Right. So, as the last post of this was probably controversial for consisting of 5 episodes that were placed too low, this post will be controversial because of these five being higher than the ones that were too low. While these five are, in my opinion, classics, they’re definitely lower-tiered classics, and they have enough consistency and prowess to land in the Top 25.
I realize some of these might be hard sells, but…hopefully you’ll sort of see where I’m coming from.
Fourth Seater: Chip Esten
Taping: 505, S5 Sessions
One of the biggest mysteries of the ABC run of Whose Line is why it took them until the show had basically been already cancelled, in summer 2004, to air 6×01 and 6×06, the last unaired material from S5. Why did all of S5 go by without seeing this show get on? Why would ABC keep this from us? There was no explicit content, no conflict of interest, no host wanking in an LA porno theater.
At least ABC was wise enough to open S6 with this one. Well, maybe not ‘wise’, as no other show in that 10-episode season could ever dream of matching up to this one, but wise that at least it’d start the ‘recobbled’ seasons with a genuine gem.
The thing to note about 6×01 is that while the first half is noticeably weaker than the second, it’s not remotely bad or weak itself. Hollywood Director is an underrated one, and the eventual ‘Mr. T, Mr. Magoo and Mr. Ed’ recasting is one of the goofiest ideas Colin has come up with THAT HAS WORKED. You also get games of Doo-Wop and SFAH that feel like CW versions, just in length and in lawfulness while still working. Doo-Wop is also probably one of the best ones of the ABC version just on account of the sharpness of the bowling puns.
But…this second half is possibly one of the most cathartic and insanely-well-curated of any in the series.
Songs of Horror is arguably in the top 5 GH playings of the run, and this is even without a lot of the strong Chip-Wayne songs that remained on the cutting room floor, like apparently a nice Aerosmith song. No, what makes this one great is just the strength and undeniable quality of the Ryan and Colin banter. BECAUSE…MY GOD. Right from the start, the HOR-ROR jokes are so goddamned funny, and it’s the kind of thing that gets funnier with repetition.
Plus, Colin’s eventual segue-breaking of Ryan is funnier when you realize it was the culmination of a season-long running gag of Ryan doing segues and Colin just letting him. None of these made air, but this happened throughout the first 5 tapings of the S5 sessions, and even some later ones. It just kept happening. And Colin seeing Ryan do the first one [JITTERBUG], and completely ramming the next two over his head is the perfect ending, because Ryan’s completely caught off-guard [“alright, you proved your point”]. But yeah, all of this together, and Wayne and Chip’s songs [“if you were a werewolf, you’d get some hair on your head”], just make this one of the funniest Greatest Hits ever, and there is a LOT of competition for that.
And then we end with one of the best Helping Hands playings ever, because it’s not just Ryan torture porn, and he gets Drew to drink lotion and get bug-sprayed. But…Ryan opening the champagne and getting drenched is one of the most cathartic moments of the show. Especially after this sort of thing had been teased in HH playings before and it’d never really happened, but the DIRECT HIT, and Chip laughing his ass off in the back, made it picture-perfect.
So, this one made us feel like we were gonna be okay in the recobbling era, and gave us the last great S5-tapings episode.
Highlight: Colin: “I remember one time I went to a circus and I saw a strong man bend a car- BEND A CAR? *PAT BENATAR!*”
Now, as for another ‘we’re gonna be okay’ episode:
Fourth Seaters: Denny Siegel and Greg Proops
Taping: 109, S1 Sessions
This is the only Season 1 show on this list. That’s not to say S1 of the show isn’t good, as it’s solid and the reason we got a full run. Season 1 is just…less good than the rest of the series. It’s still very prototypical and tries a lot of things that doesn’t work. The show also hasn’t hit its groove yet, and Drew doesn’t get fully comfortable til midway through S2.
A lot of Season 1 is more similar to Season 10 of the UK version. Wayne’s not a regular yet, there’s more LA-area imports giving the show a try, there’s more games per show, and we’re not at peak WL capacity yet. There are fleeting instances, like Ryan’s foal trick, and a few later shows, but…it doesn’t really click until 1×20, which is basically WL pulling out all the stops.
First of all, pairing Denny and Greg was a smart idea, because the two of them have very similar comedy sensibilities, and they worked well together in games like Fashion Models and Party Quirks. Greg also has one of his last shows where he’s able to really stand out without Ryan, Colin and Wayne getting in the way. Denny also does well here, though her S2 efforts would weigh the show down a bit.
It’s also evident how much more live the games feel in this one. Props has some great back and forths [“ARE THESE THE BIGGEST CONDOMS YOU HAVE?”]. WN has Ryan drenching himself and bringing that back later. Multiple Personalities and 90-Second Alphabet are fluid and well-done as 3-man games. World’s Worst is the first great quickfire round of the US run, Hoedown’s one of the best S1 ones, and Fashion Models is one of the best playings of the short-lived game.
But where the show really feels like it’s headed into the consistency it’d reach in S2 and S3 is in Party Quirks. This is a round that combines the best elements of both UK playings [Greg having trouble with quirks and saying smirky things] and US playings [Colin interacting with other players and getting them to crack]. Colin’s ‘hands-in-pockets’ quirk cracked me up so much, mostly from him torturing Ryan but also how it was some of the most intimate work anyone had done to that point, and Greg and Ryan were definitely caught off-guard by it. That sort of fearless Colin work wouldn’t be out of place later in the run.
This is the kind of S1 show I wish there was more of- not a bad game in the bunch, funny momentum, a solid four-man team, and some insanely live games.
Highlight: Colin sticking his hands down Ryan’s pants as Ryan confusedly tries to continue his quirk. This is Colin’s answer to Ryan’s ‘foal being born’ quirk from 1×01.
Fourth Seater: Brad Sherwood
Taping: 310, S3 Sessions
I refer to what I said a few posts ago about the 310 taping being one of the best overall WL tapings, because every show we got from that one impressed me. There’s another Brad taping that has 3 shows on here, and we’ll get to another one next post, but I do love the 310 one, and I loved how 2 episodes from it surprised me with quality.
This one…may have been the biggest surprise. I knew it’d be good, but TOP 25 GOOD? Whoa.
The game everyone knows this one for is If You Know What I Mean, and…it’s obvious why. It’s one of the better IYKWIM playings, yes, but…that Brad moment makes it 10 times funnier. Just to see Ryan drop like a brick and Colin, who’d been right with them, use this joke to tilt the game and sort of go ‘that one’s beneath me’.
And yet that’s not even the best game of the show. Greatest Hits is ANOTHER one of the best ones of the run, mostly on the strength of the Ryan-Colin banter, and Colin using Ryan’s unintended ‘blue’ runner against him [“What is it with you and the color blue?”]. Colin and Ryan are among their most-wound-up and sharpest in this playing, and Wayne and Brad are among their most put-together doing music.
Even the games that usually don’t work, like Award Show and Props, both work really well here, and keep the show solid all the way through. There’s a lot of subtle character work and plot work going on in each game, even Award Show.
And Weird Newscasters might be one of the most impressive uses of plot in a short-form-friendly game. The game goes by, Wayne and Colin do their quirks, and then Ryan starts killing people. It’s a complete deconstruction of the game, by way of collaboration. Everyone is collaborating with Ryan’s decision to end the game with a bloodbath, even if it means Brad spending the last half of the game, which he usually signs off, slumped over on the stool. I love Colin’s decision to bring his easily-frightened character full circle with running from Ryan, and being the only character to survive. There’s so many layers to this one [as well as Award Show and Greatest Hits] compared to other, more simple playings.
An underrated, fantastic gem of an episode. Hopefully this one will get more love now that I’ve pointed it out.
Highlight: Ryan: “wait a minute…soul is also a music style.”
Colin, absolutely stonefaced: “Yes. SOMETIMES BLUE.”
Fourth Seater: Kathy Greenwood
Taping: 409, S4 Sessions
This is the last Season 7 show on the list. I hope that, by including a few shows from it on this list, I’ve boosted its reputation from simply ‘rejects from Season 4’. There’s a few gems in this season, and it’s generally pretty strong, proving that the S4 sessions were really good and ABC just didn’t have room for all of it.
Imagine if this one went out in S4, though. How much bigger and badder would Season 4 had felt, then?
This really is a testament to the 409 taping, where even games unconnected by a runner are just really strong and substantial. Narrate happens in the middle of a taping with 3 different running gags [the tape recorder, Kathy’s goat, Ryan licking Colin’s head], and comes off like it could go out at any time, completely unconnected…while also being arguably the best individual game of the taping. One of the reasons I love Narrate is that it acts like a chess game between Ryan and Colin, and you can see individual moves against each other until one of them ‘wins’. And nowhere is it more evident than here, where Colin sets Ryan up to be wearing a thong backwards and RYAN STILL WINS. So much back and forth, so much interplay.
And the weird part is, you’d think Narrate would be the centerpiece of the show, but it really isn’t. LMAD starts this show off with a bang, and the Colin-Ryan-Wayne dynamic, where Wayne is handcuffed to Colin, who himself is running from Ryan, is the sort of monkey-in-the-middle type improv exercise you encounter a lot. Colin handled it like a pro, but just his way of bolting whenever he senses Ryan’s about to lick his head is so well timed. I love that this gag recurs in SFAH and Hoedown, both of which are also really good.
Like 4×08, there are only a few games, but every moment counts, and there’s barely any clunkers or wasted energy. You just get big long blocks of improv, of great improvisers bouncing off each other, and it just works. The runner adds a bit, and there’s the suspense of ‘will Ryan lick Colin’s head’ [just like the suspense of ‘when will Drew find out Wayne fucked with his tape recorder’], but it’s mostly just strong, funny improv all the way through, and a fitting sequel to 4×08, which…we will get to eventually.
Easily the strongest show of the recobbling era, and, sadly, the last 10/10 show for me of the Drew run.
Highlight: Ryan ending his hoedown verse with FINALLY licking Colin’s head, and Colin just biting his lip and shaking his head
Fourth Seater: Chip
Taping: 403, S4 Sessions
One of the most beloved shows of the UK show is 6×04, where Ryan comes in with a bright orange shirt and everyone keeps making fun of him for it throughout the show. It’s funny for lots of other reasons, including a great round of Superheroes, but the shirt jokes power it to the funnier moments.
…a lot like 4×25. Which is a funny show, and a truly great one, with the backbone consisting of numerous jabs at Colin for wearing a tacky orange shirt.
Superheroes is, like Captain Hair, a perfect episode starter considering this runner. Right out of the gate, the audience knows where the crux of the humor is going to come from, and that they might as well start now. And Colin playing Tacky Shirt Man is one of those fulfilling, satisfying Superheroes characters, especially once Ryan starts playing one of the instruments on Colin’s shirt, and Wayne throws in a ‘DAAAAAAMN’.
Plus, like with Captain Hair, the shirt jokes not only factor into the rest of the show [like Sound Effects, Newsflash, Scenes from a Hat, Hoedown WAIT SHIT THAT’S THE WHOLE SHOW], but OTHER SHOWS FROM THIS TAPING [literally the other 3 offerings all have numerous more shirt jokes, even Colin going “I can’t believe I’m missing bald jokes.”]. This may be one of the strongest runners in the post-S2 era
And yet we still get strong games around that. Newsflash into SFAH is an underrated block that just works for me, because Newsflash is the most successful of the three ‘numerous people wiping out’ rounds we’ve gotten on WL, and it’s just funny to see Colin numb to it as the audience freaks out. THEN RIGHT INTO SFAH, which is another strong one, and has the nice lounge act suggestion. We even have a really good Hoedown in this one, on the Backstreet Boys, which gives us good verses from ALL FOUR PERFORMERS. EVEN DREW.
Sound Effects, though, makes me laugh the hardest. Whose Line has proven time and time again that getting old ladies to play SFX isn’t always a good idea, but here, Flo and Carmen cracked me up. They A.) did sound effects, and B.) understood humor, which is all you need in this game. The repeated ‘[cavalry noise] WEEEEHOOOOO’ that they’d do just…it’s too funny. How Colin and Ryan kept composure is beyond me. Also, Carmen’s voice as the Queen is seconded only to Ashley from 3×12’s voice of God as the silliest random characterization in this game.
Just…a consistently funny show with some extreme heights and a load of shirt jokes. This is a classic…and we haven’t even gotten into the Top 20 yet.
Colin: “Listen, the demanding queen”
Carmen: “…Oh my God!”
Ryan: “…apparently the Queen takes offense with your shirt!”
Carmen, forgetting what game she’s playing: “LOVE THAT SHIRT.”
We delve into the Top 20 next. These next ones are some more solid, potentially overlooked ones that set up the ramp into the COLOSSAL HUGE ONES.