By: Dru Johnston
“Welcome to ‘Whose Line is it, Anyway?’ the show that asks the question ‘ ‘Whose Line is it, Anyway?'”
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 8. The Question.
At the very beginning of this week’s episode of Whose Line is it, Anyway? Drew welcomes the viewing audience with a promise: “Welcome to Whose Line is it, Anyway? the show that asks the question: ‘Whose line is it, anyway?'” Finally! We’re going to answer the central underlying question that hides beneath Drew’s horn rimmed glasses.
When I first sat down nearly two months ago to recap these classic episodes of television all I wanted was to find out whose line it was, and then in a move very reminiscent of The Killing they refused to answer, teasing us. But they went further. Like LOST they began to forget this was a question they had ever asked. They let the audience wait in frustrated silence, yearning for Drew to say: “Oh, looks like it’s Colin’s line. And it has been all along.” Yet he never did. What LOST did with polar bears, Whose Line is it, Anyway? did with lines. And now, finally, in episode 8 it seems we’re going to get an answer.
And yet we never do. Instead we get more of the same short form improv games that we’ve grown to expect from this sweeping drama, throwing aside the stuff that matters in favor of jokes about pigs (there are over three jokes about pigs). In fact when Drew says that the show answers the titular question the audience laughs. I’m sorry, did I miss something? Why are we laughing at the central premise of the show? Am I not in on the joke? When Walt is told he has cancer we don’t see a studio audience burst out laughing ‘ “Oh boy, likely story! Walt has cancer?! Can’t wait to see this!” No! We sit and watch with emotional catharsis as a man transforms from introspective chemistry teacher to terrorizing villain. That’s what television is! All good television is intense drama, and most of it is on AMC. I thought it might also have a home on ABC Family, but now I think I may have overestimated this show.
Frustrated can’t begin to describe how I feel about Whose Line is it, Anyway? There was such promise at the beginning of the series. All the pieces were there to make it one of the epic dramas of our time. But then, about three weeks ago, they started throwing all their work away and instead began focusing on the short form improv games. This is not the Whose Line I fell in love with. This is, arguably, just the exact same show over and over again with minor details switched so it seems like it’s a different episode. And episode eight shines a light on the show’s flaws and forgotten promise more than it’s ever done before.
We start the show with the ‘Dating Game’. Sound familiar? It should because of the eight episodes I’ve recapped we start off with the ‘Dating Game’ in six of them (Episodes 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and now 8). And that’s not the only thing that’s familiar. Colin’s quirk is that he’s “gradually turning into a pig”, which is eerily similar to Ryan’s episode 5 quirk, “gradually turning into a parrot.”
At first I took these repetitions to be an artistic choice, demonstrating the Sisyphean futility of the improvers lives ‘ forced to live under the iron fist of Drew Carey and forced to act out the insane characters and rituals over and over again until our Price-Is-Right-hosting anti-hero was satisfied. But after you start six of your eight episodes with the same thing it becomes clear that Drew’s running out of ideas to further the plot, and instead is just repeating this stuff because it’s fun and/or there aren’t that many short form improv games to choose from.
Drew also casually mentions that the points don’t matter and he continues to dole them out, yet it’s missing the ominous nature we once saw. When Drew first told us the points don’t matter it was a declaration: “Hey, I control you. I will give you meaningless points.” But again, after we hear it for the eighth time we get it. The points don’t matter. It doesn’t even feel like the shows a prison anymore. A prison in which the improvers are forced to make props look like things they aren’t. Four trapped pink souls in the ‘O’ of the title card, unable to fly from their bindings. Instead it feels like a bunch of hams making up jokes and the audience applauding them for rhyming anything with anything.
And finally, in the last game, Drew watches as Colin puts mustard in Ryan’s eyes. This is horrifying. And yet it looks like they’re just having a fun time. Drew and Wayne hug in joy and Wayne casually says through fits of laughter: “That was nasty.” The words are there but the attitude is not. As the best television of AMC and HBO has proven people want to watch other people being nasty to one another. They don’t want to watch people having fun. Let’s focus more on whose line it is, and less on having a good time, Whose Line.
I want to give this episode an F. So why the C-? Because it was silly and funny and I was laughing throughout the episode. Turns out when you throw aside carefully crafted character development and instead make Colin act as Ryan’s hands I’m going to giggle about that and enjoy myself. I still stand by it not being a good drama. But it made me forget about my breakup. So I gave it a C-.
Right the ship, Drew. There’s a phrase in improv that says there are no mistakes. Right now you’re making a mistake.
LAST THOUGHTS OF A RANDOM NATURE
- I don’t know who this Denny girl is, but I’m beginning to think it doesn’t really matter. They seem to kill off characters regularly and have them return. Or just don’t feature them. I’m beginning to question whether or not Greg Proops was ever murdered.
- Denny was nailing all the guessing in Party Quirks. Like, really nailing it.
- Drew tells Wayne that he gets one million points. Then tells him to buy a car with those points. Even in a stilted world like Whose Line that’s not what points do. Money is what you use to buy cars. Not points. Unless I missed something.
- “Remember we’re on a Disney owned network.” Yes, Drew. We get it.
- “You ever drink Ketchup raw?” I have never heard of raw ketchup. All ketchup is by definition processed. Lot of questions here.
- As I mentioned in the recap this episode made me giggle and forget about my break up. It was a bad break up where she kept saying: “You take things so seriously” and I kept saying “Well I don’t want this to be a TBS household!” I might go watch some more episodes of Whose Line and just zone out for like three hours. They’re pretty fun to watch turns out!