Whose Watchdown is it Anyway: S02E07, or CHWISTMAS???

A Christmas Special on Whose Line, with 6 performers instead of 4, and 45 minutes instead of 30. Why, oh why, did they only do this once?

Additionally, they managed to pick one hell of an impressive lineup at this point in the show’s history. The four people who’d been appointed the stars of the show at this point, this being Josie Lawrence, Paul Merton, Tony Slattery and Mike McShane, as well as two people who’d made relatively impressive debuts, in Greg Proops and Sandi Toksvig. At this point in time, I don’t think I would have made any different picks, though I’d note that Sandi wasn’t the standout of her debut episode, though having Ryan, Mike and Greg on one show would be a bit of an overload.

As Clive describes Paul as ‘the man behind many of Julian Clary’s stickiest moments’, Paul shoots him a very distressed look, going “EXCUSE ME?” with a muted mic.

Mike’s beard, making its debut, makes it a bit clear that this show was taped closer to the end of the series, after Sandi had made several more appearances and cemented herself as a semi-regular.

Authors: Santa Gets Lost on the London Underground
Greg: Clement Moore
Sandi: Jane Asher’s Book of Party Cakes
Tony: Child’s letter to Santa
Mike: Robert Heinlein 

After Tony presents his author, the audience ‘awwww’s, while Tony mimes wanting to throw up.

Once Clive gets the ‘on the London Underground’ portion of the title, he offhandedly says ‘that’ll make it easy for you, Greg.”
Greg:
Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 3.43.10 PM.png

Greg, beginning: “Twas the night before Chwistmas [seeing his gaffe] CHWISTMAS? Okay, TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHWISTMAS…”

Tony: “…Dear Santa, please don’t bring me a large bowl like you brought last year, ya fat git…”

Greg: ‘Yes, the reindeers were randy, they wanted to bonk/so they knocked Santa down, and they started to tronk.”
Greg realizes how little sense he’s making and cracks up.

Film and Theatre Styles v1: Paul and Josie (caroler and house owner)

The thing with putting these two together, which the producers must have known by sitting them out of authors, is that right off the bat they’re wonderful, and this scene starts off with a great premise and some great moments, even before the styles come in.

Hitchcock
Paul: “There’s a lot of crows outside in your garden…”

Paul, as Clive buzzes in: “If you look through the REAR window…”
The audience groans
Paul: “ALRIGHT, THEN COME UP HERE AND DO IT YOURSELF! I’M SORRY! I’LL PISS OFF, THEN! I’LL GO HOME…”

Josie has a great moment of physicality in the science fiction section, turning devilishly into a lizard-creature.

There’s a very silly ending, but it’s still a nice enough scene, and had some pretty cool moments here and there.

Film and Theatre Styles v2: Mike and Greg- a child waking up to find the real Santa

A.) Another great pairing, and B.) Perfect scenario for these two

Clive: “Uh, Greg can you play a child?”
Greg: “Uh…no, contractually I’m forbidden to.”
Clive: “…well thank you for watching Whose Line is it Anyway…”

Already, the scene is perfect
Greg: “How do I know you’re not some mugger who wants to steal my stuff?”
Mike, holding something: “The anatomically correct cabbage patch kid you wanted this year?”

Romance
Greg: “Santa, how can I ever repay you?”
Mike: “…you can put that doll away and give me the love that dare not squeak its name…”

I love that Mike as Santa mentions, in the Western style, that his worst enemy is Donald Trump. Whereas now he’s everyone’s worst enemy…

So…Mike and Greg as Laurel and Hardy is the sight I didn’t know I’d been waiting to see all my life. That was pretty damn perfect.

Pretty nice scene, dare I say better than Paul and Josie’s.

Song Styles: Christmas Crackers
Mike: Jazz
Josie: Swiss yodeling
Mike and Josie: Music Hall

Mike’s song works well, and he definitely has a mastery of the style. You can tell they were going for a longer runtime, as Clive lets the songs go on longer tonight.

Josie’s is very impressive, as she takes a pretty thankless style and makes a really nice, melodic number out of it.

Clive: “Not only was that a brilliant improvisation, it’s also Switzerland’s entry into next year’s Eurovision Song Contest..”

Mike, heading up for the duet, trips on a step
Mike: “…I was just overwhelmed by the song…”
Clive: “…yes, and the set was overwhelmed by you…”

The duet is incredibly cheeky, especially for a music hall kind of thing, but it works, as this is the first time where Mike and Josie are allowed to work together in this game (this will be a fruitful pairing).

Rap: Hangovers

SIX PERSON RAP! OH DEAR!

Tony prefaces his with a bit of gibberish.

Sandi ends hers with a “boy…you…sure are well hung”, and is immediately displeased with herself.

Paul, looking really uneasy: “….LAST NIGHT I HAD SOME CAKE AND no…start again…I just can’t do this game at all, but I’m gonna do me damn best…”

Greg ends it strong, complete with flailing.

This was, as usual, hit-or-miss, as you can tell they really don’t like this game, but it worked more tonight than it usually does.

Party Quirks: Sandi hosts
Greg: verbalizes every thought
Paul: Sandi’s true love on the 12th day of Christmas
Josie and Tony: the front and back end of a pantomime horse
Mike: US TV Christmas Special

SANDI HOSTS??? You have Paul, Tony and Greg, three champion Party Quirks hosts. Why would you go with Sandi Toksvig, as nice as she was in 2×05?

Sandi, upon Tony and Josie’s entrance: “…have you met the neighbors?”

I’ll say that Tony and Josie’s pantomime horse work is some really good teamwork and physicality, even though Sandi guesses them relatively quickly.

Mike immediately nails his overly-compassionate style, speaking directly to the camera and introducing everyone.

World’s Worst: Thing to Say/Do in the Hospital at Christmas

Greg: “If you die, can I have your presents?”
Mike: “Hello, my name’s Eric, I’m the Enema Elf, now let’s see the South Pole…”

Not a ton in this one, but good enough

Props: Mike and Paul vs. Josie and Sandi vs. Greg and Tony

Paul, trying to work a prop: “…hang on….no, it’s not going to work.”
Clive, patronizingly: “hang on, it’s not going to work…”
Paul: “No, I wanted a special effect, but it wouldn’t-”
Clive: “And people will never believe this is really improvised.”

Paul, one round later:
Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 5.44.37 PM.png
Paul: “THAT’S WHAT I WAS TRYING TO DO!”
Mike: “Perhaps you’ll remember me from your first acid trip at LEEDS!”
Paul, as the buzzer goes: “THAT’S THE JOKE I WAS GOING TO DO!”

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 5.46.09 PM.pngTony: “…Bo Derek. Myth or Reality?”

And then, next go-around, Mike breaks the prop, right as the buzzer goes. The rainbow funnel thing comes away from the stick.

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 5.47.40 PM.pngJosie, a la Sid Vicious: “I…AM AN…ANARCHIST!”

A very nice round, however the second Clive calls the round, Mike, happily, goes “THHHAAAANK YOU!”

Musical Producers: Sandi and Paul produce a musical on stuffing, vomiting and swimming, while Mike, Greg, Tony and Josie act it out.

This is essentially musical, but as Musical would have been too crowded with 6 people, the producers were added to at least give less musical performers like Paul and Sandi something to do.

This works exceptionally well, not just because there’s a new element to organize the musical a bit more, and potentially take it out of the performers’ control, but it allows for showcases for multiple people in multiple parts of the scene.

There’s a joke Paul has when Sandi mentions they need a sleazy bastard to take the wonderful first scene and create conflict (again, perfect scene construction), and he, with a smirk, goes “who on earth could we get to play a sleazy bastard”, knowing full well that Tony’s about to enter the scene. If Sandi hadn’t cut him off, he would have completed the slam.

Tony’s song reminds me how underrated the man was in singing games, as well as how willing he is to work with people in these games.

Josie: “Don’t worry, dear, relax-o. We won’t really be sick, we’ll use Pax-O”
Mike: “That’s a good idea, what the hell is Pax-O…”

Paul, postmortem: “I like the lyric on that, but I don’t think the Americans are going to understand Pax-O.”

Greg enters as the Christmas Fairy, which is great, because Tony gets to pull it two ways and go “WHO’S *THIS* FAIRY??”

Greg actually throws a pretty damned beautiful ending onto this scene, letting Josie fulfill her wish, and giving a pretty great melodic moment…before punching Tony in the gut to end the scene. Cherry on top of a really well done, well-crafted Musical scene, definitely taking advantage of the 6-person setup.

Overall: WHY DIDN’T THEY EVER DO THIS AGAIN? THIS WAS SO GOOD! Not only is it a perfect time capsule of Whose Line in its golden age, but it’s a show where literally everyone was able to shine, and put in their best improv over a 45-minute special. Not too many dull moments, only in a smaller-scale World’s Worst. Plus, a number of games, like Mike and Greg’s F&TS, the haphazard Props, and that really nice Musical Producers, really shone, regardless of the Christmas angle. It’s hard to tell who had the best night, as everyone did really well, even if Sandi was a wee bit underedited, but Mike had a ton of standout moments, and Paul and Tony also had some great moments. A really nice top-to-bottom Whose Line.

Show Winners: Everyone
Best Performer: Mike McShane, for having standout performances in multiple games tonight
Worst Performer: Sandi, only because we didn’t really see enough of her
Best Game: Musical Producers, for letting the whole cast shine, and giving a truly great musical game to a 6-person structure.
Worst Game: World’s Worst. Just not a ton of good moments.

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2 thoughts on “Whose Watchdown is it Anyway: S02E07, or CHWISTMAS???

  1. Paul looked really out of sorts in this episode. This was the last episode to be recorded for series 2 (on 26th November 1989), and Paul went on holiday that Christmas so he was taking pills to prevent him from getting malaria. However, the medication (mefloquine, sold under the brand name Lariam) has some rather nasty side-effects in some people including mood swings, anxiety and hallucinations. I believe that Paul was starting to feel some of these effects by the time of this recording. After a few months, he would be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Fortunately this was only for six weeks.

    In that opening wide shot, you can see both Josie and Sandi leaning over Paul… only that wasn’t Paul, that was a body double. Paul wrote in his autobiography, “Only When I Laugh”, that he couldn’t sit still, so they got somebody else in for the opening shot (similar to the episode of QI that Alan Davies missed), and he looks pretty restless and jumpy throughout the episode.

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