Bill Cosby’s name is tarnished these days, but it’s hard to watch “Little Big Shots” – a new NBC series hosted by Steve Harvey – without thinking of him. That’s because Harvey basically channels Cosby’s version of the venerable TV format “Kids Say the Darndest Things” in an unscripted program that weds those attributes with “America’s Got Talent.” Culling participants from YouTube videos and tailored to the generation weaned on those vids, think of “Little Big Shots” as a reality show that’s intended to make viewers go “Aww,” which is certainly preferable to “Eww.”
Thankfully, NBC has stripped any competitive element from this talent showcase, so the kids are just being brought out to demonstrate what they can do – and perhaps make other parents a trifle envious – not to win money. As a bonus, that eliminates any chance of Harvey replicating his infamous pageant performance and putting a crown on the wrong kid.
The unhurried nature of the series is predicated on having the children (all under age 8 in the premiere) chat with Harvey before showing off their skills, which for the most part are pretty impressive. In the premiere, they include a 4-year-old boy with a knack for making shots from alarming distances on his toy basketball hoop, a 6-year-old spelling whiz, a dancer, singers and a boy who can meticulously replicate Bruce Lee’s nunchaku-whirling artistry in “Game of Death.”
Harvey can be an acquired taste, but he’s well suited to this slight vehicle – which he produces with Ellen DeGeneres, among others – providing the requisite reaction shots at obvious moments, like when the budding basketball star asks, “Where are your balls?” Granted, one can quibble about talking to a 7-year-old about “going viral,” or consider that parents potentially are exploiting their tots in some of these instances, but for the most part, this is reminiscent of the talk-show staple of bringing on gifted tykes, and lacks the “ick” factor associated with fare like “Toddlers & Tiaras” or “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”
NBC has scheduled “Little Big Shots” on Sundays after the obligatory post-“The Voice” preview, and it certainly feels reminiscent of programming that used to be scheduled that night, aimed at reaching the whole family.
Obviously, viewing has fragmented considerably since those days, as mom, dad and kids scatter to their respective screens. Yet – at the risk of mixing sports metaphors – while this isn’t a case of swinging for the fences, as such shots go, this one takes pretty good aim in its attempt to connect with everyone.