Critics are abuzz about Neil Patrick Harris (NPH) and his role in the Netflix show A Series of Unfortunate Events. The show is getting rave reviews (a 94% Rotten Tomatoes score). However, it is NPH and his portrayal of the evil Count Olaf that has drawn the greatest amount of attention. And it’s well-deserved. Dana Schwartz of The Observer gushes:
“All of the times Neil Patrick Harris is on screen are a sheer delight.”
All of this being said, the question we want to answer is where this character ranks in the entire NPH body of work? Although the show is only in its first season, many would argue that it’s right up at the top as one of his best performances.
Harris transcends genre, equally able to perform on Broadway, judge a televised dance competition, or host a major awards show. He appears in many films, most notably Gone Girl, Starship Troopers, and as himself in the Harold and Kumar trilogy. In theater, his resume is spectacular and includes a Tony Award for best actor as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Without further ado, these are Neil Patrick Harris top 4 characters of all time.
Ah, to be 16 again. Getting your drivers license, meeting your first crush, and performing your first tracheotomy. That may not be familiar to most, but in Doogie Howser, MD, that was life. Harris portrayed Dr. Howser from 1989-1993 on the popular ABC sitcom. Creator Steven Bochco partially modeled the character of Howser after his father, a violin prodigy. If you were born in the ’70s, Doogie left an impression on your life.
A teenage Harris excelled in the role, garnering a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy. He became a pin-up heartthrob, consistently gracing the pages of Teen or Tiger Beat magazines. Quite frankly, the character of Doogie Howser put NPH on the map. This adolescent role set the stage for a wildly successful adult career.
Probably the least known of the characters on this list, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog highlights Harris’ multiple talents. This three-act musical, released during the writer’s strike of 2008, stems from the mind of Joss Whedon. In the title role, Harris presents a supervillain with a heart of gold. He is dedicated to joining the Evil League of Evil without being thwarted by his nemesis Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion).
Despite a running time of only 48 minutes, Harris owns the screen. His top shelf comedic timing along with his fantastic voice give wind to the rise of a man “with a PHD in horribleness.” In wrestling terms, Dr. Horrible is the heel character that fans cheer for. Although he presents himself as the villain, Horrible exhibits the qualities expected from the hero. When tragedy strikes, a series of unfortunate events gives Dr. Horrible his greatest desire but takes his greatest love. Whedon’s and NPH’s make this character extremely memorable.
We arrive back at the new Netflix series and name Count Olaf as the 2nd best character NPH has played. Exactly how good is Harris in this role? Consider this: he is not the top billed or title character, and yet anytime anyone discusses Lemony Snicket he is the first person discussed. Harris has a way of stealing the show – as you will see in his #1 character – without deflecting from the story or adversely effecting other cast members.
On top of this, Harris steps into the role made famous by a comic genius. Jim Carrey‘s take on Count Olaf came in 2004 around the same time he very popular with hits like Yes Man and Bruce Almighty. The platform of Netflix allows NPH to bring the character to a larger audience (with a little help from twitter and Instagram). The reception has been exceptional and other seasons are in the works. In time, the Count may be his greatest character. With one season, in the books, he takes a back seat to the greatest NPH character of all time.
How I Met Your Mother captured the hearts and minds of America during its 9-season run on CBS. The simple story of a man telling his kids about their mom started with a small following and was often on the potential chopping block at season’s end. Every year, though, the fan base grew and the show became a staple in the Monday night lineup. The lion’s share of the credit for improvement goes to the emergence of NPH as Barney Stinson.
Aside from being one of the best roles Harris has ever portrayed, Barney is one of the best characters in the history of television. Ranker’s audience poll puts him in the top 40 of all time. Entertainment Weekly list him in the top 100 characters of the last 20 years.
What makes Barney great is that he is consistent. A womanizer, best bro, business man, and a teenager at heart. Everything he does is true to what Barney Stinson would do. In a day and age where characters in later seasons seem to do things that previous versions of them would never do, Barney is always Barney.
On top of that, Barney is very complex. His high school views of women and sex (and the joys of laser tag) drive his decisions. On the other hand, he is always trying to help his friends, rarely taking credit for it. Barney is fun, disgusting, and intriguing all at the same time. Harris’ portrayal is a treat the audience could enjoy for 9 years.
The showcase episode of Barney Stinson is Season 5, Episode 8 entitled “The Playbook”:
The great history of characters Neil Patrick Harris has brought to life speaks volumes to the type of actor and person he is. He brings the audience into the story in a way few actors can. We can only hope for more tremendous roles for him in the future.