fated one with Rosie O'Donnell is just one brief and vivid example, or the other even more recent one with Maya Rudolph. Why should this be so when there were so many great ones from the past -- hosted by everyone from Judy Garland to Ed Sullivan?
Mostly because unscripted series like "The Voice" or "American Idol" have filled the role; and also because tastes have been balkanized and splintered a million different ways. Consumption now is instant; in the old days, you'd have to wait until Sunday nights or whenever to see some favorite or soon-to-be-famous act.