Oscars: How Did Neil Patrick Harris Do As Host?

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Neil Patrick Harris | Photo Credits: Craig Sjodin,/ABC

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In his inaugural year as Academy Awards host, Neil Patrick Harris opened the show with an inspiring musical number – and then it was pretty much downhill from there.

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Said musical number featured Harris inserting himself, photobomb-style, into clips and stills from classic movies, as well as a well-placed Good Will Hunting gay joke, and guest appearances from Anna Kendrick and Jack Black. Watch it here:

Said musical number was followed by a monologue that was strangely more earnest than comedic, and Harris’ performance plateaued from there.

In 2014, Harris went from starring on the popular CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother to headlining the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. Let’s just say his gig as Oscar emcee skewed more to the safeness of one of Middle America’s favorite shows than it did to the risqué humor built around a transsexual East German singer.

However, Harris did channel his more theatrical side for one extended bit that started with the actor re-enacting Michael Keaton getting his bathrobe stuck in a door in Birdman and ended with Harris appearing on stage in his underwear (with Whiplash star Miles Teller providing a percussion soundtrack).

Watch part of the bit here:

While some of Harris’ quips landed (including his introduction of Benedict Cumberbatch: “It’s also the sound you get when you ask John Travolta to pronounce Ben Affleck”), an equal number if not more fell flat, including an entire joke built around the fact that Selma star David Oyelowo is British, and an extended bit about his Oscar “predictions” (kept in a locked briefcase that Octavia Spencer was tasked with keeping an eye on).

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Other lines fell somewhere in the middle – like singing “He won an Oscar” to the Farmer’s Insurance theme song after J.K. Simmons picked up his Supporting Actor award for Whiplash, and interviewing a trio of “seat fillers” (including Steve Carell, game for anything as always). And noting that the original title of Gone Girl was “Bitches Be Trippin’ Yo,” was a self-congratulatory reminder to the audience that, yes, Harris was in an Oscar-nominated movie this year, at best.

Perhaps it was weak material that dragged Harris down at the Oscars. After all, we’ve seen him do a bang-up job getting us through the Tonys and the Emmys. But an awards show that pushes the three-and-a-half hour mark on a Sunday night requires a host that will keep people not only awake, but enthused about what they’re seeing on screen. And Harris just didn’t cut it.

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