Forgive the soonness of this one, but we’re about to enter an era of Whose Line that I’ve always wanted to go in depth about.
In my opinion, Whose Line in the UK had three turning points.
- Series 5, when Ryan Stiles becomes a regular and the last all-Brit show happens
- Series 7 Episode 6, Tony and Mike’s last show, when the reins are practically handed to Ryan and Colin for the rest of the run
- Series 9. When Whose Line UK becomes an American product
Around this time, Dan and co. were very aware of their show’s appeal on their American market. Their decision to expel Tony and Mike had to do just as much with Tony’s mental health than it did with appealing to American audience who were now seeing this show on Comedy Central, on an accessible time slot. This was Americans’ first venture into improv comedy, and Dan and Mark have the power to alter this viewpoint. So, in order to capitalize on this, they decided to not have bawdy humorists like Tony or overweight humorists like Mike on the show anymore. [I, as an American, would argue that obesity would still appeal to Americans, but I digress]
By the end of S8, Dan and Mark would realize that in order to appeal FURTHER to Comedy Central audiences, they would need to make their show even more American. So, the new British semi-regulars they started piping in in S7? Gone. Bye, Caroline and Niall. The remaining UK semi-regulars? This would be their last full season of appearances. The UK performers would be limited to one per show, with the exception of one…strange case…which I’m also excited to talk about.
In making the show more American, Dan and Mark would begin to open the floodgates in North America for the first time since Series 4, and start looking for talent at improv theatres like Second City and the Groundlings, as well as asking established stars and friends of performers if they’d like to come on (two iterations of which…did not work whatsoever). Hell, they even searched America for former US-hailing Whose Line performers who’d stopped attending tapings due to high plane ticket costs, or…being asked not to return due to a weight problem, and being especially bitter about it (and yes, we will get to that one as well.)
This series would feature a then-record of nineteen total episodes, with compilations in the middle of the series rather than the end. The majority of the tapings would be used for multiple episodes, rather than just stagnating the initial episodes first and then going to cobbling. This expanded series would be engineered solely towards being broadcast in America, in hopes of creating more of a market for the show, and for improv. Would it work? Well…sort of. There would be a market for improv, and there would be more American influence to this show, but it would be only partially thanks to Series 9 of Whose Line. As a matter of fact, the American influence of Dan and Mark’s Whose Line is it Anyway would be multiplied by a very famous friend and costar of Ryan’s, who would eventually get wind of the show. But we’ll get to him in Series 10.
That’s a lot of build-up for a Rory Bremner episode, I know. But it’s some stuff I’ve wanted to write about for a while. For better or for worse, Whose Line is it Anyway would feel a lot different during Series 9. And you’ll see the differences immediately when we get to Episode 1, featuring a familiar pairing of Greg-Rory-Colin-Ryan. Fun Fact: This is the only episode of Whose Line not easily accessible on YouTube, thanks to a game that we’ll get to later.
Clive mentions the ‘unchanging’ face of Greg Proops, though Greg looks a bit older and less hip than he’s ever been on the show, looking more like his US-era self.
Let’s Make a Date: Greg chooses
Rory – Princess Diana
Colin – 1940s gangster squealer,
Ryan – Hollywood star doing photo shoot.
For the first time in a while, the show would have a clear opener, in LMAD, which would carry into the US version.
Clive, explaining the game: “And if he gets it right, he goes out with them; and if he gets it wrong, he goes out with ME…”
[This episode aired a month and a half before Princess Diana’s death. Thank god they went with this episode first…]
Greg asks Colin what type of sauces he likes
Colin: “I like all sauces…all types of sauces…look for a sauce that holds Big Eddie DeLuca…”
Ryan’s is great. He just keeps doing more and more poses for the camera, looking more and more vain, as Greg tries to start asking questions.
Greg: “Where would you take me to eat?”
Rory: “…well, you’d have to buy a dress because I haven’t got any left…”
Colin: “Lemme tell ya something, don’t pick #3. That’s all. YA DIDN’T HEAR IT FROM ME. THAT’S ALL.”
Greg, in an echo of one of the last few LMADs, guesses Rory was the Duchess of York, which is a callback to when he thought Caroline as the Duchess of York was Princess Diana.
Not a bad one to start the series with, though we’re gonna see a lot of this game.
Animals: Colin a sheep being comforted by his mother (Greg) after a bad first date with the local stud ram (Ryan).
Colin and Greg are amused by the fact that the “local stud ram” is played, as Clive says, “for comedic purposes, by Ryan”
Colin, top of the scene, sheep voice: “Ohhh, I feel so dirty.”
Greg: “Why, I oughta Bo Peep you this instant-”
Ryan: “HEEEEYYY. She lied to me. Virgin wool my ass.”
Greg: “You said you wanted a sweater, and instead you got a screamer.”
DEAR GOD THAT LINE. Even RYAN stops and acknowledges that one
The second half of this scene is just hard to get through, though. And it goes on for a few beats too many, at which point Clive has to mercy-kill it.
Greg – anchor
Colin (co-anchor) – listening to a horse race on his walkman while the show’s on and his horse is actually winning,
Rory (sports presenter) – Bill Clinton,
Ryan (weatherman) – turning into a werewolf.
A debut of a game that’d eventually become a show opener itself
I will say, it is fairly nice to hear the old-school Weird Newscasters theme again, as it’d be carried over to the US version.
Greg: “We have got a hot and heavy weekend of sports ahead of us, don’t we, Bill?”
Rory: “Well, ah’ve got a hot and heavy weekend ahead, but that’s nuthin’ to do with sports.”
What’s interesting about this game here is how dynamic-based it is. Later, it’d become more about individual performance, but here the performances kind of depend on each other.
Ryan, of course, has the physicality to take this quirk, especially as a gradual transformation. Then, for the first time in Whose Line history, someone, Ryan, knocks over a background chair and cavorts about the back of the stage–this would be a staple of the US version.
The scene does end with Colin’s horse winning, and him yelling “SCREW YOU” at everyone in sight. Suddenly, as Colin, celebrates, FROM THE FAR CORNER OF THE STUDIO, OUT OF SIGHT, WE HEAR RYAN HOWLING. It’s the silliest goddamned detail, and I love it.
A pretty nice start to the game, as there’s more emphasis on weird dynamics then there is the general performance. I did like this very much, especially Ryan taking on the studio.
World’s Worst: Person to Present a Joy of Sex video
An all time classic
Greg: “I can think of so many that aren’t gonna get on the air.”
Greg steps down, then immediately gets back to where he was, going ‘no, no…”
Clive: “You don’t have to stick to members of your own family, Greg.”
Ryan: “There’s nothing better than sex with the loving words, and the soft touching, and the hard, driving power…..even better with a partner.”
Greg: “When a woman is approaching orgasm, at that time, it is appropriate to order a pizza, now-
Greg: “Now, you’re going to want to watch television after…”
Ryan, sing-songy: “IT…GOES…..IN. IT COMES OUT. IT GOES IN. IT COMES OUT.”
[I love that one]
Ryan: “Here’s a new move that a lot of people haven’t seen, it’s called…rotisserie.”
[Ryan jerks around in a circle]
Colin gives Ryan a very confused and disturbed look when he gets back. Ryan is already completely regretting that
Rory, as Loyd Grossman: “Okay, we’re gonna give you two minutes, to deliberate, coordinate and masturbate…”
Ryan: “Hi. I’m Suzie the Vagina.”
Ryan, holding up a finger: “AND I LIKE TO BE TOUCHED-”
A wonderful, wall-to-wall hysterical World’s Worst, just with Greg rebelling against Clive, Ryan just being his usual self, and…just so many good moments.
Props: Greg and Rory vs. Ryan and Colin
Greg: “My god, they’ve buried President Lincoln.”
Ryan: “Now, this is your fourth try on it. We’re gonna need that #8 by Tuesday…”
Greg struggles to carry both props at once, and tries to do binoculars, which cracks up Rory
Ryan: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who-”
Colin: “SHUT UP, YOU’RE UGLY!”
Greg, putting the props on the ground: “…I think we’ve arrived too late, the Titanic’s going under…”
Colin: “Look, I’ll give you one more chance, but we need that Olympics sign by Tuesday”
Wall-to-wall fantastic round of props, possibly one of the more creative ones in years. Hell, even Rory had some original ones.
Newsflash: Ryan and Greg throw it to Rory, reporting in front of a nudist colony
So…this one doesn’t hold back. There are actual breasts in this clip Rory goes in front of. This explains why this game usually got plucked out of US broadcasts, and why this game’s never in the cut posted on YouTube. Hulu, though, is fine with nudity.
Rory, being Rory gets right into this one, not really giving Ryan and Greg an opportunity to lead in to him.
Ryan, obviously loving what he’s seeing: “Rory, if you wouldn’t mind just moving a bit to the right…”
Ryan: “Rory, are you going to become one of them, to slip into their ranks?”
Rory: “Well, all of that of course is very much up for grabs at the moment…and indeed, so am I.”
As Rory’s going on, Greg ALSO starts liking what he’s seeing
Greg: “COULD YOU MOVE TO YOUR LEFT, JUST BRIEFLY?”
Rory: “Well, I don’t know how you’re feeling, but I’m feeling an awful lot better standing over here.”
Greg: “Yes, so do we.”
Ryan: “Keep us abreast of the details as time goes on”
Greg, hammering it home: “YES, DON’T BE A BUM, GET BACK TO US…”
Rory does guess it, and while…I can see why that didn’t air, it’s still a very fun, very loose Newsflash, one very similar in Ryan and Colin’s questions to a US game of this.
Mission Impossible: Greg instructs Colin and Ryan to put on a pair of tights and wax a bikini line
THIS is where this game truly takes off, though
Clive amusingly gets both suggestions from the same woman–one LITERALLY AS THE GAME’S ABOUT TO START.
Greg: “…There’s a woman in Cheswick with no life whatsoever…she can’t get her tights on. Oh, and one more thing. There’s extra hair down there.”
Greg: “Remember to be careful. AND…..spit.”
Colin shuts off the tape.
Colin and Ryan look over, annoyed.
Greg: “Sorry, I didn’t tell you I was gonna destruct.”
Ryan: “One of us may not come back.”
Colin, recycling a great joke from last series: “I hope it’s you.”
For the first silly move of the game, Ryan realizes they’ll have to get into the chimney, so they both disguise as Santa and a reindeer, which is an INCREDIBLY goofy idea.
Ryan then begins to scale the chimney, and has Colin follow him, so they start going down together. Then:
Ryan: “UP. UP. UP. FIRE. FIRE. FIRE.”
Ryan gives Colin an insanely intricate action to do, involving not using his hands to get the tights, then says “good luck, I’ll read a book.”
Ryan, looking at the woman: “My God….HOW CAN SOMEONE LET SOMETHING LIKE THAT GET SO OUT OF CONTROL?”
Colin hands Ryan the machete, and he gives him an impressed but strained-laughter look. He then proceeds to cut through the hair like it’s the forest. It’s SO GENIUS. Greg even adds some jungle animal noises in the background.
Ryan: “Alright, I’m putting the wax on.”
Colin: “Got it.”
Ryan: “…..it’s gonna take a while with this candle…”
Ryan and Colin do a count of three and wax everything….and then realize they’ve taken her leg off as well, so they shoddily reattach it.
They get the tights on, and Colin realizes the scene has to end with some sort of conflict, so…he does this:
Colin: “Wait….d’you hear that ticking?”
Colin: “MY GOD…SHE’S GONNA GO OFF!”
Ryan gives him…to date the most confused look he’s ever given Colin. He was NOT prepared for this concept. He even goes “…WHAT?”
Colin: “You’re gonna have to go in there.”
Ryan stifles an even bigger laugh, looking away from Colin. He cannot believe what’s happened.
Ryan: “Wait…I’ll use the two hunks of wax we’ve got as skis.”
Colin, subverting, with a chuckle: “I’m not following you.”
Ryan: “I don’t blame ya, I wouldn’t follow me either..”
Then, on the image of Ryan Stiles skiing into a hairy vagina, Clive ends the scene. At which point, Ryan looks directly at Colin, finally free to break, and goes “AW, GOD” as they head back to the seats.
Before “THE CAT”, this is the most insane this game would get, and the funniest. This game works best when Ryan and Colin throw each other for the weirdest loops, and here, when Colin made Ryan climb into a vagina to defuse a bomb, it was the weirdest loop in their history on the program. My god, that was so funny. Crude, yes, but funny.
Hoedown: World Leaders
Possibly due to the last game, Clive makes his own suggestion rather than going from the audience. This possibly makes it easier for Rory, who does a bunch of impressions in his.
Colin takes an extra verse to think about this, but he gets a funny verse out of it, ending on the line “the best thing about being a dictator is I look good in black.”
Ryan ends his on a very strained Golda Meir pun, but at least he looked ashamed of it.
Overall: It’s not everyday that we start a series with a 10 show, and yet here we are. Everyone was phenomenal, even the usually-tardier Rory Bremner, who carried a game or two tonight. Greg worked well WITH Ryan and Colin, rather than against his ideologies and on his own. The Ryan-Colin dynamic was insanely strong tonight, culminating in Mission Impossible, which made me laugh so hard. On top of that…SO MANY great games. Props and Worlds Worst were hits tonight, along with LMAD and Weird Newscasters, and obviously Mission Impossible. The most important part of this show was that it proved that even with OBVIOUS format changes, the show could still sail smoothly and make people laugh just the same as before. Would the format changes continue to let the show be itself? Only time will tell.
Show Winner: Rory
Best Performer: Colin Mochrie, for having the most original ideas, and owning the most games
Worst Performer: Rory Bremner, for bringing up the rear on a night where Colin, Ryan and Greg were all untouchable
Best Game: Mission Impossible. It was already classic even before Colin made Ryan ‘go in there’.
Worst Game: Hoedown. Just had the least to it.