“100 points to Colin for finally telling the truth about Brad.”
The experts that recap television shows for a living all agree: We are living in a golden age of television. But the HBO and AMC shows we love today were influenced and shaped by the classic shows of yesterday. We look at those shows. This week: Whose Line Is It Anyway, Season 1, Episode 2. The Initiation.
We fear the unknown. We remember the terror that sits just below our skin as we sit on the bus on our first day of school, wondering if the rumors of freshmen hazing are true. More often than not our fears overshadow what’s in store. Our hazing is never as bad as we imagine it to be. But sometimes it’s much, much worse. In its second episode, Whose Line Is It Anyway? shows us the darkest side of human nature. We welcome a fresh young face in Brad Sherwood, and then proceed to haze, belittle and undercut everything he does. Whose line is it, anyway? As long as Drew’s in charge, it is not Brad’s line.
Before we delve too deep into what Whose Line had in store for us I should come clean. This episode is not officially recognized as ‘The Initiation’. I’ve searched everywhere to try and find the title… perhaps a simple word or phrase to connect the loose threads that Whose Line weaves, but have emerged empty handed. Some websites refer to this episode as ‘104,’ which as far as I’m concerned does not do it justice. Also it makes no sense. Even if the show were to simply number their episodes in a barren chilling move, I see absolutely no reason why season one, episode two would be called ‘104’. If anything it should be called ‘2’. Thus, I’ve taken it upon myself to give this episode a title that is worthy of the subject matter WLIIA tackles: ‘The Initiation’. Other titles I was juggling included ‘The Haze of Sherwood Forest’, ‘Yes and, No Brad’, and ‘The One Where They Play Weird Newscasters.’
From a purely artistic standpoint this episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? is worthy of all of these titles and more. In a chillingly poetic choice the second episode begins in EXACTLY the same way the pilot did. “I’m your host Drew Carey… come on let’s have some fun,” our bespectacled anti-hero again hollers while staring into the camera and into our homes. Immediately we’re brought back into Drew’s stilted controlling world, where “everything is made up, and the points don’t matter.”
But this time something is different. Something is wrong. And then it dawns on me: Greg Proops is missing, and in his seat is Brad Sherwood. Immediately I’m on edge. What happened to Greg Proops? Did he anger Drew in some way? Was he fired? It seems like a huge leap to kill off a major character in the second episode, but in a world where the points don’t matter, is it that unlikely? They refuse to mention Greg’s whereabouts the entire half hour, yet like a dark, stormy cloud it hovers over the proceedings. And in his place, sits the young cub Brad Sherwood, waiting to be devoured.
The hazing seems mild at first. Drew declares Brad the man who puts the ‘Wood’ in ‘Sherwood’. A small piece of mockery. But then the boulder picks up speed. Much like the pilot we begin with ‘The Dating Game’ and Brad is in the doomed bachelorette seat. The same seat Greg Proops found himself one episode before his termination. Foreshadowing? I think so. The first bachelor played by Wayne Brady is silly and trivial. But then we get to bachelor number two, Colin Mochrie, who is forced to “think Brad is absolutely repulsive.”
Game, set and match, Mr. Carey. Colin has nowhere to go. If he rebels against Drew’s cruelty he loses the game, so we are forced to watch Colin dry heave at the very sound of Brad’s voice while the audience encourages it. This is the stuff of nightmares.
As if this wasn’t enough, Drew then gifts his ‘meaningless’ points to Colin. His reason? “100 points to Colin for finally telling the truth about Brad.” It’s as if it’s lifted straight from the freshmen hell that is Dazed and Confused.
The mockery continues. Brad makes up a song ON THE SPOT and Drew asks an audience member if she needs to borrow cotton for her ears. He seamlessly transforms into a news anchor, only to have Colin undercut him at every turn as a ‘kid showing off in class’. In that same game Brad steals the show by naming his weatherman ‘Al Nino,’ a very funny pun, and Drew Carey rewards his improvisational prowess by declaring it a non-scoring round. Sizzle on the ground, Brad. Sizzle for me.
And in the end is the ultimate insult. Drew Carey takes the stage with Ryan and proceeds to play a game called 90-second alphabet. The rules are simple: 90 seconds for the scene, and every line has to begin with the subsequent letter of the alphabet. A to B to C and so on. Then we get to the letter L:
RYAN: Let me get you a knife. (throws an imaginary, fake knife)
DREW: Lucky I was wearing my knife proof vest.
L does not succeed L. M succeeds L. It seems Drew does not have to play by his own rules. Do people call him out? No. Was it an honest mistake? I don’t think so because he cheats again. When the letter Z falls on him he utters the line: “Ziegfried and Roy.” These people do not exist, but this is ignored. Meanwhile Brad is forced to sit in the host’s chair, watching powerlessly as Drew mangles the world he so badly wants to be accepted into. It’s a terrifying message: absolute improv power corrupts absolutely.
So why the A-? This episode certainly improves on the pilot, but the same issue remains. Throughout the episode are a bunch of shortform improv games which, again, undercut the drama. This episode was so close to an A for me. It’s just hard to give it a perfect grade when we want an emotional reveal, and instead we get ‘Weird Newscasters’.
RIP Greg Proops.
LAST THOUGHTS OF A RANDOM NATURE
- We’re still no closer to discovering the real mystery of the series: Whose line is it, anyway? I think it’s safe to say it’s not Brad’s line… but the rest is conjecture.
- “Mime doesn’t really work good on a show with microphones” Drew Carey directly addressing the audience. His power and reach is growing.
- I have completely neglected to bring up Laura Hall, the piano player, in either of these first two recaps. At first I assumed she was not a large part of the plot… but with two back-to-back episodes I might have misjudged her. Stay tuned.
- Last week in the introductions Drew declared Ryan to be Colin’s son. It seems this has been dropped completely. A little too much like LOST for my taste.
- In this week’s intro, however, Ryan is been declared the cute Beatle. Is this a hidden cry for help? ‘Help, I need somebody’?
- In the same intro Wayne Brady is declared to be the illegitimate son of Mike and Carol. Interesting that his parents have the same name as the Brady Bunch parents. At first I thought he was their child, but then I remembered that he is black and they are not.
When Colin said he was Smoky the Bear in the rap song I thought that was really funny and goofy and I laughed and then they danced and it was also really silly.