I promised myself I wouldn’t start a new watchdown until I was done with Series I, but I’m bored, and I happened upon a few Series 1 clips, and I’m ready to bring it on.
The difference between Whose Line is it Anyway and shows like QI and Never Mind the Buzzcocks is that I’ve watched this one down before, years ago, when they first popped up on Youtube. Also, thanks to some BBC America reruns, I’ve had the privilege of watching this one on TV. So a few of these moments I’m well aware of, but I figured I’d want to go through the entire UK series again, for good measure.
I’m an avid fan of the US version, which is still on, and inspired me to go into improv comedy myself. I’ve talked improv with Colin and Brad, which was…a top 10 experience, but a very lucky one as well. So, going into this watchdown, I have experience with Improv as well as all levels of WL lore. My one weakness is the first series of the show takes us back further than we’ve gone so far, to 1988, so I may not be great on current events. But I don’t care. It’s Whose Line!
We’re starting with Series 1, Episode 1, as we should. Tonight’s show features a series regular, John Sessions, the famous git, who’d be in stock til halfway through Series 2. It also features a series regular from another show, Paul Merton, who made a name for himself here long before he met Ian Hislop and Angus Deayton. It also features a legendary semi-regular improviser, Josie Lawrence, capable of lighting up any program she’s on. And, as custom for Whose Line in the UK, there’s an American, Archie Hahn, who you’ve probably seen in This is Spinal Tap or…something, idk, who is here to make the other three look GOOD.
And, of course, there is a host- Clive Anderson, who could be insanely funny even in the confines of being a host. That’s enough talk. Let’s begin.
For the record, John Sessions is even highlighted in the INTRO of the SHOW. Man, wait until the audience figures out that he’s not very good!
I’m already noticing that Clive is INSANELY stiff behind the desk, as well as in front of the prompter. He’s going to learn to relax a bit more.
The contestant intros would be shorter and less descriptive, but here they’re very long and drawn out.
Archie- Stephen King. Josie- Louisa May Alcott. Paul- Janet and John books. John- Charles Dickens.
Title: Through the Garden Gate
They used to start with this one all the time in the first few series of WL. Why? I’m still not sure, but it’s a simple enough game because it doesn’t really involve collaboration with each other.
I always dug that Clive let the improvisers pick their authors. I occasionally think they may have been suggested by the producers, but…let’s just stick with suspension of disbelief for a moment.
Josie’s suggestion of Louisa May Alcott comes with a disclaimer- ‘for those who don’t know, she wrote Little Women, Little Men, and Little Wives.
Clive: “Yes, and little else.”
Archie gives his Stephen King an odd accent that switches between New England and…England. Not sure what he was going for then. Paul’s is the first to actually go for humor rather than likeness, getting the character names wrong and going for a leap pipe joke. Also, both Josie and Paul jokingly keep going a beat after the buzz. The game ends after only one round, which is odd, as Archie and John are a bit shortchanged, but Clive admits that Archie gets more points for actually incorporating the title.
Sound Effects: Paul and Archie
Ah yes, the original, two person sound effects, rather than the americanized ‘let’s ridicule the audience’ Sound Effects. Getting Archie instead of JOHN SESSIONS THE POSTER BOY to do Sound Effects is an odd choice, but…he is a voice actor.
Paul does most of the heavy-lifting here, obviously, but he definitely has a stranglehold on the ‘surprise’ aspect of the game, by smashing his radio and opening and closing his mirror door. Plus, he even says some things aloud, which…I didn’t know you could do in this game. I did get a genuine laugh out of Archie giving the toothpaste squeezing out a fast-esque noise…and Paul rolling his eyes and undoing his trousers. Fantastic teamwork between the two, and funnier than the last game by far.
Song Styles: Telephone
Josie: Stephen Sondheim
One of the audience suggestions for a household appliance is ‘AJAX!’
Clive: “No, we can’t advertise…not with me working for Vim…”
You could tell immediately that Josie knew how to nail Sondheim, his alliteration, his ascending and descending. Even if hers was less than a minute long, Josie proved early on that she was master of the singing games on the show.
John, meanwhile…from the moment Richard Vranch starts the reggae beat on the piano, he just looks confused and perturbed. However…surprisingly, John delivers a relatively fast-paced little reggae number. It bordered on being a little racist, but I doubt it was TOO intentional. I mean, it was 1988 for god’s sakes..
All this being said, it wasn’t exactly…musical? Like, he was just sort of talking quickly in a semi-reggae style? And he just wanted it to end. This may be what we’re in for, folks…
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that after John’s song, they cut to the audience, and we see that sitting in on the show tonight is someone who, in only a few episodes’ time, would be absolutely dominating it:
I…can only imagine that Tony Slattery enjoyed the show. If he didn’t, and if he decided not to come on…god knows if we’d still even be talking about Whose Line in 2017.
World’s Worst: Person to be an ITN Newscaster
Someone in the audience seemed to be confused by Clive’s cry of ‘whoever’s got one, go ahead’, as there’s a confused suggestion of ‘…KABUKI?’ from the audience. Paul has the best reaction, trying to trace the yell.
Some of the highlights:
Archie: ‘thirty-seven children were ki-‘ [breaks]
Clive, after a few minutes of Josie, John and Archie: “…now, give the others a chance, Paul, please!”
Paul, finally getting one: “This is CON…”[turns back, giving up]
[This…wasn’t a very good round. At all.]
Props: Archie and Josie vs. Paul and John:
Archie: “….you’re gonna stick this WHERE??”
and then, of course:
Paul: “You’re gonna stick this WHERE?”
Archie: “…mom, we’ve got to cut the cord soon, this has gone on too long…”
Not a ton of great ones, but Archie and Josie’s teamwork really surprised me, and they got a ton of good ones done together.
Josie: Agony Aunt
John: Theatre Director
Paul gets to be host, which as just as well, because this is where he excelled the most on the show (amongst other places). Of course he’s put out twiglets. If he didn’t, it would be a Paul episode.
Clive: “Lot of points going for this, Paul. You could win.”
Paul, a la Bill Murray: “…I realize the gravity of the situation.”
As Paul and Josie are talking, Clive, meaning to ring the doorbell, accidentally buzzes.
Paul, giving the series its first trademark moment: “Excuse me, there’s someone at the microwave…”
Archie takes silence once the door is opened, looking at the moon, then turning back to Paul, then back to the moon.
Paul: “….not today, thank you.”
Archie, as John and Paul are talking, starts gnawing at something on the other side of the room.
Paul: “THOSE GUINEA PIGS ARE MY PETS!”
Paul, after another beat of Archie: “…I know what you are, I just love watching you do it…”
Paul, stalling for John: “I know exactly what you are……..but let’s not talk about YOU…”
Overall: Good for an Episode 1, but not THE GREATEST way to start the series. A few of the games fell flat, there wasn’t a ton of teamwork, especially initiated by the REGULAR, JOHN SESSIONS, ABOVE THE CREDITS, and a lot of the games ended too early for anything to come of them. But, on the plus side, you had Paul Merton bringing the place down whenever he could, Josie doing a great musical number, Archie Hahn not only following the rules, BUT actually playing well with others, and John Sessions…trying…though, a little too hard.
Show Winner: Archie
Best Performer: Paul, for being funny whenever he was onscreen.
Worst Performer: John, for missing a ton of opportunities, especially as the REGULAR.
Best Game: Party Quirks. Good work all around here, and laughs throughout.
Worst Game: World’s Worst. Never got going.
Best Runner: “You’re gonna stick this WHERE?”