“Whose Line is it Anyway?” returned to television Tuesday night after nearly a six-year hiatus, debuting two original episodes in primetime for the CW. Its return was an unqualified commercial success for the struggling network, each episode delivering nearly 3 million viewers and a strong showing in the youth demo.
Most impressively, after a lengthy absence, the show returns to its uproarious improvisational ways effortlessly, with the core cast of Wayne Brady, Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie deftly slipping back into their familiar personas from the long-running comedy. Gone is Drew Carey, off to host “The Price is Right,” replaced with renaissance woman Aisha Tyler.
In keeping with the format, the cast is rounded out by a fourth rotating chair (Gary Anthony Williams of “Boston Legal” is the first episode back) and occasional guest stars. The chemistry between Brady, Mochrie, and Stiles lends itself to hilarity even in the most subtle of moments, and their interplay is enough to make up for lackluster performances by performers less skilled in the ways of improv (such as Lauren Cohan of “The Walking Dead,” guest-star on the first new episode).
Like Carey before her, Tyler doesn’t seem to have a lot to do in the early goings of the series return, but solid editing allows her buoyant personality to shine through and sell many of the skits just by her reaction.
That “Whose Line is it Anyway” has returned to such commercial and critical acclaim is a coup of sorts for the CW, a network in perpetual decline since its formation seven seasons ago. “Whose Line” is far more inexpensive to produce than the net’s typical fare, and delivered ratings that would equal or vastly outrank its flagship programs. That the show’s 9th season premiere aired against the All-Star game is a good sign for the potential longevity of its revival.
“Whose Line is it Anyway” was brought to the US by Drew Carey, an American version of the long-running radio and television program in the UK. The American edition lasted eight seasons, before ending in 2007.