The American incarnation of Britain's "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" proved to be a great success for eight seasons from 1998 to 2006. The show, which features four comics participating in games that call for improvisational comedy, offered viewers unpredictable and often outrageous humor, both physical and verbal. Host Drew Carey and a team that generally included Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, and Wayne Brady, along with an additional comedian, provided great energy and big laughs with their quick wit and willingness to make complete fools out of themselves. After releasing the show's first season on DVD in two volumes, Warner Home Video is bringing out a new "Best of" edition with 10 of the series' funniest episodes.
The episodes chosen for this release date from 2001 to 2004, and they all star Brady, Mochrie, and Stiles. Filling in the fourth seat on the various episodes are Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood, Kathy Greenwood, Charles Esten, Jeff Davis, and Kathy Griffin. As to whether or not these 10 episodes truly are the best the series has to offer is impossible to critique as that is a purely subjective judgment, but I can attest that what is presented here is very funny. On the whole, it appears that each episode was chosen primarily for one standout segment rather than for being consistently hilarious from start to finish, and these standouts are generally sexual in nature. For example, the first episode features a guest appearance by Richard Simmons, who is clearly thrilled about performing physical comedy with four other men. In one sketch wherein he is used as a human prop, he is supposed to act as a jet ski, but his movements are so clearly suggestive of a lewd act that he drives the audience wild. In a later episode, a game of "Party Quirks" gives Colin Mochrie the role of someone who is suspicious about the sex of the people he encounters. To convincingly portray his characters, he proceeds to repeatedly feel Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady, and Kathy Greenwood's genitals.
This type of humor is fairly typical of what is to be expected on the show. Several of the games rely heavily on double entendres and a playfully homoerotic connection between the predominately male stars (on at least two occasions, there is some humorous man-on-man smooching). At the same time, it is innocuous enough to never seem too raunchy and is generally family friendly (I would recommend ages 12 and up). The episodes are presented here uncensored, although about the only truly censorable action I remember seeing is a fleeting middle finger.
If there is one episode that stands out from the rest, it is the episode featuring guest star Florence Henderson. That's right, Carol Brady herself joins the fun, bringing with her some edge as she blends her goody-goody persona with the show's risqué antics. This episode, more than any other presented here, truly is hilarious from beginning to end, and Henderson has a lot to do with that. The guys (joined by Brad Sherwood) clearly enjoy her presence, and the episode reaches its high point when Stiles gets to portray Jan Brady.
The rundown of episodes looks like this:
Show 521. Original Airdate: 6/20/03. Special Guest: Richard Simmons.
Show 401. Original Airdate: 9/6/01.
Show 610. Original Airdate: 6/27/03. Special Guest: David Hasselhoff.
Show 308. Original Airdate: 6/14/01.
Show 419. Original Airdate: 10/17/01.
Show 512. Original Airdate: 9/30/02. Special Guest: Florence Henderson.
Show 413. Original Airdate: 10/3/01.
Show 505. Original Airdate: 8/7/04. Special Guests: Loyola Marymount University Cheerleaders.
Show 611. Original Airdate: 7/11/03. Special Guest: Bodybuilder Jane Tricker.
Show 612. Original Airdate: 8/15/03. Special Guest: Jerry Springer.
While this release in general is very funny, my only concern is that it appears that Warner Home Video has abandoned releasing the rest of the series in its original seasons. Volume 2 of the first season was released in 2007, and so far this is all that has followed. Considering the large fan base this series has, I certainly hope Warner is not ending the show's DVD releases with this compilation. Perhaps if this release is successful, the studio will resume putting out regular season releases. But right now, things are not looking too good.
The episodes, as outlined above, are spread over two discs. They are all presented in their fullframe aspect ratios and look consistently good. Colors are bright throughout and the image is clear and generally free of defects. Some minor edge enhancement is visible, but overall this outweighs TV broadcast quality and should certainly satisfy viewers.
Audio is likewise very good, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. Voices are clear, and the laughter from the studio audience is given a nice boost without overpowering the rest of the audio. Optional English subtitles are provided.
The only extra here is a bonus, hour-long (approximately 45 minutes without commercials) episode featuring highlights from the first and second seasons as well as some bloopers. This is a solid feature with some hilarious material, particularly the bloopers. There are a few bits included that were cut from the original episodes to appease the censors, but I would like to point out that there is nothing here that is particularly offensive. I actually wondered why a few of the cut jokes even bothered the censors. It is all presented here uncensored, but for those expecting anything like the material on the Season One/Volume One DVD, which did include quite a bit of strong profanity, there is nothing remotely close to that here.
"The Best of Whose Line Is It Anyway?" is certainly an enjoyable release and one that should especially please fans of the show. But I truly hope that this does not signal the end of the show's availability on DVD. These 10 episodes, as funny as they are, hardly make up for the absence of the seven still unavailable seasons on DVD. Let's hope that Warner Home Video is listening to the fans who demand to see more of this terrific show made available to them.