Neil Patrick Harris will take the reigns of a new variety series set for a 10- episode run on NBC in 2015, Vulture reports. It's a dream gig for the former How I Met Your Mother star and past host of the Tony and Emmy Awards, who turned down an offer from CBS to replace David Letterman on The Late Show for the weekly variety format. "I'm very keen on it being an Ed Sullivan kind of show," he told Rolling Stone. "Something that would be more events-driven, with a lot more acts, a totally different structure."
The new show is based on the long-running British program, Saturday Night Takeaway (though it will neither have that name, nor air on Saturday), and comes courtesy of U.K. network ITV, who were reportedly shopping the 10-episode run to a number of different U.S. stations. Paul Buccieri, the chairman of ITV Studios U.S. Group, described the program's basic format as, "a real blend between comedy, game and musical variety. And it has this fast pace and irreverence to it."
On Monday, before the news broke, Harris spoke with Charlie Rose about his ambitions as an impresario and tastemaker — "In a perfect world, in five years I’m Ed Sullivan," he said — and what he envisioned a successful variety show would look like. While Harris said that, like Sullivan, he would want to feature everything from Broadway performers to magicians, he noted that the show would have to cater to shorter attention spans and provide the immediate satisfaction of a YouTube clip.
"You have to do a show now where it's their best two and a half minutes," Harris said. "Instead of six acts, you have 26 acts. It's like America's Got Talent. That's why it's so successful now. You want to meet the person, see their best thing, talk about it, move on. I think that's the difference now."
NBC — which already airs a number of variety-like programs such as The Voice, Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and has recently dipped its toe into live television events like last year's presentation of The Sound of Music — has tried out a few variety shows in recent years, but with little success. "The problem is always… who has the versatility to pull it all off," said Orly Adelson, president of ITV Studios America, adding she thinks Harris represents "the combination of the right format with the right host."
Paul Telegdy, head of NBC's Alternative and Late Night Programming, echoed the sentiment, saying Harris was at the top of the network's list of potential hosts. The executive also teased the possibility of future seasons that could be longer than 10 episodes, but not by much more noting the demanding nature of the variety format.
While there's no word on when exactly in 2015 Harris' show will air, it will likely come after he hosts next year's Oscars. "We’re not going to rush this," Telegdy said. "We’ll take our time and make a great show."