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The thing that producers and creators of twenty-first century American reality television haven't quite gotten into their heads is that it's much more enjoyable to watch talented people pretend to do extreme things than to watch fame hungry everyday cattle call contestants make complete and utter fools of themselves. And while it's not the participants' fault since they're contributing for the sake of what they hope is their fifteen minutes of fame... sadly, the sorry state of reality TV really just amounts to exploitation of the very people the network hopes to manipulate for ratings and ad revenue.
Similarly, I'd rather watch a comedian pretend to eat something disgusting than actually see someone on Survivor urinate on a total stranger's leg or eat an insect any day of the week. Likewise, sign me up as I relish watching improvisational performers spoof pop music in lieu of getting caught up in a meaningless popularity contest like American Idol that just results in unleashing another synthetic musician on the masses.
And as we learned with the incredible popularity of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's fake news programs on Comedy Central-- news delivered for humor wherein anchors make us laugh instead of real news that has turned into infotainment (consisting of network blogs, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and other social networking platforms) is far more fascinating to the viewer.
In the same token, I prefer spoofs of dating games or weight loss schemes actually that result in genuine smiles rather than a sense of melancholy of the depressing lows people will sink to on shows such as The Bachelor and The Biggest Loser.
Yet long before the boom of reality television shows sent scripted ones packing-- the United States sought creative inspiration from the U.K. for this amusing hybrid of reality shows, variety shows, game shows, and SNL skit based humor that ran for eight successful seasons on ABC.
Hosted by Drew Carrey-- this cheerful five-time Emmy nominated comedy series generated 6.5 million viewers tuning in every single week. Although most fans would no doubt prefer the continuation of DVD releases of the full seasons of the titles and/or more "best of" discs for every single year, Warner Brothers manages to keep the laughs coming nonstop with this dynamite 2-disc, 216 minute compilation.
The set is filled with free-wheeling and inspired moments from the second through the sixth seasons of the show spanning 2000 to 2004 via 10 regular episodes plus a scarcely aired hour long bonus show.
For those unfamiliar with the program, Line starred three regular contestants including the ultimate entertaining-threat Wayne Brady (note to the Oscars-- sign this guy up to host), the risk-taking Colin Mochrie, and quick-thinking Ryan Stiles and one additional always changing guest comic in a faux game show where the points didn't matter, the rules were easily pliable, and the main goal was the most admirable one of all in its endless pursuit to make audiences laugh faster and more frequently than ever before with each successive show.
Featuring a guest round-up that included Jeff Davis, Charles Esten, Kathryn Greenwood, Kathy Griffin, Greg Proops, and Brad Sherwood as well as surprise bonus appearances by Jerry Springer, David Hasselhoff, Florence Henderson, and Richard Simmons (many of whom get in on the action and are great sports whether in the skits or as the source of the humor)-- Carrey and his infamous buzzer, cue cards, and wild games comprised the show's loose structure. So admirably creative and inspiring to comedy geeks-- sometimes the descriptions for the characters make viewers laugh even harder than the performer trying to put those words into action.
Often the show's casting for the games played directly to the main trio's strengths as mostly it was Wayne Brady who was chosen to create impromptu musical numbers in a variety of styles from gospel to Britney Spears with topics ranging from the celebrity guests to taxidermy whereas Colin was usually cast as women in skits and/or in some of the greatest games as a clueless news correspondent standing in front of a green screen trying to explain the scene behind him which he can't see himself. Coupling this with Ryan's command of physical gags-- the show was always the most successful when they put the three leads together in a scene for maximum enjoyment.
And routinely the producers provided all involved with highly complicated backstories such as Ryan playing the weatherman who thinks he's Indiana Jones, Wayne Brady as an ugly hillbilly desperate to get someone to marry him, Colin giving a press conference as Santa Claus facing retirement, or having them a;; take turns moving from impressions of Scooby Doo, Richard Simmons, and Elvis Presley stuck on a desert island.
While some of the audience participation scenes fail abysmally and the show seems to get way too big of a kick out of forcing the men to make out with one another (sometimes to hysterical effect and sometimes when it seems like bad outtakes from The Birdcage minus the costumes)-- luckily the comedians are able to spot the funny and run with it when it crops up in the most unusual of places such as the oddly dirty sounding "fluff my Garfield" line becomes a new catch-phrase and so on.
Overall, the show is a delightful mixture of creativity and chaos that surprisingly bombs far less often than SNL and luckily when a skit is going south, the comedians are allowed to acknowledge it or make jokes right away such as when the fully leather clad David Hasselhoff doesn't quite grasp the rules of singing one word at a time as the "3-Headed Broadway Singing Star" game.
For an uncensored collection, it isn't terribly offensive despite the warning of "mature themes, adult language or sexual content," and in fact one wherein guests like Richard Simmons and (especially) David Hasselhoff are the ones who remind you why the show could never have been live and minus the censors when it aired on ABC.
A really fun DVD collection that reminds us what's missing from the shows in the genres it blends together including reality, comedy, variety, musical, and game shows-- The Best of Whose Line Is It Anyway? [Uncensored!] hits DVD shelves this month from Warner Brothers Home Video.