Neil Patrick Harris passed the audition – six times over, between his triumphant Emmys and Tonys hosting gigs. But he's going to need to deliver his strongest award-worthy performance yet to wow the Oscars' worldwide audience Sunday.
The story of how Harris met the mother of all awards shows is nearly 26 years in the making, beginning with his debut on "Doogie Howser, MD." The ending, of course, is unclear, but all bets are on a more satisfying conclusion than the finale of "How I Met Your Mother."
Harris, at 41, long past his child star days, showed five years ago he was Oscar-caliber material with his first Emmys stint in 2009. His return in 2013, as previously noted, served as a natural warm-up for Hollywood's biggest TV stage – not to mention his upcoming variety show on NBC.
On paper – and in person – Harris is ready: He’s a proven host, sitcom actor and Broadway star (most recently in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch") with just enough movie minutes (from playing goofy in "Harold and Kumar" to chilling in "Gone Girl") to give him big screen cred.
Harris also fills gaps left by some recent Oscars hosts. He shares Ellen DeGeneres' likable charm, but far outdoes her in the song-and-dance department (expect a big production number with a new song penned by “Frozen” team Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez). His quick-witted humor doesn't offend half the audience like that of "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane. He's brimming with youthful appeal, sans the ironic detachment of James Franco.
There's no danger of Harris, the human equivalent of caffeine (just see his Tonys-ending recap raps), of sleepwalking through the biggest performance of his life. But as David Letterman, among others, could tell him, Oscars audiences can be as fickle as Oscars voters.
Perhaps the best compliment Harris ever got also can be taken as his Oscars goal. It came from Jon Stewart, a past Academy Awards host, who declared midway during Harris' 2009 Emmys debut: "We’ve all been to a lot of these shows, and they usually suck.”
There seems little danger of that for Harris, who so far hasn't met an awards show he didn't like – and that didn't like him back.
Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multimedia NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.