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Case Number 10225

Buy Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Season 1, Volume 1 (Uncensored) at Amazon

Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Season 1, Volume 1 (Uncensored)

Warner Bros. // 1998 // 110 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 25th, 2006

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson is going to make up a hoedown about DVDs on the spot: "I like DVDs, they are really, really great; I watch them all the time and...@#%!!!!"

The Charge

Where everything is made up and the points don't matter.

Opening Statement

The Americanized improv sensation finally hits the home video realm, and it's obvious Warner Brothers is looking to milk this bad boy for all it's worth.

Facts of the Case

As anyone who's every caught Comedy Central a few years ago when their primetime schedule consisted wholly of running Whose Line reruns knows, this show was birthed in England, under the supervision of Clive Anderson and a bunch of below-average comics before Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie arrived. In 1998, Drew Carey and ABC imported the show to this side of the Atlantic, permanently made Stiles and Mochrie regulars and spiced things up with a bit more bawdy humor.

Now, to the Neptunians out there, here's the scoop: Whose Line is it Anyway? is an improvisational show, comprised of a series of games designed to place the comics in positions to generate copious laughter through jokes about bodily functions and penis size. You'll get impromptu duets, hoedowns, foreign film dubs, examples of the world's worst dating service, song styles, superheroes, dating games, questions only scenes and news flashes among other exercises in off-the-cuff humor, all in front of a raucous audience.

The debut set features the first 10 episodes of Season One, plus some bonus features that are far from ABC Family-friendly.

The Evidence

I reckon this is a divisive show. I've talked to people who think the improv comedy these guys cook up is the funniest @#$% ever, and others who think its just @#$%. Personally, I fall somewhere in between; when the games work, I laugh hard, when they don't, I'm impatient. I also think the latter years of the British original are superior to any of the American installments, and would be much more inclined to snatch those up on DVD if they ever say the light of day (mainly because Clive Anderson is a better host than Carey and the games tended to be shorter and more varied).

This initial Yankee incarnation features some great moments, sure, and is far from unfunny in this fan's opinion. Much of the humor is driven by Stiles and Mochrie, who are so obvious leaps and bounds away from the other participants—especially the rotating guest stars. These two guys are the faces of the series and without them, the show would be a lackluster affair. And to answer the age-old question: yes, I think Colin is funnier than Ryan.

Wayne Brady would eventually go on to become another regular, and he is in most of the episodes here. He's good and has a great disposition, but isn't as on the ball as Stiles or Mochrie this early. His expertise is in improvising song compositions, and he's dazzling with that material, but those games happen to be my least favorite.

With this batch of episodes it's the games that failed to nuke my corndog. There were just too many of the same ones, and not enough of my favorites: hardly any "Scenes from a Hat," no "World's Worst," and a dearth of "Film and TV Styles." You could count on each show having the "Let's Make a Date," "Party Quirks," and "Song Styles" games, which are fine, but eventually grew repetitive. One edge the American version definitively held over the British was the evolution of the "Sound Effects" game, where Ryan and Colin would act out a scene and two hapless audience members would supply horrible sound effects too. These games would become wildly hilarious, but for this introductory season, it was just traditional "Sound Effects," with Ryan doing the effects for Colin; decent, but not nearly as funny as subsequent installments would be. And I like Drew Carey and all, but he doesn't have the wit of Anderson, at least not this early on. He certainly improves as the seasons unfold, but in these 10 episodes he seemed unsure of his improv ability.

So, overall, there is some good stuff here, but later shows would become sharper and funnier as games evolved. I just wish the audience wasn't too over-hyped and strung out on laugh prompts.

I've got a feeling that these sets are going to be doled out conservatively. This is only volume one of season one, and I don't know why Warner Brothers couldn't just unload the entire season on one set. Just give it to us in big doses please—there is no reason why sets should just be limited to 10 shows each. That being said, the shows look fine, presented in their original full frame format and the extras are surprisingly debauched. Now I know why you never see kids in the audience—the outtakes are R-rated. Stiles especially unleashes seriously "adult" behavior on the set, and part of me wonders if the inclusion of the naughty bits was necessary in a set that is geared toward an all ages demographic.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

This set brings us a taste of some big missteps to come, namely the newfangled games like "Daytime Talk Show," a too-long excursion into unfunny cliches and audience hooting.

Closing Statement

Good show, decent set, though I would have preferred to see a larger compendium of episodes. Multiple volumes for the seven seasons? Cha-frickin'-ching.

The Verdict

The accused is awarded 10 million points, and now must read the credits in a style of my choosing.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 85
Extras: 75
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Outtakes
• Uncensored Gag Reel


• IMDb

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