Who could’ve guessed that one of this summer’s most appealing prime-time alternatives would be an improvisational-comedy game show? But emcee/exec producer Drew Carey’s Whose Line Is It Anyway? (ABC, Wednesdays, 9:30-10 p.m.) proves even more amusing than the long-running British hit on which it’s based.

Carey presides agreeably over the proceedings, throwing out oddball topics for impromptu sketches performed by the program’s dazzlingly talented panelists and awarding points based solely on his own whims (after a porno-themed bit: ”100 points to Ryan [Stiles] for making me think of him naked”). Among the agile ensemble (all alums of the original Line) are the putty-faced Colin Mochrie, who does a delirious drunk routine, and the electric Wayne Brady, who offers killer impressions of Sammy Davis Jr., James Brown, and Michael Jackson.

But the real star of Line is Stiles, who displays a gift for physical shtick not seen in his role as one of the doofy sidekicks on Carey’s self-titled ABC sitcom. In a skit that could give Jim Carrey pause, Stiles acts out the aging process backward, regressing from geriatric to sperm in less than a minute.

The show isn’t perfect — there are too many self-indulgent reaction shots of Carey guffawing, and the cast could’ve benefited from a few female performers. But in a summer packed with Must Flee TV reruns, this Line will seem truly new to you. A-

Whose Line Is It Anyway?
  • TV Show