Oh, Neil Patrick Harris is a magician, all right.
Asked to stave off the dying network television model and compete against a monster football game with not much more than a tuxedo jacket and a nimble mind, Harris came through, helping the Primetime Emmys reverse a three-year ratings slide.
Last night's show was watched by 13.3 million, preliminary Nielsen estimates showed. The audience was the telecast's biggest since 2006.
If you think Harris deserves kudos for getting anybody to sit through a rerun of last year's Emmy winners (30 Rock! Mad Men! Again!), then you are not alone.
Here's a roundup of blurbs Harris might want to save for the scrapbook (or the next round of contract negotations):
• "From the moment he walked onstage...you knew you were in good hands." (Los Angeles Times)
• "The very model of a smart, funny host, he was the classiest Emmy host since Johnny Carson, with equally good posture." (Entertainment Weekly)
• "Affable, charming and simultaneously self-deprecating and comically self-aggrandizing." (Hollywood Reporter)
• "You're doing such a wonderful job." (Jon Stewart—during the telecast)
• "This is how you host the Emmys." (Jeff Probst—ditto)
When Harris wasn't getting raves, John Hodgman, PC to Justin Long's Mac, and Emmy announcer to Harris' host, was. "Hands-down the funniest running gag of the night," Television Without Pity declared of Hodgman's colorful color commentary.
About the only people Harris and team didn't win over were pigskin fans. Sunday Night Football, featuring a marquee matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, dominated Sunday with the biggest prime-time NFL telecast in nearly 11 years, NBC said.
Maybe next year Harris could suit up in pads. Assuming he—and broadcast TV—are around next year.
Relive the best segments from the show in our Big Emmy Moments gallery.