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Warner Home Video presents
Whose Line Is It Anyway: Season One, Vol. 2 (1998)

"Don't cry; you're not that good an actor."
- Colin Mochrie (to Ryan Stiles)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: December 14, 2007

Stars: Drew Carey, Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Wayne Brady
Other Stars: Laura Hall, Greg Proops, Stephen Colbert, Brad Sherwood, Denny Siegel
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult themes)
Run Time: 03h:40m:00s
Release Date: October 09, 2007
UPC: 085391112242
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+BB C+

DVD Review

Whose Line Is It Anyway? originated in 1988 as a British television series and became a breakout hit in the United States due to countless airings on Comedy Central. The improv series’ popularity surged in the early ‘90s with the additions of Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles to the cast. Their clever, more physical humor differed from the witty, erudite British comedy of the early years and delivered a more accessible product. The success of his sitcom allowed Drew Carey and his co-star Stiles the chance to remake the long-running show in 1998 for American audiences. There were some minor changes, but the basic formula remained the same. Four comics improvise various scenes and sing songs based on suggestions from the audience and material on random cards. They receive points for their efforts, but the rewards mean nothing. The results can be hilarious and awkward (often at the same time), and the best moments can generate huge laughs.

This release includes the final 10 episodes of the U.S. version’s first season, which aired during the winter of 1999. An earlier volume hit the stores last fall and offered the season’s first half. I viewed this collection while riding a crowded Amtrak train to Chicago, and it was very difficult to keep from laughing loudly. The skits include many classic moments that showcase the unique talents of each performer. Mochrie and Stiles can both do pretty much anything requested of them, and the duo shines when working together on games like “Moving People” and “Helping Hands.” The former involves the comics remaining motionless while audience members try to move their arms and legs throughout the scene. The other game has Mochrie positioned behind Stiles with his arms acting as Stiles’. This usually results in Mochrie torturing Stiles. The show’s breakout star is Wayne Brady, who was virtually unknown prior to its arrival. His rampant energy is infectious, especially during the frequent musical games. One exciting type is “Greatest Hits,” which allows Stiles and Mochrie the chance to give Brady all types of challenging tunes to sing about a common profession. A silly example is “Songs of the Postal Worker,” which forces him to sing Put It in the Slot in the ‘40s boogie-woogie style and Hey Man, Tie Up Your Dog as Tina Turner. No matter how difficult the song, Brady finds a way to make it work and is clearly a crowd favorite.

This group of episodes follows a basic format and usually repeats the more popular selections. A personal favorite is the “Hoedown,” which requires each participant to sing a verse about an event like childbirth or surgery. The players truly hate it, especially Stiles, but this game consistently delivers big laughs. Another standard is “Weird Newscasters,” which gives the players a weird trait while acting like a news-team member. The results can vary widely, with high notes coming from Stiles doing the weather as a “psycho with a chainsaw” and Mochrie anchoring as a guy with only a five-second memory. Less-exciting games include “Props,” which involve quick skits with an odd item, and “Let’s Make a Date,” which can be funny but also goes on for too long. Even the duller segments still contain some silly moments, and the overall quality is high.

I wouldn’t call Whose Line Is It Anyway intellectual comedy, but it does display tremendous talent. The skills of the regular players are more evident when they’re matched with a guest comedian who struggles. Semi-regulars Greg Proops and Brad Sherwood are welcome additions, but Ian Gomez and Denny Siegel are less effective. There’s also a surprise appearance from a then relatively unknown Stephen Colbert, who gives a worthy effort. He plays the straight man in most games, but does deliver a fun rap about an avalanche. As the host, Carey provides some irritating quips at the start and after commercials, but his likable presence mostly works. The keyboardist Laura Hall also showcases a big smile and wide-ranging musical skills to support the tunes. The show might not be groundbreaking, but consistently delivers fine entertainment.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Whose Line Is It Anyway occurs in a basic studio that offers little room for innovative visuals. The full-frame transfer has a slightly sharper picture than the original television version, but remains fairly standard. Since there's not much more they could do with the source material, it's difficult to complain about the result.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track presents the over-the-top improvisations clearly, but it faces the same challenge as the image transfer. We do get a bit more variety in the hoedowns and Wayne Brady’s performances, but it's still pretty straightforward. That said, the audio remains consistent and shouldn't disappoint the series’ many fans.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: unknown double keepcase
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Unaired Games
  2. Gag Reels
Extras Review: Whose Line Is It Anyway: Season 1, Volume 2 includes about an hour of extra footage split into two sections—Unaired Games and Gag Reels. The deleted games follow the standard trend and are sometimes awkward, but they could have been incorporated into the aired episodes. The best inclusion is “Greatest Hits” with Wayne Brady singing the “Songs of the Garbage Man.” Mochrie and Stiles force him to sing Dump It in the style of a young Michael Jackson and Clang Bang Clang Bang Clang Bang Clang Bang as a Tin Pan Alley singer. The Gag Reels involve the typical mistakes, stupid jokes, cursing and other silliness that you would expect from this type of extra. We also see more about the players’ hatred and struggles with the Hoedowns. Parents should note that this section is uncensored and includes some adult language and sexual humor.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

The U.S. version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? aired more than 125 episodes during its lengthy eight-year run. This achievement is surprising when you consider that the show’s format has rarely changed. It’s not smart to mess with a good thing, and this release shows why the formula worked so well. I recommend this two-disc set for anyone looking for a night of consistent laughs.

 


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