By: Dru Johnston
‘I don’t know how many points to award for the last game which is a shame cause ‘ it’s my job.”
The experts that recap television shows for a living all agree: We are living in a golden age of television. But the HBO and AMC shows we love today were influenced and shaped by the classic shows of yesterday. We look at those shows. This week: Whose Line Is It Anyway, Season 1, Episode 7. The Second Beat.
Maybe I missed something.
In one of Breaking Bad‘s final episodes ( ‘Ozymandias”) they open the show with a scene from the pilot. We see Walt and Jesse’s first cook ‘ young innocent drug cooks completely unaware of the turn their life will take over the next year and a half. In that moment Vince Gilligan is reminding the audience who these people once were, and as the scene fades into a violent, deadly shootout, Vince Gilligan reminds us who they have become. It’s a masterful piece of art. In a similar vein this week’s episode of Whose Line Is It, Anyway? starts off with the exact same intro we saw in episode three. Everything is the same: the introductory comments ( ‘If you’re a lady, you’re gonna love Wayne Brady”), the hurried tone of Drew’s voice, even the clothes our improvers wear. Drew Carey is reminding us who these people once were. It legitimately might have been Vince Gilligan’s inspiration. But then instead of showing us who these people have become they play a bunch of short form improv games. And I can’t tell if it’s a brilliant piece of television history and it’s gone completely over my head, or if they decided to record two episodes in one day to save some money. There is literally no way to know.
Last week I was concerned that Whose Line was throwing away all the drama and instead just trying to fill time with silly props. I hoped this week would right the ship. It pains me to say this, since I recap television professionally, but I can’t tell if it did or not. I’ve given this episode of Whose Line both an F- and an A+, because I can’t tell whether or not it’s an ingenious precursor to Breaking Bad, showing us the life that our anti-hero Drew Carey left behind (easily an A+), or if it’s just an excuse to show some improv games that they didn’t get to air in the third episode (that would be an F-).
Outside of the identical opening, there is still plenty to read into this week. First and foremost Greg Proops has returned. Previous episodes led me to believe that Drew had murdered Greg Proops as a way to assert his dominance over the lowly improvers ‘ and there are still hints that this was the case. His introduction: ‘Whatever you do don’t step in him ‘ Greg Proops!” makes much more sense to be said about a dead, decaying man than it does an alive one. And yet here he stands, as plain as day, playing hoedown with the rest of the cast. It’s almost as if the show-runner realized that killing off a cast member that early might make it harder to heighten the drama as the series progressed, so he just brought him back as if it never happened. The last time I saw a show get away with this was Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, and that is known to be one of the sole blemishes on the series. Why is the audience letting Whose Line get away with this? When I ask friends about Whose Line they mention how much they love it, they never mention that there are loose ends that are never answered.
Then again, maybe it’s gone completely over my head and this entire episode is a flashback to episode three? Showing us the young innocent improvers they once were? But if that’s the case then how come they never acknowledge it, and how come they declare a new winner at the end, and how come they play entirely different short form improv games? Something seems off.
This awkward ‘off” feeling continues throughout the episode. At one point the totalitarian improv master Drew hits on an old woman named Mae who says she’s a baker. ‘Nice buns,” says Drew while staring at her.
This is still in line with Drew’s anti-hero character. But it’s also so extreme that it seems to either be jumping the shark or a joke, which seems out of character in the Whose Line world.
As in previous episodes the points continue to not matter. This is still horrifying, the likes of which we only see in Orwell novels, but even this frightening conceit is beginning to seem muddy. Every time Drew mentions that the points don’t matter the audience laughs as if it’s a joke. And to make matters worse the improvers laugh as well! Don’t they realize that they are trapped on a stage being awarded and punished with absolutely no basis in reality? Why are they treating it like a joke?! And if it is a joke, I’m sorry but I don’t get it!
But then again, maybe all of this is so deep and brilliant that it’s gone over my head. The first five episodes of Whose Line Is It, Anyway? offered up such gripping drama and so much promise as a television series that I have to give it the benefit of the doubt. But I’m beginning to worry that they’re throwing out their hard work because they realized it’s easier to play short form games than it is to carefully script and hone a half hour of television. Or maybe, like the best dramas of television, they’re slowly dropping hints that will pay off later in a grand season finale. I mentioned that perhaps Whose Line was the inspiration for Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad, and if that’s the case then I do believe all of these little trifles might matter down the line.
At the end of episode five Brad had teamed up with Drew, Greg Proops was dead, and the fellow improvers were being forced to make up songs against their will. I declared that there was a war coming. I pray that this is the calm before the storm.
LAST THOUGHTS OF A RANDOM NATURE
- In the game of Props Colin is picked up by a claw machine. This is eerily reminiscent of Brad getting picked up by a claw machine in a previous game of props. In fact it’s just the exact same thing.
- They should focus less on the improv games and more on figuring out whose line it is, anyway.
- To inspire their hoedown the audience declares that commercials annoy them. Immediately after the hoedown Drew throws to a commercial break. There’s that evil spark we were missing.
- ‘I don’t know how many points to award for the last game which is a shame cause ‘ it’s my job.” This sentence is a perfect metaphor for how I feel about grading this episode.
- In the final game ‘Foreign Film Dub’ Greg mistakenly says that he hopes Cleopatra is not on her pyramid. I think he misspoke. He meant to say period.
- ‘Remember we’re on a Disney owned channel.” Breaking the fourth wall again.
- When Ryan played the Salesman Desperate To Hide The Fact That He’s A Chimp (SDTHTFTHAC for short) I laughed really hard and thought it was very funny and I called my brother and told him about it and we both laughed because of how silly it was and then I told my brother I’d get him his money soon. But really it was silly and funny.