You could flip around the cable channels and find the stand-up/sketch/comedy/improv TV series Whose Line is it Anyway? airing at different times and on different networks over the past 25 years and you may find it hard to tell which version of the series you’re watching. Is it the series with Ryan Stiles? Oh, wait, Ryan has been in every version of the series. Is it the version with the famously funny balding Canadian Colin Mochrie? Oh, wait, Colin has been in every iteration of the show, too. The fact is, Whose Line is it Anyway?–the show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter–is still running and still funny after all these years because the format works and the recurring players keep coming up with new laughs.
The current series, still carrying the original name, is now in reruns from its inaugural 2013 season earlier this year on the CW Network. The 1988 series featured host Clive Anderson and was filmed in England and aired for ten years. The second version of the series moved to the States on ABC and featured host Drew Carey. It ran nine seasons with its last episode in 2006. The third version of the series changed from the production stage format with the studio audience and moved to Las Vegas as a nightclub act of sorts, again featuring Drew Carey as the host. Airing on the Game Show Network, it ran for 40 episodes in 2011 under the name Drew Carey’s Improv-a-ganza. This year the fourth version of the series began, back with the format from England and ABC and carrying the Whose Line is it Anyway? title.
The new series features host Aisha Tyler, an actress known for her roles on Friends, 24, CSI, Ghost Whisperer and most recently the animated comedy series Archer. In her first season as host she delved right in, and seemed comfortable with the format straight away. You’d think it would be intimidating considering the new series has “old-timers” Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie, as well as the seemingly limitless energy of Wayne Brady, who has been handling the bulk of the singing improve on Whose Line as the new kid of the trio, beginning back in 1998.
Back from the Vegas series is the quirky and quick comedienne and Saturday Night Live writer Heather Anne Campbell, who supplied some of the best bits in her stint on Improv-a-ganza.
Fans of the older series will be happy to see musicians Laura Hall and Linda Taylor. Of course the entire gang looks older, and may make you feel older if you think about it too hard, but they’re still having fun. And you might even find yourself noting to yourself “these guys are still doing that?” But we’re all the better for it because there simply is not a lot of good humor on television that appeals to every audience. The new Whose Line even has new skit formats, sure to help keep the show fresh as it returns in 2014. Hopefully, the network will bring back more of the classic funny people, too, like Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood, Chip Esten, Jeff Davis, Jonathan Mangum, and Kathy Kinney, and Drew Carey–who never quite had the knack for the improve part of the show, which made him that much more fun to watch.
The CW Network is re-airing the 2013 season now, and the series returns next year.