'Whose Line Is It Anyway' returns: First impressions?
The best thing about the new Whose Line: It’s just like the old Whose Line.
Sure, the set looks a little snazzier, a few new games have been thrown into the mix, and Drew Carey has morphed into Aisha Tyler. But the heart of the show is still what it always was — sharp, fast-paced short-form improv performed by a team of veterans who know each other’s rhythms inside and out. The only real difference is that Colin Mochrie’s few remaining hairs have changed from blondish-brown to snowy white.
Given how often Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, and Wayne Brady have performed together since the American version of Whose Line went off the air in 2007, this isn’t exactly shocking. Still, it’s a huge relief to anyone who feared that the series’s legacy might be tainted by a lukewarm re-do. It was smart of The CW to stick with the American Whose Line‘s tried-and-true team, rather than updating the series with a younger crew; keeping its core dynamics (Ryan and Colin’s near-telepathic connection, Wayne’s musical swagger) intact makes this newest version feel more like a continuation than a reboot, which is all the show’s fans really wanted.
That said, one major element of the old show is missing: Ex-host Carey, a genial punching bag who always gave the guys something to riff off of (and occasionally contributed a terrible Hoedown verse or Irish Drinking Song line). He’s been traded for Tyler, an actress and comedian who’s better known for standup than improv.
But even though it’s still early, I’m in favor of Tyler as host. The two Whose Line episodes that aired last night proved that she’s quick with a zinger — and she also injects some much-needed feminine energy into the show, which has always had a bad habit of marginalizing lady improvisers. Witness, for example, how little screen time poor Heather Anne Campbell got in the Kevin McHale episode.
Which brings up another thing about Whose Line 4.0 that I’m not so crazy about: What’s with all the special guest stars? (And does this mean studio-audience members don’t get to be involved in games anymore? Bummer!)
On the old show, visitors beyond Wayne, Ryan, Colin, and a fourth rotating improviser were rare — which meant that their impact was always strong. (See: Richard Simmons.) Now, though, every episode includes a guest improviser and another guest who knows nothing about improv. The brilliant Keegan Michael Key is appearing on Whose Line next week; though he deserves his own showcase, he’ll have to cede the screen to The Vampire Diaries‘sCandice Accola at some point. That’s just wrong.
Still, these are only minor quibbles. On the whole, I’m pretty happy with the newish, not-really-improved Whose Line — how about you? Were you pleased with the shows last night? Do you like Aisha Tyler? And what do you think was the night’s best line? My vote goes to Ryan making a crack about his character’s age: “I am a little old. I’m like a fine wine: All my sediment is going to the bottom.”