Now on DVD by riotous demand, WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY?: THE COMPLETE SEASONS 1 & 2 features all 30 hilarious episodes from the shows initial seasons. Host Clive Anderson directs the action--assigning points at random and enduring quips about his disappearing hairline--as players like Jonathon Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean) and Steven Fry (Gosford Park) perform preposterous, slapstick antics in games of "Authors" and "Wrong Theme Tune." Laugh out loud as Josie Lawrence samples her vast array of silly singing styles and Greg Proops entertains a bevy of bizarre guests in "Party Quirks."
Few things are more of-the-moment that improvisational comedy, yet the first two seasons of the original British Whose Line Is It Anyway?
are startlingly fresh and funny, despite debuting in 1988. Hosted by blithe and zippy Clive Anderson, the format is the same as the American version: Four improvisers are put through a variety of games, ranging from one where each player tells part of a story in the style of a different writer, to one in which two teams have to find different ways to use a common object, to one in which players act out an ordinary situation as it would appear in different film genres or theatrical styles. Pretty much every episode features some moment so flabbergastingly precise and funny you'll have trouble believing it was made up on the spot. Regular Josie Lawrence tosses off uncanny versions of a Stephen Sondheim or an Edith Piaf song about telephones and garden hoses; John Sessions, who anchored the first season, does a spot-on impression of Humphrey Bogart; Archie Hahn creates sounds for Paul Merton's mime that are amazingly synchronized. The first season, before American guest improvisers Greg Proops and Ryan Stiles began to appear regularly, is particularly distinctive--not because Proops and Stiles are poor improvisers, but because the Brits just aim at more surprising targets. (Let's face it, the American version didn't feature many stories told in the style of Samuel Beckett or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, let alone in the style of poets like Coleridge and Philip Larkin.) These episodes are like potato chips; you'll just keep gobbling them down. Early guests include such unexpected pleasures as Stephen Fry (Wilde
), Jonathan Pryce (Brazil
), and Peter Cook (Bedazzled
). --Bret Fetzer