Improv is tough, but the successful US adaptation of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" is some of the best out there. The key is camaraderie: Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Wayne Brady, their wonderfully engaging host Drew Carey and a laundry list of co-stars (including Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood, Chip Esten, Kathy Greenwood, Jeff Davis and Kathy Griffin) may have been put on television to entertain the world, but more often than not, they seem more interested in entertaining each other. Their amusement translates to the viewers; it always makes the sketches twice as funny when one of these talented comedians is laughing as hard as the audience. After testing the waters with an uncensored first season DVD, "Whose Line" returns to home video with a Best of Collection, although how many fans it's going to please is up for debate.
The problem with "Whose Line" as a potential DVD or video release is that the show's style of comedy is built on surprise; no matter how clever the gags are, they're going to be funniest the first time you see them. It's a show that was designed to be seen on TV, whether in original broadcasts or those extremely popular reruns on abc family. Comedy, of course, is also subjective, so while the people at Warner Brothers may have selected 10 of the series' most popular episodes, it doesn't necessarily make it the best the show had to offer for even a majority of viewers. For those familiar with production numbers, this set serves up episodes 521, 401, 610, 308, 419, 512, 413, 505, 611 and 612.
One of the big draws to prospective buyers is that six of these ten episodes contain celebrity guest appearances. The funniest, by far, is Florence Henderson, who's more than game to play along with the cast's signature style. Unlike some of the other guest stars (like David Hasselhoff, who's mostly as stiff as a surfboard), you feel like Henderson might have actually watched the show before appearing on it, given her willingness to make out with Ryan and Colin and shove food in Ryan's mouth. Seeing the show without the intended commercial breaks, it seems strange that the stars have nowhere to sit during the transition, so they exit and re-enter multiple times during an episode, which gets repetitive. I'm also personally wondering where Robin Williams' guest spot is...surely that's also a big fan favorite?
The other problem with a collection of best-of "Whose Line" episodes is that improv is tricky, so while several episodes have a paralyzingly funny sketch or two, the episode's quality as a whole is usually uneven. In one of the episodes, Ryan breaks the neon light on Carey's desk on accident by smacking his head into it, and although the episode is funny, it's easy to think that outrageous moment alone secured it an spot on this two-disc set. On the overall collection, you also don't get the greatest mix of sketch types: the ever-popular "Scenes from a Hat" doesn't pop up until several episodes in, and you only get one "Greatest Hits" -- always one of the series' funniest sketches, thanks to the irreplaceable Laura Hall and Linda Taylor and the ludicrous jokes Mochrie and Stiles always make -- which is a personal disappointment.
All of this is not to say I didn't enjoy The Best of "Whose Line is it Anyway?", just that judging the sketches themselves on some kind of joke-by-joke basis seems sorta pointless. The broad strokes are that this is a solid collection of episodes, and it's worth a look for fans if not a purchase. It's hard to tell if season releases would have worked better or if best-of volumes is the way to go, but if you're dying for a "Hoedown" fix or desperate for a bit of "Props" (or Proops), then this is a solid 216 minute dose of inspired goofiness.
Note: The DVD packaging and menus make a big deal out of the show being "Uncensored", but at heart this is still basically PG-13 material (I don't think I noticed a single swear word). Those looking for outright raunchiness will probably be disappointed.
The Best of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" comes in an ECO-BOX 2-disc case, with similar cover art on the front as the already-released Uncensored Season 1 package from before. It actually includes an insert booklet, detailing the 10 episodes included with short synopsis for each one, and a list of the set's performers on the back.
The Video and Audio
On the whole, this 1.33:1 image looks very good: colors pop, detail is sharp, and the image is clean and free of source blemishes. The only flaw is a bit of garish edge enhancement, especially evident whenever Mochrie is standing in front of the show's greenscreen for one of the "Special Report" segments. Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is crisp and clear, and there's even a touch of directionality from the crowd's enthusiastic cheering. English closed captioning for the hearing impaired is provided.
There's only one extra, which is also titled The Best of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" (43:59). It's a television special highlighting the best moments from the first two seasons, following the format of a clip show. In the special, the clips are edited to fit within the allotted time slot and to allow Carey the chance to host interstitials, but a longer version might have been this DVD's best compromise: a menu full of the best "Whose Line" sketches and a Play All option sounds simple enough. But enough about that. As it is, this is a smart inclusion: the special touches on the show's production techniques (making it seem like an actual DVD extra) while contributing even more funny sketches to those already included. The highlight is a series of gags aimed at Mochrie's baldness, culminating in a sketch where the biggest laugh comes from the priceless look on the comedian's face.
This is good stuff, and fans of the show will be pleased, but the DVD format still just doesn't seem to lend itself to "Whose Line is it Anyway?" Some day in the future, there will be online TV channels for this kind of thing, and the show will be right at home. As for this DVD, if you want to see it, despite its many qualities, I strongly suggest you rent it and give it a spin in order to decide whether you need to own these episodes, even if the Florence Henderson appearance alone almost makes it worth it.
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