Judge Kent Dixon used to experience spontaneous improvisation, but it's been better since he saw his doctor.
Drew Carey: Welcome to 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' the show where everything's
made up and the points don't matter. That's right, the points are just like when
I say "I Love You" when I'm drunk.
Adapting the original British series for American audiences, Whose Line Is It Anyway? keeps the performers on their toes and the audience in stitches. With so many hilarious episodes over the run of the series, it was likely a challenge to cull a handful of episodes for this release.
Facts of the Case
For the uninitiated, Whose Line Is It Anyway? borrows more than just its name from the British originator. The series features a host who introduces each scene or "game" and solicits audience input when needed, a small troupe of performers and a live studio audience. The performers are given story ideas with specific instructions on elements that must be included during the scene. If you've ever been to a dinner theater performance or to an evening of Theatresports, for those of us north of the 49th parallel, you get the gist.
The Best of Whose Line Is It Anyway? includes an assorted selection of 10 episodes from the series' eight season run, spread over two discs. I'm not exactly sure what kind of a crack team of professionals you'd need to employ to whittle eight seasons down into five "best" episodes, but that's what you get here.
Created by Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson, Whose Line Is It Anyway? began as a radio show for BBC 4 in the U.K. in 1988. One of the radio show's traditions that continued through both the British and American TV incarnations was the tradition of reading the show's credits. So if you ever found that a bit odd, pointless or silly on TV, remember that the show started on radio and that should hopefully ease some of your pain as you sit through it at the end of most episodes.
Realizing the strong potential of their concept for TV, the producers pushed BBC to move the show from radio to TV. Although initially reluctant and skeptical that the concept would work on television, the BBC finally agreed and Whose Line hit British TV screen on BBC 4 in 1988. Both Mochrie and Stiles began to appear on the British version of the series in the second and third seasons (known as "series" in the U.K.) and their appearances continued to increase until, by the end of the show's run, they were appearing in every episode. Wayne Brady also joined the U.K. cast near the end, appearing in five episodes.
Stiles joined the core cast of The Drew Carey Show while he was still involved in the U.K. version of Whose Line and it wasn't long before Drew Carey's attention was drawn to the unique British concept. Carey managed to convince ABC to agree to a few trial episodes, which ultimately garnered the network an inexpensive hit. While very similar in style to its BBC predecessor, the U.S. version employed a mock game show format that assigned points to performers after they completed a game. The U.S. Whose Line also benefitted from the musical improvisational talents of pianist Laura Hall and guitarist Linda Taylor who added considerably to the many sing-along games on the show. If you'd like some guest stars included with your improv, you'll find Richard Simmons, David Hasselhoff, Florence Henderson, Jerry Springer and bodybuilder Jane Tricker each join Drew and the boys, thankfully never taking themselves very seriously.
Improvisational comedy is a bit like a potluck casserole-it's usually quite tasty in smaller helpings, but you can quickly lose your appetite. Adapting the British series for American audiences, Whose Line Is It Anyway delivered more than 200 episodes before being cancelled in 2003. Despite the occasional dud during each episode's games the show delivered some of the best laughs on TV during its original run and continues to please old and news fans in reruns and on DVD.
I've been lucky enough to see some of the cast members of Whose Line Is It Anyway? perform live twice in the past few years. I've been part of an improv comedy group in the past and I know all too well the skills and talents that are needed to make the chemistry really work. Plain and simple, these guys are good. Each of the core Whose Line cast members certainly have their strengths: Drew Carey is a decent host but isn't overly skilled at the games; Wayne Brady has a strong singing voice and can improvise a song like no one else; Greg Proops and Brad Sherwood are pretty strong at a broad range of games; and Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie are easily the strongest members of the Whose Line ensemble. Recurring cast members Kathy Griffin (Suddenly Susan), Jeff Davis (The Sarah Silverman Program), Kathy Greenwood (Wind at My Back), Brad Sherwood (Digimon Data Squad) and Chip Esten (The Office) also appear in some of the episodes on this release, adding their own unique talents to the Whose Line fun.
If you've been a fan of the series and have watched it from the beginning, odds are that you already have many, if not all of the series' episodes saved on your PVR or VHS tape. If you're hoping to have a proper digital upgrade to some of these great episodes, you'll be disappointed. The video presentation is a bit soft and the audio is just okay, so if you're even considering purchasing this release, you'll want to be sure the content is important enough to you first. The only extra feature included with this set, "The Best of Whose Line Is It Anyway?" delivers an hour-long collection of highlights, bloopers, favorite moments and material that was originally cut by network sensors. Locker room humor abounds here and you might just be shocked by how much of it you find yourself laughing at…I know I was!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One of the main risks of improv comedy is how to know when to let go. If the audience isn't laughing, or the chemistry just isn't working, count your losses and move on to a new game. Even with a live studio audience, Whose Line is no different.
Die hard fans of the series may want to opt for the complete season releases, but if you're new to the show or want a solid offering of some of the series' funnier moments, The Best of Whose Line Is It Anyway? has you covered.
The Best of Whose Line Is It Anyway? is guilty of nothing more than making a grown man cry tears of laughter and delivering what may be the best abdominal workout in years!
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