So! Whose Line's coming back. YAAA--AAY?--AAAYeeeYYYY!?
[NOTE: This post was written in bits and chunks over period of almost three months, so...apologies for any formatting incomprehensibilities and/or repetitions.]
Let's go over what we know for sure so far. Wayne, Ryan and Colin are returning as regulars. A revival after this long would've been an acceptable excuse to go a different route, but then again there are a lot of people who want the familiar funnymen, and you can't really please anyone, so whatever. I like them and know they know what they're doing, so there is good in that still. Jeff Davis, Heather Campbell, and Jonathan Mangum have been confirmed, so we know the "fourth seater" for each episode. These choices also seem to reflect the producers "playing it safe" - though Jonathan and Heather haven't been on Whose Line is it Anyway?, Dan Patterson (it is safe to assume he's at least executive-ly producing the new new series, right?) was confident enough to include Jonathan in Trust Us With Your Life and I suspect Heather was cast as a direct result of her being in Drew Carey's Improv-a-Ganza (which Dan had nothing to do with, but I'd be surprised if he never saw it or even knew of Heather beforehand or through her working with the guys). On one hand it seems disappointed to not see anyone we've never seen improvise before (unless the host joins in Drew-style, but we don't know that yet?), but on the other it's really satisfying to know that Jonathan will finally actually be able to be on Whose Line proper for once (or thrice, if you're counting presumed episode appearances. Thrice and a third?), and not just as a face in the crowd of a screen shot I once took from a season two episode. I remember posting on his official website's message board (back when his official website had a message board) asking him if he'd ever auditioned for the show, and he talked about how he almost got on as the decision was between him and Jeff Davis, though Jeff ended up getting the spot. Mangum's deserved to be on the show for a long, long time so I'm glad he's finally made it. I know I shouldn't my hopes up or anything but if there's one thing I know I want from this reboot, it's to hear Jonathan Mangum do a hoedown (There WILL be Hoedowns, right? You can't not have hoedowns. Well, even if he sits behind the next that at least means the milestone of Aisha Tyler being the first black woman to sing an Official Hoedown that makes it to air). And I am looking forward to seeing Heather improvising WL-style. Hopefully she won't be Kathy Greenwooded in terms of allotted screen time. I do wonder if there even was an auditioning process this time, at least for the fourth seaters. This is just speculation, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess Greg and Brad and Chip weren't asked in the first place? Or did the chosen three actually do better in trials? I'd bet there wasn't at all an open call to the completely fresh faces in the improv comedy world. I guess it's a comprise that we get the standbys Wayne/Colin/Ryan but with the variety of Jonathan and Heather as well. Chip's doing his own thing over in Nashville. Greg's got a weekly lengthy podcast which I have mentioned before on this LiveJournal. Brad is still doing shows with Colin (just imagine the awkward conversations: "So, how's Whose Line? Must be fun to be doing that again. I wouldn't know."). I hear Drew's hosting some other audience-participation games show. As for my thoughts on Aisha Tyler as the new host, follow this shamelessly pluggy link to a comic which I am sorry is harder to read than it should be.
Okkay. I wrote the previous paragraph weeks ago and since then I've found out from Colin Mochrie's Twitter feed that there are actually (at least) two more tapings than I thought there were. It turns out Nyima Funk will also be one of the fourth-seaters, which I guess invalidates what I said about ignoring up-and-coming types. Also, Keegan Michael Key, who is someone who seems to have already made a name for himself in the comedy world even though I'm only passingly familiar with his work so I don't have any particular expectations of him. So that brings the count of tapings to...5, if I worked that out correctly? That makes more sense - two episodes for each taping.
The series premiere is July 16th on the CW, which will be easy for me to remember because that is my sister's birthday. There will be ten episodes made from three tapings, which means PRESUMABLY three episodes made from each taping ... and, um, one remainder. Do I smell...A COMPILATION EPISODE? Nah probably not). Also said premiere will be a two-hour special, which, again considering the ten-episode season length, is quite surprising. Unless that means two hour-long episodes, which seems unlikely since I don't see how three (.3333repeating) full-hour episodes can be made from one taping. So the first four episodes - forty percent of the entire summer season - will all air on the same night? Jiminy Christmas! I guess considering certain other improv shows were cancelled before their last episodes of the season could ever air, I could make the case that it would at least help get them through the gate as swiftly as possible? Unless they do the thing where they show episodes 1-4, then rerun 1 the next week and 2 the next week and 3 then 4 until they get to five? I'm not yet even sure whether the regular slot will be one half hour or two episodes in a row. Not only does it seem weird to get four episodes at once after such a long dry spell, but getting the four episodes one week and one each week after that would be ... also weird. But yeah, talk about eagerness.
And I think that's all we know about it so far, or at least all I've gathered from my kinda-passive observance of its news.
So. Am I looking forward to season 9/19? The short answer is...yes, but not quite at EXCITED level.
The long answer involves going on about my "history" with the show, how I started watching it back in 1998 when the first US episode aired for the first time, being enamored with this curious concept called "improv," and becoming slowly obsessed with it the more episodes I saw. Be warned that I'm going to take about some already-obsolete technology here, as the first thing I wanted to do when I got my own VCR in my home was tape every episode I saw as they aired. At that point I had already started recording the song games on audio cassettes by way of just resting the tape recorder near the TV's speakers (if you think watching YouTube videos of someone recording a video by pointing a camera at the TV was lo-fi...!). Discovering the British version not too long after would come by happy accident, when my dad called from another room to point out Whose Line was on TV, though it was in the middle of the day? But the set looks all different and Ryan and Colin look younger and... ah, I figured out quickly enough, this must be the British version I'd only read about in TV Guide. Yeah, finding out information about a television series before having internet access.... wow. Of course now Comedy Central was my second-favorite cable channel and I was hooked. Didn't matter much that I didn't know what a Twiglet was and I had to straighten out the whole jelly/Jell-o/jam difference and everything. That was part of the charm. Also, I would be trying to catch up on these years-old episodes while still getting to see the new ones! It was soon after this that I would get access to this thing called the Internet, and I have to say the first thing I wanted to use it for on that family desktop was to head straight to abc.com (back then my internet browsing consisted of thinking of a thing or company I knew had a website and typing the name of it and .com ... also there wasn't nearly as much else period ... YouTube, Wikipedia, and Google either didn't exist or weren't household names yet) to join the forums. My family wasn't much into it, and sure there were other kids in my school who liked the show, but I didn't know anyone in real life who would get into the nitty-gritty of talking about WL, beyond just "I like this and I like that and that was funny." In creating my forum account I went with "Huzlinefan," which seemed like a good idea at the time. I became just as hooked with discussing it as I was with watching the show. This sense of fanaticism would branch off to recording appearances on other shows of people who've been on Whose Line. I admit taking the time to turn on my TV to a certain time to catch a minute's worth of Chip Esten as some character on an hour-long show that I would never watch otherwise is about as trivial as the Star Wars fan who must have that Darth Vader action figure that's identical to the one he already has except that the right fist is slightly more open, but sometimes it would pay off. I've also participated in tape trades, another quaintly antiquated idea. It is really convenient to find most of anything you'd like to see on YouTube, but there's also something fun about "the hunt," that makes the thing you're watching seem that much more special because you had to jump through a couple of hoops to get to see it. But as I was saying, there were other shows that I got into as a result of this. I first started listening to Just a Minute because I knew various "Whose Line people" are often on it, and ended up enjoying it a lot even when no one on the panel was someone who'd been on the other off-the-cuff show. It happens to have the perfectly simple formula that means, even though it's been on for ages and there's been HUNDREDS of episodes it still works and has yet to get old (for me, anyway). But now I'm deviating. I could also name I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, Blackadder, Jonathan Creek, and there surely must be more not off the top of my head. I was a fan of Stephen Fry from seeing him on Whose Line, and I wonder how long it would've taken me to be aware of his brilliance if not for that. Basically what I'm saying is that this type of obsession over focusing on one thing (ironically?) can lead to focusing on other things. More importantly, it's also worked this way with getting to know real life non-fictional human beings. I've talked to and gotten to know very well a lot of great people, a bunch of which (/who? whom?) I'm still in contact with and - well I don't want to get oversappified on this point, but despite never having met most of them in person they have have as much impact on my life as an "off-screen" acquaintance/friend/superfriend could. And how could I not mention my wife and love of my life, whom I've known as an onscreen WhoseLine friend before and in addition to meeting "IRL?" To say that Whose Line is it Anyway? is responsible for the very existence of my marriage is oversimplifying the relationship, but it is weird to think that, in an alternate-dimension-butterfly-effect sort of way, if not for this show where everything's made up and the points don't matter, I very well may not have gotten to know her in the first place.
In its later seasons the show, as is the case with many shows, wasn't quite as fresh. I realize Props is a difficult game, and you can't expect every line to be a winner, but there's only so often you can see the "Whew, it's cold in here!" gag before you go from laughing to chuckling to rolling your eyes. It was hilarious when Ryan kissed Colin full-on on the lips because it was truly unexpected and surprising. The hilariousness starts to fall sharply when they and the other guys make a habit out of it. Same goes for spontaneously-bringing-an-audience-member-onstage bit that was highly entertaining when Ryan first did it but would later just be a thing the performers are doing just because it's a thing they do. The quirks writers would even start prompting the guys to do those sorts of things, which is really disappointing when you imagine someone thinking as they write it out, "Remember that time so-so [did that really funny thing off-the-cuff]? Let's have him do that same thing again!" This is not how improvised comedy is supposed to work! I fell in obsession with the show because it wasn't scripted like every other comedy show! I realize many non-televised improv groups surely repeat their own gags as a fallback measure, but most audiences will be none the wiser because the audience will be a largely different one each time (Is there a term that describes the moment where you laugh hard at something under the belief that someone said it completely on-the-spot but later found out it was one of their old reliables?), and heck, I'm not saying there should be a complete ban on recycled material either. But maybe that's just the inherent problem with a TV-based improv show, especially one that would feature as the majority of its case that same funnymen in every single episode.
Since I'm writing an exhaustive treatise on a tv programme, I pretty much have to nominate my "jump the shark" episode. It happens to be what a lot of people would say is their favorite: The Richard Simmons episode. I could say it is a "must-see" episode, and I did finy myself laughing a lot...but, only the first time. The only funny moments rely entirely on shock value; there's little else about it that's clever in any way. If you haven't seen this one, it happens to be on the "Best of Whose Line" DVD, as if there's any reason to watch the episode more than once.
These are some of the reasons that when the "new but not actually new" episodes started airing on ABC Family, I wasn't in a huge rush to see them. That and I didn't have cable. Okay, they could be seen on YouTube, but maybe that was an excuse for myself to not just say, "I can live without seeing them."
As tough as I'm being about them now, I do think Ryan, Colin and Wayne have still got what it takes to make me laugh - Drew Carey's Improv-a-Ganza and Trust Us With Your Life, despite certain flaws, had some really good moments, but because too much of it was similar (or, maybe confusingly, too different but in the wrong way) to what I'd already seen, neither would be the next show that would be an abnormally large part of my life as the one running after on ABC after The Drew carey Show or opposite NBC's friends or in the same block as Beat the Geeks and Win Ben Stein's Money. But I still watched those not-quite-the-same shows, and I do look forward to seeing what I think I shall try to call CWhose Line. Is it out of a sense of nostalgia, because it reminds me of "better times?" Maybe partly. Is it because I expect to laugh my booty off? Not really, but some part of my body is bound to be laughed off. Do I feel like I HAVE to watch it out of fanbligation? Yyeah, but only a little bit.
What I think interests me most about Cwhose Line is the very idea of the show existed in this "generation" of television, now in 2013. The British series started out as a radio show, before the internet was even "a thing," and it went on to last through the internet's infancy and toddler-acy. But the way people take in TV shows is so different now than even just ten to fifteen years ago. If you looked hard enough you could scrape up short clips of the show from, say, the Comedy Central website, and these would be one-minute very-low resolution tinny-sounding RealMedia (remember RealMedia?) clips and there would be maybe five of them available. You could find three different full-episode .avi files via file-sharing programs, if you had the bandwidth and/or time to download them and went through the trouble of downloading and installing the required codecs. I remember one fansite with various video downloads of parts of games that were made by said webmaster (does anyone use that term anymore?) pointing a video camera at a TV screen. And even that was like a goldmine! And nowadays, there's YouTube as I've mentioned, where you can type in virtually anything you want to see and hit enter and click twice and boom and you can see it within seconds. Will people still bother to tune in to the CW itself when so many fans are accustomed to just being able to find it on YouTube the next day anyway? Not only that, but nowadays many official sites have joined the instant watch-the-full-episode-after-the-next-day bandwagon anyway. Despite not having the Game Show Network, I was able to watch Drew Carey's Improv-a-Ganza on the GSN site, though their video player does not work nearly as well as Hulu's, the site on which I was able to catch Trust Us With Your Life when I missed the episodes the times I had to work those nights. Given CWL's social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, can we assume it'll be given the same treatment, maybe on Hulu I would hope? I also recall that TUWYL episodes are available for purchase through Google Play and maybe other places, and while I wouldn't buy those for two bucks an episode, it makes me wonder how tempted I would be if the same thing existed for WLiiA? back when I was super into it. Especially if taping wasn't an option at the time. But it does seem that so many different shows can be seen on popular services like Netflix and Vudu - will the new Whose be one of those? Even if none of the older episodes are on those services, for whatever strange reason? I used to figure that the entire serieses weren't out on DVD simply because there would be so many episodes to go through, but why not make them available as videos-on-demand, I haven't a clue.
And not just the internet of the world has changed since then. These will be the first episodes to exist since the election of Barack Obama (how retro-funny would it be if the guys just went on continuing doing Clinton/Lewinski jokes, for the hell of it?), and the rise of so many a pop culture phenomenon. Will Wayne sing a song in the style of Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber (fun fact: Ryan and Colin each got their start on Whose Line before J.B. was born)? Will a brave soul shout out "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" as a Film and TV Style? Will there be any jokes about hipsters? Can the guys resort to kissing each other for laughs now that American society has moved further away from the very idea of the hint of homosexuality being a gag? Or will the summer's season be more "timeless" by having Wayne sing as Michael Jackson yet again or accepting the film style "porno?" Technically, these things already did or did not happen, since all of the episodes have already been taped, so it's just a matter of time until we see.
To sum up, I think I feel about Whose Line is it Anyway? the same way die-hard sports fans must feel about their teams. Even when they don't "win" (are not as hilarious as all that) they're still fun to watch just for the sake of seeing them do what they do best out on the field. Having lived in Cleveland just about my whole life, maybe there's something in my blood that still gives me faith in my team even if they let me down on numerous occasions. And really, isn't the best way to appreciate a team to meticulously study their past stats and compare each new game to the old ones, discussing what they should and shouldn't have done, as if we the fans know better than the professionals who've been doing it for years - even though most of the fans couldn't hold a candle to even the worst pros in a real-life scenario - and gripe about who should be on the team and who shouldn't and why did they have to get rid of that player and scrutinizing the coach and even though more often than not we're yelling at dumb calls it must be worth catching every game for the few times someone makes an awesome catch or an impressive grand slam or touchdown or what have you, and really you'll remember the awesome parts more vividly after the game is all said and done, so the foibles and fumbles are really just distractions leading up to them?
Something like that, anyway.
This post was started back in late April, and I do think I'm looking forward to the premiere more now that it's come nearer, rather than a vague distant future. As for my less-than-a-week-til thoughts, while my initial reaction to the news was more "Really? Huh" than other people's "OMG YES YES," now that it's sunk in I am glad that it's happened after all.
I think that's all I have to say for now, and I bet I won't be able to not post recaps for each episode right here on my LiveJournal sometime after they air when I get the chance.
Until then, I'll be ready with my little "WLiiA?" penant in one hand and Cracker Jacks in the other.