TV Review: The New “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

Growing up, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” was one of my favorite shows. With an excellent main cast of improv actors featuring Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie, and Ryan Stiles, and utilizing a revolving fourth-chair slot that saw recurring guests Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood, and Chip Esten, as well as guest stars ranging from Robin Williams to Richard Simmons, the show was a huge hit with my whole family. We would gather in the living room on Thursday nights and watch back-to-back episodes; debuts or re-runs, it didn’t matter, because the show was just that funny.

A spinoff of the original U.K. series, which I also watched as a kid, the American version of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” eventually fell by the wayside in 2004 as ABC switched up its lineup and the show dropped in the ratings, though the network aired unseen episodes through 2006 on its ABC Family channel. Once the show left the airwaves, it was a sad day for many, and fans have clamored for some sort of reunion ever since.

Nine years later, the show has more or less picked up where it left off. Now airing on The CW, the new season of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” has the same feel as it did before, again featuring Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, and a revolving door of guest stars. The first episode features Gary Anthony Williams as its guest, he of “Boston Legal” fame — yet another under-appreciated ABC show that was cancelled due to low ratings — and while my first opinion of him wouldn’t have been as an improv funnyman, he fits the role well here. The show has also brought in Lauren Cohan from “The Walking Dead” to step in at times, and while she may not be up to par with her peers, she certainly did her job as best she could.

What I’ve failed to mention thus far, however, is the show’s new host. When the improv comedy was first brought to the U.S., Drew Carey, now hosting “The Price is Right”, was its master and commander, guiding the ship and getting in on the games and jokes as well, his laughter sometimes serving as a 30-second clip of hilarity in and of itself.

The 9-years-on revival has replaced Carey with Aisha Tyler, who has dabbled in television, film, and comedy throughout her career. Unfortunately, she is the show’s weak spot, a relatively bland host with a quite grating voice. While many have derided Carey’s hosting of “The Price is Right” since taking over for Bob Barker, he perfectly served his purpose on “Whose Line”, due in part to the troupe’s camaraderie on and off set. But based on this first episode, Tyler just lacks the excitement necessary for the part. Maybe she just needs a bit of time to jell with the rest of the cast and get comfortable behind the desk, but she certainly stands out as a weak point.

All that aside, the first episode of The CW’s revival of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” is certainly a welcome surprise, a generally funny 20-minute episode that evokes my memories of its predecessors. You can certainly find worse things to watch on TV, and if the first episode is any inclination, it just may continue to get better from here. That is, if it survives in the ratings.

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