Warner Home Video
Cast: Drew Carey, Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Wayne Brady, Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood
Extras: Outtakes, Gag Reels
In the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, the British improvisational comedy show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" induced side-splitting laughter in viewers on both sides of the Atlantic. Hosted by Clive Anderson, the series featured regular appearances by comedians Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops and Brad Sherwood. In 1998, ABC picked up the series for its American version, fronting Drew Carey as the new host. Stiles and Mochrie returned as permanent fixtures, with recurring appearances by Proops and Sherwood as well as newcomer Wayne Brady. The show continues to be a sensation, and viewers can now see the American version from the beginning in Warner Home Video's Season One, Volume One release.
The premise of the series is quite simple. Four comedians improvise comic sketches based on ideas and suggestions from the host and the studio audience. The actors have never seen the material before and must come up with their skits on the spot and keep them going until their time runs out. Some of the sketches are strictly verbal, such as "Questions Only," in which the players must keep up a conversation using only questions. Other sketches involve extreme physical comedy, like "Party Quirks," where one player pretends to throw a party for the other three who must take on bizarre characters (ranging from a clumsy circus performer to a living Hitchcock movie), while the first tries to figure out who they are. Given the variety of suggestions and diverse talents of the actors, the comedic opportunities are endless and never fail to surprise.
Warner Home Video offers the first 10 episodes of Season One on this 2-disc set. Drew Carey does an admirable job as host, though he never quite captures the wry charm of Clive Anderson from the British version. That doesn't really matter as Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie are the real stars of this show. In episode after episode they riotously take command of every situation and turn it into a hilarious sketch. Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood, and the energetic Wayne Brady offer excellent support in frequently scene-stealing measures. Drew Carey's sitcom co-star Kathy Kinney makes an appearance in one episode, as does Karen Maruyama, while Denny Siegel turns up a few times to show off her comedic chops.
Though the running time listed on the DVD package is 110 minutes, that only applies to one disc, both of which contain five episodes. In total, the episodes amount to roughly 220 minutes. In their original fullframe aspect ratio, the episodes have been nicely transferred to DVD, with decent contrast and overall clean and crisp images. There appears to be some slight edge enhancement, but nothing too distracting. In general, I would say this is a step up from broadcast quality. Colors are pleasantly saturated, black levels are solid, and skin tones are natural. The picture looks great.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. In general, it sounds reasonably good. Dialogue is slightly soft and at times overpowered by the crowd laughing, but this is mostly negligible. The music during the opening and closing segments comes through loud and clear. Overall, this is not a spectacular presentation, but it suffices. Optional French and Spanish subtitles are available.
Warner has released Volume One of this series in separate Censored and Uncensored editions. Regardless of which version you buy, the episodes are the same, presented exactly as they are shown on television. The uncensored label applies to the special features, which occasionally contain some off-color remarks and strong profanity. Housed on Disc 2, the special features begin with six outtakes. These are all basically extended sketches that, for one reason or another, could not be shown in their entirety on TV, mostly due to mistakes.
Up next are two gag reels, and this is where the hilarity (and profanity) really begins. Most of the fun here comes from the players going out of their way to offend the producers who repeatedly halt production to take care of censorship issues. The constant warnings on both the DVD package and menu about vulgar and explicit material that is unsuitable for children seem a little exaggerated as the worst of the material consists of several uses of the F-bomb. While parents certainly may be concerned about this, rest assured that there is no overtly sexual material.
"Whose Line Is It Anyway?" is a fantastic series that wonderfully showcases the improvisational talents of its many stars. With slapstick, bantering, and role playing to spare, this DVD is an absolute blast from start to finish. I have always enjoyed this show, and it is great to finally have it to watch at my own leisure. I'm sure many people will agree. The bottom line is if you are a fan, do not hesitate to pick up this set.