Judging by reactions to last week’s premiere, Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris has so far failed to live up to its enthusiastic title. EW’s own Jeff Jensen, for example, suggested the show be called Best Work in Progress Ever or This’ll Be Better Next Week, Trust Us! Talking to reporters on Monday, Harris acknowledged some of the flaws in the first go-round and promised that this week will be better — trust him. However, don’t expect too much change.
“It’s not in our design to start from scratch and redo again, because we already have eight episodes in play. But we certainly want to make it the most enjoyable hour for everyone,” Harris said. “I think I need time to breathe in the opening act and be a little more personable, less hyper-scripted. But I’m pausing while saying that because being long here is not great for us. So I’m still trying to suss out how to get all of the information and all of the segments in the show on time.”
Critics weren’t the only one who derided the Best Time Ever premiere. The show also caught some flak on Twitter, as any live TV event will in 2015. Harris said the show will try to better incorporate live social media going forward.
“Part of the Twitter responses will be in my opening monologue, because some of the reactions to what we did were crazy and worth commenting on,” Harris said. “We’re also doing a whole segment in future episodes where it’s sort of a call to action. We’re going to ask people to create some content for us in a very specific way, and they’ll have to use social media to get that. Whoever we choose as the winner will win something exciting.”
The show has variety built into it, so viewers who didn’t love parts of the first episode may be surprised by the second. The sing-along segment, which featured Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and was widely lauded as one of the night’s most successful bits, will feature Bonnie Tyler this time around. Joe Jonas will team with Harris to prank Britney Spears, and Alec Baldwin – whose sonorous voice once made The Royal Tenenbaums so magical – will take the celebrity announcer reins from Reese Witherspoon.
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“For guest announcers I really want someone who’s a recognizable presence, a positive, interesting personality but a really great voice,” Harris said. “Alec is all of those things. I would love Bill Clinton. I would say his wife but there are fair time allotments for every candidate and we only have eight shows, so I don’t think we’d be allowed to have Hillary on board. But Bill’s got a great voice and he’s a super cool guy.”
Another of the more successful bits, the wild extravaganza End-of-Show Show, will also return this week, now with more Cirque du Soleil. This edition might be even more physically taxing than the first, if the scratches on Harris’ arms were any indication.
“I’m doing this trampoline onto a wall that I first saw Cirque du Soleil do in the show called ‘La Nouba,’ and it’s this amazingly beautiful piece where instead of jumping straight up and down you’re jumping towards a wall,” Harris said. “It seems so simple and in reality it’s very physically challenging. I have whiplash and am a physical mess. But I’m loving learning that stuff.”
Going forward, the show will also change slightly when it moves from the 10 p.m. time slot to a more ratings- and audience-friendly 8 p.m. slot in its third week.
“I think the 8 o’clock move will be actually beneficial. I think we’ll probably have more viewership at 10, given that it was after the America’s Got Talent premiere and The Voice premiere. Those are big, giant, singular episodes. But at 8 we get to establish tone and welcome you prime time. It sort of becomes the fun palate cleanser for the rest of your evening.”
Though busy with rehearsals, Harris still found time to watch the Emmys on Sunday, and the one-time host was supportive of Andy Samberg’s efforts.
“I think Andy did a great job. The way that he smiles is perfectly in line with his sense of humor,” Harris said. “It’s great for something like the Emmys, which needs to take itself seriously but not too much.”
Best Time Ever continues Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET. It switches to 8 p.m. on Sept. 29.