Tag Archive: Drew Carey’s Improv-a-ganza

night court

More than fifty years ago Newton Minow, the first FCC commissioner, called television a vast wasteland.  The prospect of 500 channels available and nothing to watch was forecast back in the 1970s and today it sometimes seems like it’s a truism more often than not.  But if you get tired of new programming–and make no mistake plenty of great television shows are airing this year–a few recently added channels to your local line-up may remind fans of classic TV why they jumped onboard in the first place.

Three channels: MeTV, COZI TV and LAFF, are a destination for those who just want to pop in now and then for a dose of the past.  Even pay channel Starz has begun broadcasting classic television series.  No doubt much of the programming may not hold up to current audiences.  Clothes, hairstyles, and stale, formulaic half-hour and hour plots may not keep your 21st century attention.  Yet many shows seem to hold up quite well.  As time goes on two of my favorites, Simon & Simon and Magnum, P.I., seem to drift farther and farther away, yet the comedy of Night Court and Cybill remains laugh-out-loud funny.

Simon & Simon

Classic TV gold, like The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, may be a bit much in big doses.  Only a diehard fan would stream these beginning to end.  Yet, try popping in once in a while and it’s like visiting an old friend.  M*A*S*H and The A-Team hold up quite well.  In particular, the formula established by The A-Team, no doubt based on decades of series that came before it, can be found continuing on to this day in series like Leverage and Burn Notice.  Even series like Wonder Woman and Charlie’s Angels can be fun, if you don’t take their 1970s approach to TV too seriously.  And you may find yourself engrossed in Quantum Leap all over again.

So what’s playing, where, and when?

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whose-line-is-it-anyway poster

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.

Really Old Whose Line episode

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.

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A review of Drew Carey’s Improv-a-ganza

By C.J. Bunce

How many times a day do you see the letters LOL?  How often is it true?  I can’t think of the last time I laughed out loud at something someone emailed me or posted on a website.  Yet over and over again… LOL.  It may be funny, but I rarely, if ever, have been known to LOL, let alone LMAO.

If I have ever come close to LMAOing it would have to be from something I saw on TV or in a movie.  The first time I saw Planes, Trains and Automobiles comes to mind.  The first time I saw Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.  Housesitter with Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin.  Trading Places with Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy.  Money Pit with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long.  Stripes.  The Blues Brothers.  Caddyshack.  All resulted in a full bore, certified LOL and maybe even a LMAO.

Network TV comedies, especially sitcoms, are never as funny as you want.  There are exceptions: M*A*S*H, Everybody Loves Raymond, Dharma and Greg, The Drew Carey Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Newhart, the classic Mary Tyler Moore Show (Ted Knight and Betty White were the best) and The Carol Burnett Show (Tim Conway, Harvey Korman) and right now Psych is as funny as any show that has ever been on TV.  But the LMAO came into prime form recently when Drew Carey’s Improv-aganza premiered on the Game Show Network.  I never thought I would have anything to watch on the Game Show Network.  I never really watched game shows.  At least shows I realized were game shows.  Case in point, the British TV series that made it across the pond:  Whose Line is it Anyway?  In truth, I have never watched that show and not experienced a LOL.

Whose Line is it Anyway?–which still is re-broadcast on the ABC Family network–is a series of improv skits centered around four comedic actors doing a variety of things, hosted in Britain by Clive Anderson and then in the States by Drew Carey.  Hand them a few props and make a quick scene.  Set up a scene and every few minutes pull a slip of paper out of your pocket and incorporate the line into the skit.  Sing an ad lib hoedown about… audience?  Give us an idea… anything… blind dates? OK, the blind date hoedown, here goes!  Only one other TV show came close to the explosive humor on Whose Line, and that was the short-lived Thank God You’re Here!  If you think you have seen Bryan Cranston brilliantly perform on Breaking Bad, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen his improv performance as a Rock Star God on Thank God You’re Here!  But the cast of Whose Line is why the show was so good.

Not one show came close to Whose Line, that is, until Drew Carey’s Improv-a-ganza.  The funny things you’ll see on this show you’ll find popping into your head throughout the day.  For the most part, Improv-a-ganza is an expanded Whose Line.  Drew Carey serves as host, but also performs more than he did on Whose Line, and the entire main comedic slate of comedy actors from Whose Line are regulars, like Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops (yeah, and Greg was the pod race announcer from Star Wars: Phantom Menace), Chip Esten, Wayne Brady, Brad Sherwood, and Jeff Davis, all brilliantly funny in quick and smart-witted way of Groucho Marx on the original classic LOL series You Bet Your Life (a show I used to watch in reruns late night with my Dad that made us both LOL every night).  Added to the cast are Kathy Kinney (Mimi from The Drew Carey Show), and Jonathan Mangum and Heather Anne Campbell, both who seem like they have been part of this comedic troupe for years.

This show is the show you wish Saturday Night Live was (like the cool SNL casts of years ago).  It takes place in front of a *live studio audience* at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and is full of the same type of improv’ed skits as in Whose Line, but also adds a lot more.  Improv-a-ganza proves that Whose Line could have lasted even longer than its first British, then American run.  But when you consider the British Whose Line, which included Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops and Brad Sherwood–all who starred in both Whose Lines and Improv-a-ganza–lasted ten seasons, from 1988-1998, and Drew Carey’s American Whose Line lasted eight seasons, from 1998-2006, somebody’s got a great idea for TV with staying power.

And one more thing:  Remember on live skits shows like Carol Burnett when Harvey Korman and Tim Conway would try to get each other to break up laughing in the middle of a skit?  When you watch the cast of Improv-a-ganza in the background as their other cast members perform, they are laughing and holding their guts like the folks in the crowd and at home.  It says something when what is going on is so funny that everybody LOLs.

Check out Drew Carey’s Improv-a-ganza on the Game Show Network, and I guarantee at least a LOL, a LMAO, or maybe even a ROTFLMAO.

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