Whose Watchdown is it Anyway: S01E04, or ‘This started out with me giving YOU a mission…’

And on the fourth episode…the hero arrived.

Tony Slattery, the guy who’d be responsible for 90% of the humor during this early era of Whose Line, makes his debut tonight. Here he’s in top form, spry, witty and sharp. We’re gonna try to hold onto that Tony as long as we can. He joins a panel including Hill Street Blues Star (and future director of Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel) Betty Thomas, as well as Paul Merton and (sigh) SERIES REGULAR John Sessions.

Clive, introing Paul: “Now, there’s been an enormous public response since Paul was last on the program…but DESPITE that, we decided to have him back…”

Authors: Jack and the Beanstalk
Tony: William S. Burroughs

Betty: Mickey Spillane
Paul: Barbara Cartland
John: Anthony Burgess

Immediately Tony makes an impression, using his Burroughs to turn this kid’s story into immediate sleaze. Instead of John, who’ll use a safe bet for his own merits, Tony can use a tricky author to give the story some legs.

For what seems like the fourth week in a row, John uses a repetitive author to give himself 20 seconds more screentime than the other four.

Another one-round version of this game that couldn’t really get anywhere.

Film and Theatre Styles v1
Paul and Tony: homeowner and builder

Immediately from this Paul and Tony scene, you can tell they work well together, and that they both have a considerable amount of improv training. Right from the Greek Tragedy scene, they use it to keep their scene going instead of dilly-dallying in the style (like John likes to do).

And then, with Hollywood epic, Tony nails the drawl and emphasis of a 60’s Hollywood epic star (like Charlton Heston or somebody).

Clive: “Musical!”
Tony: “…ya know-”
Paul: “I bet this reminds you of a song, doesn’t it?”

And, the soap opera ending
Tony: “Your plumber’s dead. He was killed by the spirit of your dead father.”
Paul: “And I’m expecting his baby!”

Nothing classic, but a really good F&TS round, which is nice, but that means we have to get to John’s.

Film and Theatre Styles v2
John and Betty: a husband and wife argue over a map.

There is a nice moment where someone in the audience shouts ‘Ealing comedy’ as a style, and Betty has no idea what that is. John can be heard saying ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’, though I imagine it hurts his soul that somebody doesn’t know what that is.

Clive: “So, start with your- d’you have maps in America?”
Betty:
Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 6.00.22 PM.png

You can tell, though, that John is leading Betty by the hand through the scene, as if her not knowing what an Ealing comedy was made it easier for him to.

I will say that the best part of this is Betty and John’s silent film portion. Due to the vague location, they don’t move around a lot during the scene, but they still look good doing their silent film movements.

They end on Bogart, and if Betty was already failing at keeping it together, John’s SURPRISINGLY BRILLIANT Humphrey Bogart impression makes it tougher, as he goes into a full tangent about the war to end the scene.

Surprisingly, John had the stronger scene, as it’s becoming quite clear to me that Betty wasn’t really cut out for the program.

Props: Betty and Paul vs. John and Tony

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 6.07.04 PM.pngTony: “Hello, and welcome to Failed Prototypes of Our Time. #14, the first condom…”

Very quick round, though I’ll say that Betty was better here than she’s been all night.

Every Other Line
Paul briefs John on a mission- John reads, Paul improvises.

This is a game they didn’t play nearly enough, as it’s a great opportunity for a performer (say…Paul or Stephen) to play off of a ‘brick wall’ character.

Paul’s able to show his strength by working off of little details, and bringing them back over the course of the game. One of John’s lines mentions Charles and pastries, and Paul works it into the game. Later, when John asks what he smells on the wind, Paul goes “oh, that’s just Charles again…”

John eventually has a line about ‘carrying out your mission.’
Paul: “…MY MISSION? This started off with me giving YOU a mission…and then Charles came in, you insulted the Dumps, and…..[hitting the ending line] OH DEAR, I’VE LOST MY SHOE!”

Didn’t work as well as I imagined, as even Paul couldn’t be able to contain the material John was dishing out, but still relatively funny.

Film Dub: Tony and Betty
A couple argues about what to watch on television.

This just reminds me how damned good Tony was at this game, shilling out lines like ‘I’m about to break WIND thanks to you’, and ‘don’t shake your maternity bra at me…”

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 6.18.16 PM.pngBetty: “…oh, NOT AGAIN, STOP BREAKING WIND!”

This was obviously a bit broad, but Tony and Betty worked off each other well, even if Betty was still a bit awkward and basic at this.

Party Quirks:
Tony: has no backbone
Betty: investigative reporter
John: An intrepid explorer

Tony’s quirk reminds me how good he could be at physical comedy, even if he just has a metal pole up his ass.

The second John enters, he controls the scene, doing his travelogue-type narrating even as Paul tries to work out the other quirks. Betty just goes silent. John still has not gotten the whole ‘collaboration’ bit of improv.

Paul: “…and this is a bloke who used to have a pole in his back.”
Tony, trying to help him: ‘WHHHHYYYY?”

The game ends abruptly as Paul runs out of time, having not gotten Betty or Tony, even if they were giving their all. Still, impressed how Betty worked off of people in order to try and get Paul to guess them, though points deducted for her breaking.

Overall: An alright show, with some definitely down momentum, a few games that didn’t really go anywhere, a guest performer who wasn’t cut out for the show and a SERIES REGULAR…who STILL WON’T DO GOOD IMPROV WITH OTHER PEOPLE!!! Luckily, we had Paul and Tony on hand to do some truly great stuff, with an emphasis on Tony who was already in career form.

Show Winner: John
Best Performer: Tony, even on his first go-around.
Worst Performer: Betty. Just not really the right type for the show.
Best Game: Film and Theatre Styles v1, for Paul and Tony’s chemistry.
Worst Game: Props. Way too quick to make a point about

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One thought on “Whose Watchdown is it Anyway: S01E04, or ‘This started out with me giving YOU a mission…’

  1. “Kind Hearts and Coronets” is an example of an Ealing comedy, that is a comedy film made at Ealing Studios in the immediate decade following the Second World War.

    In that particular film, made in 1949, a young Alec Guinness plays a whopping nine roles, and on Have I Got News For You, Paul Merton sometimes quotes one of Guinness’s lines as one of his characters, The Parson, when doing an “impression” of him. The line in question is “I always say that my west window has all the exuberance of Chaucer without, happily, any of the concomitant crudities of his period.”

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