The network announced this afternoon it is bringing five-time Emmy Award winner Harris to the network for a new primetime variety series based on the popular UK format Ant And Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. The production company got an on-air 10-episode order; the show will air live and originate from New York.
Back in May, Harris told Howard Stern that CBS CEO Leslie Moonves asked him if he’d be interested in doing a late-night show for the network and that he turned him down (“I told him what concerned me about the longevity of that kind of gig. I think I would get bored of the repetition fast. The structure is so set — I don’t have any interest in doing Monologue, Commercial, Sketch, Guest, Guest, Musical Act, Good Night”) and said what he really wanted to do next was host a weekly variety series for CBS. In so saying, he was re-iterating what he told CBS soon-to-be-ex late night host Craig Ferguson: “I want to do an Ed Sullivan–y kind of show, with all the variety acts.”
Meanwhile, NBC has made no secret of its desire to air a variety show. Back in July, the network’s alternative programming president Paul Telegdy told TV critics the network was in “an active creative discussion” for more episodes of The Maya Rudolph Show, either as a weekly series or a series of specials. That variety show, starring the Saturday Night Live alumna and produced by SNL boss Lorne Michaels, started as a special that aired on May 20 behind The Voice. That special is looked at as an “imperfect first episode,” Telegdy said. In a Q&A with Deadline one month earlier, Michaels had said he was optimistic about that show’s future.
“Was [Moonves] interested?” Stern asked Harris on his radio show, in re a variety series, back in May.
“Yeah — he still might be,” Harris said.
And yet, though Harris was a member in good standing of the Les Moonves Repertory Theatre company, having starred many years on the network’s How I Met Your Mother, and been CBS’ go-to host for trophy shows, the project landed at NBC. Harris today said the ITV format “fits right into my random skill set.” NBC’s new, as yet unnamed variety series will feature comedy sketches, musical numbers, mini game shows, hidden camera pranks on celebrities and appearances by “A-list stars,” the network assured.
“All of us here at NBC have been dying to work with Neil, as we’ve watched him brilliantly host the Tonys and Emmys,” Telegdy said in today’s announcement. “This series will suit his extraordinary talents perfectly. He is a versatile and thrilling talent for us to welcome into the NBC family.”
No start date was announced — but ABC will be plugging it mightily when it airs February’s Academy Awards ceremony, which will be hosted by Harris.
The series will be produced by ITV Studios America. Harris, Orly Adelson, Siobhan Greene and U.K. hosts Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly will serve as executive producers.
NBC tried out a variety show hosted by SNL alum Maya Rudolph in May; that n May; that premiered to an audience of 7.2 million total viewers and a 2.1 demo rating.