Let’s be honest. Who on earth would want to follow Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie and Wayne Brady?
Together these three are the bees knees when it comes to Improvisation. While they aren’t the only performers to have graced the net-free world of Whose Line is it Anyway? they are the three that have kept the brand alive in both the US and the UK, where the show originated.
After other versions have launched in Israel, India, Germany, Norway, Turkey and Lithuania -to name a few- Australia gets its first official version thanks to the Comedy Channel.
Under the watch of producers Craig Campbell and Kevin Whyte this production avoids ‘star casting.’ It isn’t populated with the usual roll-call of comedy stars, meaning this troupe have been hired for their ability to improvise, think on their feet, get to the punchline. In the shadow of a much-loved international hit, they give it a red hot go.
The rule of Theatresports is always “Yes And” -say yes to whatever is put in front of you (rather than blocking it) and add to it with your own brilliant ideas. For television Whose Line has to be rapid fire with an obligatory punchline at the end. We don’t mind if it falls in a heap occasionally, it helps keep it real.
Pedalling madly in the Australian production are Rhys Darby, Cal Wilson, Tegan Higginbotham, Susie Youssef, Steen Raskopoulos, Bridie Connell and Tom Walker, yet only 4 appear in each episode. Collectively, it should probably be called Whose Line is it Anyway? New Zealand….. Darby and Wilson are the best known of the troupe, but watch out for the lanky Steen Raskopoulos who is a strong performer.
At 30 minutes this is an easy watch, although admittedly more fun for the studio audience than the home crowd. The sketches in the opening episode include Scenes from a Hat, Props, Weird Newscasters, Sound Effects, Whose Line, and Dating Profile -but there’s a shopping list of potential games to draw upon over the season. Expect to swing from “Things you can say about your job but not your partner” to “Times when your Borat impression is inappropriate” to hitting on the Tooth Fairy.
The Aussie production twists a Hoedown group sing to the more colloquial Rock Out and there’s a house band, Fourplay with Judy, helmed by Kit Warhurst, neatly punctuating the show and keeping the ball in the air. The set is brightly coloured around a spartan playing area, complete with Melbournian angular shapes behind.
The likeable Tommy Little is master of ceremonies here, awarding points for no reason in particular, or subtracting them, and engaging with the audience. It did feel like a little bit of ‘audio sweetening’ was aiding and abetting the studio audience mirth, and as the red cordial lifts, a director will need to keep watch that the show doesn’t become a shout-fest for those at home.
If a US Whose Line is driven by bravado and winning, you would hope an Aussie version takes the piss, champions the underdog and breaks the rules here and there. I’m down with that.
This is a promising start.
Sundays from November 27 at 7.30pm on Comedy.