When BBC America began airing reruns of Whose Line, which is how I stumbled upon the UK series, their starting point was Series 6. You would not see any John Sessions, or Sandi Toksvig, or even Jim Sweeney, but Series 6 was a nice enough starting point, as you’d get a taste of Tony, Steve and Josie while also basking in the beginnings of the Colin & Ryan duo.
It works out, because Series 6 marked a change in Whose Line, now completely banking on its American influence, but also still emphasizing their British laurels. For instance, this series included 2 regulars, both of whom would only miss one episode: Ryan Stiles, and Tony Slattery. This would work well for the former and ultimately doom the latter, as Tony was beginning to fall victim to his bipolar disorder and drug use, and whose anxiety would be PARTICULARLY EVIDENT starting in this series.
Tonight features the immortal lineup of Tony, Steve, Colin and Ryan. This is the second of five shows with this lineup, matched only by a similar matchup, only swapping a profane, cheeky brit for a tall, suave primate enthusiast.
It’s also the first episode to include the famous ‘line drawing in front of a red background’ opening, arguably the more famous one.
Clive’s intros are Bond-themed. Colin is ‘from Canada with love.’ Ryan is ‘the man with the Golden Retriever’, which he gets a kick out of. Tony is ‘our very own Pussy Galore’.
Film and Theatre Styles v1: Ryan and Colin (skier and instructor)
Ryan starts the scene by nearly stabbing Colin with a ski-pole. God I love these two.
Ryan explains that they’re going to go down the slope.
Colin, in a simple read that makes me laugh hard: “waaaaait a minute.”
Colin: “Down the hill?”
Colin: “Is that really necessary?”
Ryan: “Easier than going up.”
Ryan and Colin in the Japanese style is hysterical, being even more curt and fast-paced, emitting slight grunts, and doing really great fighting motions as they go down the hill.
Clive: “Science fiction>”
Colin: “Why don’t we just stop here, earthling? I MEAN….”
He realize he doesn’t anything better, shrugs, and stops.
Colin ends the scene with the little alien thing on his head, keeping it there with the buzzer.
Ryan: “Don’t move…there’s a bird on your head.”
Film and Theatre Styles v2: Tony and Steve (dustmen sifting through rubbish)
Tony, picking something up: “Cor, have you seen somethin’ this size before?”
Steve: “I wasn’t pointing at that, I was pointing at THIS…”
Steve squeezes his hand, to say “IT’S STILL MOVING”
Tony, taking him literally: “Well, don’t do THAT to it, then…”
Tony: “…let’s run about for no reason!”
After 15 seconds of Tony and Steve doing goofy cartoon noises to each other, an exasperated Clive looks to the audience and sighs.
Steve, for the Busby Berkley style, says to Tony “we have to lie on the floor”, so Tony lies on top of Steve as the scene ends.
Surprisingly, Ryan and Colin’s gets the edge here, for doing more with the scene, and progressing more, despite some laughs in Tony and Steve’s.
Old Job New Job: Ryan and Tony are airline passengers. Steve, the steward, used to be a bus conductor
Ryan: “…how many Whose Line episodes can they SHOW on a two-hour flight?”
IS THAT A META-REFERENCE FROM THIS SHOW? We weren’t supposed to get those until the Drew Carey era.
Steve, outraged, to Tony: “WHERE DID YOU GET ON?”
after the applause dies down: “I GOT ME EYE ON YOU. YOU SHOULD HAVE GOT OFF IN BANGKOK.”
Steve, to Tony: “May I see your pass?”
Tony, confused: “My PASS?”
Steve, not helping: “Yeah, you heard me the first time…”
A really nice game, proving how great Steve was at this sort of character-work.
Changing Emotions: Ryan and Tony are losing players with their coach, Colin
Drink Bottle: paranoid
The first of four game debuts in a row. This was a new game as of then, but one that’s been retooled, and made into an impression showcase for the US version.
Tony begins the game by rubbing himself with the towel, then going: “…my nipples are like chair legs.”
Then, when Colin enters, Tony goes ‘watch out, your eye might get poked.’
Tony, switching from the bottle to the bag: “Well, maybe, maybe it was me, maybe I shouldn’t have been on the team at all- OH YES, I BLOODY SHOULD!”
Colin: “TWENTY-FIVE PUSH-UPS!”
Tony, back with the towel: “Hey, I don’t need to be pushed up, by anybody…”
Ryan, landing the towel without anyone realizing: “Am I the only one not yelling?”
Colin, with the bottle: “That’s right, with last place there’s no one behind us” [looks behind him]
Very, very fun game, that would only get better as the series went on (“BEFORE I DIE…JUST GIVE ME ONE LAST SHAG!!”)
Questions Only: Front desk of a hotel
FINALLY this game is converted to a quick-fire round. FINALLY.
Steve, hesitating: “…isn’t this the Ramada?” [holds thumbs up to camera/audience]
Ryan: “Aren’t you Steve Foster?”
Steve: “…no, Steve Frost, you’ve got it completely wrong-” [Smiles as the buzzer goes off]
Ryan: “Smoking or non-smoking?”
Colin: “…what’s the difference?”
Ryan: [walks off]
Tony: ‘D’YOU REALIZE THE MESS YOU’VE MADE IN YOUR ROOM?
Colin: “Where’d the other guy go?”
Ryan, after Tony’s buzzed out: “…REMEMBER ME?”
Ryan, looking over Colin’s ID: “…why aren;t you wearing any clothes?”
Colin: “Do you have to ask?”
Ryan: “How could something be that small?”
Colin: “have you heard of showering?”
Ryan: “Are you danish?”
Really, REALLY funny game, with all four getting moments to shine.
Fixed Expressions: In a barbershop as the circus comes to town
LITERALLY TOP OF THE SCENE I’M GONE:
[it’s not getting any better]
The best part of this game is having the dialogue contrast with the expressions- Colin can say angry things while looking happy, Ryan can say optimistic things while shocked. Tony still opts to be anxious as well as look anxious, which does work really well for him.
Tony: “D’you know what the tickets are?”
Ryan, taking him literally: “Yeah, they’re those little paper things ya use to get in!”
Ryan: “Anybody care for a shot of the green stuff we keep the combs in?”
Tony: “yes, please!”
Colin, smiling: “THAT’S THE WORST HAIRCUT I’VE EVER HAD.”
Narrate: Colin and Ryan are hunting
And, on top of all that, this game premieres as a Ryan-Colin showcase (after sort-of working for Jim and Steve), which is one of my favorites in the show’s history.
This one, unlike later UK playings of Narrate, does use the traditional, US film noir music track, rather than the old-fashioned one.
Colin, with one of his characteristically great opening lines about Ryan: “He was skinny as a post, and twice as thick.”
And then, Colin goes back for the jugular about Ryan: “He wasn’t a handsome man…he had a face like a collapsed lung…”
Ryan: “I knew that he was nervous. I’d seen that he had urinated not five minutes ago…”
Colin: “I could tell, by his doggy brown eyes, that he had a secret, a secret he didn’t want to share…because you don’t usually share secrets, otherwise they’re not secrets anymore…..my head hurt…”
The game does end prematurely, and the hatchet discourse took away from the strong barbs, but this was an impressive start to this game’s history.
Film Dub: Tony and Steve are surgeons waiting for the anesthetic to take effect
Steve: “All the buttons are missing off me shirt. Me tie’s gone as well.”
Tony, as the nurse: “Yes, I know, I find it rather attractive.”
The two characters have a long kiss, which Steve and Tony insert smacking and burping noises into.
Steve, afterwards: “Well, me tie’s not in there, then…”
Tony: “You’ve got a tongue that would take five gondolas to-”
Steve: “I know, I’ve been sniffing the anesthetic, I feel a bit bonkers, d’you know what I mean?”
Steve, checking his controls: “Wait…that’s Radio 4!”
Tony: “Yes, I know, I put Jimmy Young in the special isolation unit…”
Steve, going into the room: “I’ve got to, I’ve got-”
Tony: “NO, I WANT SEX!”
The clip ends with a shot of a rapidly enlarging finger, which Steve, with no choice, just goes “….OH MY GOD….”
A very funny Film Dub, with Tony and Steve working together well.
Party Quirks: Tony hosts
Steve: tabloid headline writer
Ryan: Attached to the door with elastic
Tony, as he stares at Clive during his intro: “…I want to be like Clive…”
[I think that’s the first ‘Clive has no neck’ joke we’ve gotten. There’s gonna be hundreds more over the next few series, mostly coming from Greg Proops]
Steve, with a pretty great pun upon entering: “GOTCHA!”
Tony does get it in two lines, but Steve did sell the shit out of it.
He guesses Colin’s easily as well, but Ryan comes in and SELLS HIS PHYSICALITY, coming right back to the door after entry.
Tony goes through a few different guesses, while Ryan just keeps doing the same thing.
Tony: “Ohhh, it’s this WIND that rushes through my party?”
Ryan: “IS IT?”
Tony, upon hearing the quirk from Clive, drops his arms and smirks. Not at ‘OH, WELL FUCK OFF’ levels yet, but close.
Hoedown: Donkey riding
This would be the first of many problematic hoedowns for Steve, but he has a cheeky joke, still:
“I was riding my donkey, up a stony pass
I fell off….[smirk] onto the grass…”
Also, this one he actually ends pretty well, so…it’d get worse over time
Colin, for the first time in this particular game, cops out:
“I like to ride my donkey, I ride him all day long.
He is very very very very very strong.”
Then, not having another verse, he just smiles and nods for the remaining bars.
Tony, before his verse, audibly yelps in agony, which should say a lot about how much he enjoys this game.
Tony does land on his feet about filming ‘certain videos’ with this donkey, putting a capper on a frenzied but good Hoedown.
Overall: Incredibly solid all the way through, a sort of standard for this era of whose line. Both pairings had great showcases throughout the night, capitalizing on new games as well as reviving once-dire ones (Film Dub was better tonight as a two-piece game than it’s been in years), and letting ensemble pieces power the show. Ryan and Colin just barely rose above Steve and Tony in this one, with an emphasis on the goofy nature of Colin’s performance tonight. No games truly stood out as ‘landmarks’, but there was nothing terrible, which is expected with this crowd.
Show Winners: Colin and Ryan
Best Performer: Colin, for giving great performances even when surrounded by equally funny people.
Worst Performer: Steve Frost, just for being slightly-less put-together than the rest of the pack, though still doing great throughout the night.
Best Game: Questions Only, topping Changing Emotions just by having more consistent laughs.
Worst Game: Film and Theatre Styles v2, only by default, for being slightly less funny than the rest of the show.