When this show was on a few years ago, I always made time to sit down and watch it. It didn't have a script, or a plot, or acting. But, nevertheless, it was vastly entertaining, and, for my money, more funny than most sitcoms that were out at the time. Whose Line Is It Anyway? was always better viewed with some of your friends helplessly howling with you, while simultaneously marvelling at the quick wits and inventiveness of the cast. Now, I've never been much of a Drew Carey fan; he doesn't really make me laugh. But he was the main reason the American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? was put on the airwaves, so, for this, he gets my thanks.
Whose Line Is It Anyway? was an improvisational comedy show which had British roots; it used the premise of a game show as a framework, with a host and a panel of four participants, except that, in this game show, the points don't really matter and the winner is arbitrarily chosen by Drew Carey. As host, Carey got to choose the scenario or "game" the players would play. All in all, the cast was wondrously dependable in their ability to tickle our funny bone. These guys were excellent ad-libbers. I did feel, however, that the segment where the "winner" gets to do something with Drew near the episode's end was almost always a let down. I'm not sure if this is because of my antipathy towards Drew or because Drew just isn't that good at improvising.
What made the show work was that the contestants were genuinely funny performers; add to that the fact that three of the participants were regulars, which gave 'em the chance to get in sync with each other comedically, resulting, almost paradoxically, in a tighter, improvisational style of levity. Discounting Drew, there were three regulars: Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, and Wayne Brady. Stiles and Mochrie had great chemistry together and were quick-thinking funnymen who were equally adept with the quip or the occasional physical comedy. Personally, I thought Colin Mochrie was the funniest one of all. Wayne Brady was a genius with the impromptu lyrics and a good singer, to boot. With his congenial personality, you could see how he got his own show.
The fourth seat was reserved for a rotating guest list, the most often used of whom were the smartly glib Greg Proops, the amiable Chip Esten, and the goofy-expressioned Brad Sherwood. Stunt guests included Robin Williams and Whoopie Goldberg (who tanked), and even Stephen Colbert guest starred in two episodes. But I have to agree with a previous reviewer in that British comedienne Josie Lawrence, in particular, was always a delight and gave Wayne Brady a run for his money in the tunes department. In the original British Whose Line, Josie often tore up the crowd with her ad lib song renditions.
The most popular games played were "Let's Make a Date," "Superheroes," "Newscasters," "Party Quirks," "Questions Only," "Helping Hands," and the dreaded "Hoedown" (which Mochrie loathed). My favorites games were "Scenes from a Hat" (participants would enact audience-written scenarios drawn from a hat), "Props" (the players are given props, which they must find a funny use for), "Mission: Impossible" (often with Mochrie and Styles, who enact spy capers), "Narrate" (again Mochrie and Styles, who channel film noir), "Three-Headed Broadway Star" (three of 'em join in a song, whilst taking turns singing only one word at a time), "Greatest Hits" (usually with Wayne Brady singing quick snippets about a product Drew selects, with hilarious promotional intros by two others of the cast), and "Song Styles" (Wayne Brady must improvise and serenade an audience member to a song style suggested by the audience).
Heads up to the consumer: there will be two versions of this dvd released. There's the censored version (which is what we saw on tv) and the uncensored version (which, to me, is the one to get). Both dvds will contain the first 10 episodes of Season One, complete with outtakes. Hopefully, there are more bonus features included.
Reruns of this show is still on at times on cable television, but, now, that's not good enough anymore. Hopefully, in due time, we'll see the release of all the episodes, of the U.S. and British versions both. Until then, this isn't a bad start.