(Edit: this didn’t post??? That’s weird. Ah well, here it is, two episodes later)
I’m on a Whose Line roll- let’s go onto our first Sweeney & Steen episode.
Tonight features a well-crafted panel that would have a few rounds on the program- Paul Merton, Mike McShane, Jim Sweeney and his world-famous comedy partner Steve Steen. Not too many grounds for failure there.
Film and Theatre Styles v1: Jim and Steve (duh) (interviewing a suspect of a crime)
Clive, getting suggestions: “…and a hysterical one there, TV advert, because…well, you’re in most of them.”
Jim chuckles at this.
From the Game Show style, you can immediately see why Jim wanted Steve on the program- the two work so well of of each other, going back and forth like they’ve been at it for ages (and, well, they had).
Clive: “Let’s make it easy for you then, Gilbert and Sullivan.”
Jim, fortunately, is able to craft a pretty great Gilbert and Sullivan number as Steve defiantly dances (he’s not singing crap today). Paul, from the background, gets a kick out of this.
Clive kept the scene a bit quick for me, but this was a very quick, crisp F&TS scene, and a nice little window into the Sweeney/Steen partnership, the likes of which we wouldn’t get until…well…episode 12 of this series?
Film and Theatre Styles v2: Mike and Paul (giving each other presents)
As Paul opens his present
Clive: “…..I may regret this….Porno.”
Paul: “…does it come with a pump?”
From 3D, Mike and Paul just start flailing towards the camera, throwing the blow up doll our way.
Paul: “They’re massive….I’m gonna have another look at that actually”
AND THEY DO IT AGAIN
Another quick scene, but very funny, and the fact that it skewed blue worked in the favor of the performers, as they were able to craft a nice one out of it.
News Report: Baa Baa Black Sheep: Jim and Mike in the studio, Paul and Steve in the field.
At last, a field reporter that isn’t Canadian. I was beginning to think it was a typecasting sort of thing…
Jim’s proctoring isn’t as breakneck as Sandi, and he at least gives people a chance, but is also capable of setups, and pulls a good one on Steve when he goes “Paul, I believe you have The Little Boy Who Lives Down the Lane with you…”
Steve, of course, nails this- at Paul’s question, he blankly asks “are you my daddy?”
I’d like to point out that it’s 7:10 into Steve’s first episode, and already he’s pulled out his Scottish accent. Expect this many more times in the next three series.
Very funny game, though it’s still a bit quick, and would probably slow down as the show would go on.
Expert Translation: Paul translates for Steve, an Albanian expert on television
This is the last-ever playing of this game on Whose Line, and it’s another one of my favorites. I’m sad that they didn’t play this one at all when they moved production to the States for the 2nd half, or when they got back for the first half of Series 4, as this game was a really fun one.
I’m just gonna reproduce Paul’s main discussion on this, because as great as Steve is in this game, it’s Paul who really knocks it out.
“How can I best describe the wonders of Albanian television? It’s rubbish. But when I say it’s rubbish, let me be a bit more specific than that. It’s more than just rubbish. It’s crap. Oh, I can hear you say, throwing your arms up in amazement, surely Albanian television isn’t as bad as that! Well let me tell you- we have Postman Pat on every night at half past six in the evening, but because of several cutbacks, Postman Pat ISN’T EVEN IN IT!!!”
It’s the kind of dissertation that would get laughs in literally any game in this show, but because it’s coming from Translation, and because Paul’s doing this in response to Steve’s inflections, it works so freaking well.
The game also has a great ending- Steve puts on a very huge, over-dramatic musical number for his last line.
Paul, taking a moment: “…we do get quite a lot of Shirley Bassey.”
I feel like writing about that one brings that above the Volvo one in my ranking. Not sure if it beats the Yaks going to the toilet, but it’s a really good one, and Paul actually makes an effort to, well, translate what Steve’s going for, as well as just doing jokes and steering the ship. Still freaking hysterical.
Musical Film Review: Paul reviews ‘The First Man Into Space’, while Jim, Steve and Mike act it out
A variant on a variant. Perhaps they wanted to do Musical Producers, but Steve wanted to sing as well? Or they wanted to do Musical, but Paul opted out, so they did a 1:3 formation?
Clive, as he’d do once or twice in similar games (especially one of my all-time favorite UK WL games), flips through his Halliwell’s film guide to find a film synopsis and title here, instead of getting it from the audience.
This is a strong game, because it’s more fluid than something like Producers- Paul provides structure, the other three provide visuals. It’s a very nice advanced, complex game that works well with three gung-ho performers doing the singing. Mike already knocks the first number out of the park, going less for comedy and more for legitimacy, which he’d do a ton during these types of games, and which rarely happens on US WL anymore.
The second number also works, A.) because it’s Sweeney and Steen, and B.) Steve really works well against Richard’s loose rock style.
Paul also proves his job isn’t thankless, as he sets it up for all three to die, in specific ways, and for the number to be really good, which is sort of screwing with them, in a sense.
The third number is campy in the absolute best way, evoking Rocky Horror, Little Shop of Horrors, and Weezer’s Songs from the Black Hole album (yeah, not expecting many people to get that one). The trick is that all three performers own up the the campiness, and absolutely go with it. Plus, as Mike does his final number, with felt fangs in his teeth, Jim and Steve both simultaneously start snapping to the music, while dead. It’s a hysterical touch that nearly distracts from the number.
That…may be one of the best musical games in the show’s history. I feel like I only recently used that hyperbole about something, maybe the one from 3×03, but every moment was terrific, and it had the sort of quality that it could exist outside of Whose Line.
Props: Mike and Paul vs. Jim and Steve
Paul: ‘Hello…erm…did you see any Klu Klux Klan people go by?’
Very silly round, with a few too many obvious ones, but the dynamics made up for it.
Helping Hands: Paul meets customs officer Jim (with Steve’s hands)
This game is pretty seamless, as Jim and Steve work so well together that they seem like one fluid person on there.
The funniest part is when Jim grows very frantic towards Paul, and Steve just starts going mad with his hand movements, flailing every which way to fit Jim’s expression.
Quick, but still a very fun one.
Party Quirks: Paul hosts
Steve: Thinks he’s Paul Merton
Jim: compulsive gambler
Mike: US Sports Announcer
Steve nails this quirk by being simultaneously excited and disgusted with everything, as well as, well, NAILING THE IMPRESSION without Paul immediately getting it (unlike Rory Bremner trying a similar thing out on Tony a few seasons later).
Jim’s is great, as he keeps giving people tenners over wrong answers. He’d even bet that Paul was gonna bring Twiglets. Paul, catching on, says he’s run out.
Paul gets Mike’s in 5 seconds…mainly because Mike’s was really damned good.
Steve, as Jim leaves, goes for the jugular: “I’ve been listening to your records…none of those words rhyme.”
Paul, getting it: “DON’T THEY?”
The audience laughs here, and Paul very quickly realizes what they’re laughing at.
Paul: “Are you tone deaf or-”
Clive: “That’s close enough…”
Paul, realizing: “…he’s doing me…”
As Paul, absolutely betrayed, walks back to the seats, Steve’s incredibly apologetic. He’s got every right to be.
March: Typewriter Collecting
Jim gets SO CLOSE TO A GOOD RHYME (the best thing in the world), and cops out “Now I know that I am never going to find a rhyme”, when he could have easily gone done something about not getting any girls.
Paul brings back his ‘somebody please kill me’ look from the last time he played this game.
He does go for broke, talking right through it without the rhyme scheme, and eventually landing on a nice rhyme.
Mike actually has a great verse to finish it off, about having all this typewriter prowess just to type out the word ‘wank’. Very relatable.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out Steve’s really nice Jimmy Savile impression over the credits.
Overall: Inches away from perfection, but still an insanely funny show, and a return to form after two ‘okay’ episodes. Sweeney and Steen worked so well together, but you knew that. Mike rocked every musical and nonmusical game, but you knew that. Paul had a bit of a down show, but you knew that. This show had a ton of truly funny highlights and moments that i still rewatch to this day.
Show Winner: Steve
Best Performer: Mike McShane by a (heh) hair over Jim Sweeney, for having a ton of show highlights and having the gusto to power Musical Film Review
Worst Performer: Steve Steen, for not having many singularly great moments, and for being edged out by Paul for Expert Translation.
Best Game: Musical Film Review. How can I give this to anything else?
Worst Game: Props. Not enough good stuff here.