'Little Big Shots': TV Review

Courtesy of Danny Feld/NBC
Adorable yet grating.

Kids showcase their talent, and their cuteness, in NBC's (mostly) family-friendly show.

Kids say and do the darndest things.

And in this Internet age, some parents vie to turn their little darlings' latest antics into the next viral video.

Enter NBC’s Little Big Shots, which has culled the Internet to find the most talented and adorable children out there. And indeed, some of the kids are amazingly talented. In the sneak preview that aired earlier this week, 4-year-old Titus has the astounding ability to dunk a basketball from almost any location. The salsa dancers showcased Sunday night move like they could be the professionals on Dancing With the Stars.

Other times, the talent may not be as evident. While I’m sure 6-year-old Akash is a great speller, how are we to know that Akash wasn’t given the words “derriere” and “connoisseur” beforehand? Still, the excitable Akash is very cute constantly asking if there is an alternate pronunciation for the word he is about to spell. So why quibble over the details?

Some children don’t have any defined talent except for how positively adorable they are. There’s the ballerina who struts to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” with so much attitude that she seems destined to grow up and be on Real Housewives. Six-year-old Jay is allegedly an amazing conductor, though it’s hard to tell if that’s true based on his performance. But how can you not smile watching him in his bright blue suit trying to name all the kids in his choir? Tiffany, 4, featured in Sunday night’s premiere, is on the show simply because she steals a donut from her mom and lies about it (probably every preschooler could make a video like that). Tiffany also references the fact that her parents “whup” her. “Do you know that your mother and father might be going away for a while?” host Steve Harvey laughs. The whole thing is probably innocent enough, but I’m not sure we should be joking about potential child abuse on an allegedly family-friendly program.

There are a few other off-color remarks and moments. “Where are your balls?” Titus innocently asks Harvey as the audience roars. And Harvey has great fun advising the boys on how to behave around the girls. He tells one little boy not to interrupt his singing partner. “Jeffrey, you’re learning a valuable lesson here. You don’t ever talk over a woman,” Harvey says. When 11-year-old Johnathan remarks that his current dance partner is much lighter than his previous partners, Harvey cuts him off and says, “Let me clean this up for you.”

The show got big ratings when it previewed after The Voice. Whether it continues to do well probably depends on the audience's tolerance for Harvey. The comedian is affable enough, but his shtick gets old quickly. He spends most of the time mugging for the camera and mocking his own stupidity. “I was 28 before I attempted a four-syllable word,” Harvey deadpans. After watching a piano prodigy, he says, “I want to apologize to my seven children. Obviously somewhere down the line, I failed you miserably.”

Of course the series is reminiscent of Kids Say the Darndest Things, which was hosted by Bill Cosby (long before his fall from grace), or the times Johnny Carson or Jay Leno interviewed children. Ellen DeGeneres, who likes to showcase talented kids on her own talk show, serves as executive producer.

“You have never seen kids like the ones that are coming out here today,” Harvey promises at the beginning of the show. That’s probably not true. Little Big Shots is a throwback with a modern twist: Kids have always been adorable — and now they can talk about their cuteness in terms of page views and going viral.

Host: Steve Harvey
Executive producers: Steve Harvey, Ellen DeGeneres
Airs: Sundays, 8 p.m. ET/PT (NBC)