Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza, Carey’s latest entry into television, has been on for over a week now so I thought I’d give it a quick review.
If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it is an improvisational comedy television program that airs on the Game Show Network. It is produced at the Hollywood Theatre at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. The show features the performers acting in improvisational comedy sketches in front of a live audience using audience suggestions and audience participation. If it sounds familiar, you might remember Carey’s last improv show, Whose Line Is It Anyway? In fact, many of the same cast members are part of Improv-A-Ganza’s cast, or have come back as guest-stars (Yes, the great Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles have returned).
So, now that you know what it is, how is it? Well, die-hard fans of Whose Line probably won’t enjoy Improv-A-Ganza as much as they enjoyed Whose Line. They play many of the same games that they played on Whose Line, but some of the funniest games from the previous show did not make it to the new one. Games like Greatest Hits, where two members of the cast pretend they are selling a greatest hits CD to a TV audience and two other cast members sing snippets of the songs on the CD, is one of the ones that made it over. It’s pretty much exactly the same as it was on Whose Line. Moving people, where audience members physically move cast members, is another. Those both can bring a fair amount of laughs. Games like Scenes from a Hat, where audience suggestions that have been collected before the show, are acted out, and Questions Only, where cast members can only speak in questions, have, strangely, not made the transition. I think I know why.
As I said, the show is filmed in the MGM Grand in front of a live audience. Live audience participation and/or suggestions are big part of the new show. Some games from Whose Line, like Scenes from a Hat and Questions Only, do not lend themselves to live audience participation all that well so they have been replaced by games that a live audience might find more amusing. You can tell that this show is more about providing an enjoyable time for the audience in Vegas, whereas Whose Line was about creating a TV show for ABC first and foremost. Improv-A-Ganza definitely has the feel of a live Vegas show when you watch it. I also think that because it is a Vegas show, is also why we see an increased number of cast members (7 or more as opposed to Whose Line’s 4-5). Sometimes this gets to be a bit confusing as too much is going on at once.
Some other humorous games include Forward/Reverse where players act out a scene moving and speaking in directions announced by another who acts as a caller. The caller acts like a remote control with forward, reverse and pause functions, and Freeze Tag where two people start in a scene. At any time, anyone else can yell “freeze!”, tap one of the performers (who will then leave) and then change the scene. These games work well for the show and the audience. The numerous musical games they feature are also fun, but I imagine they translate better in person.
I don’t want to sound too negative, the show has some really funny moments. The improv actors are clearly really talented, the audience looks like they are having a great time, and it does fill a void that Whose Line left when it went off the air. Is it as good as Whose Line? No, but it doesn’t have to be. This is a whole new show for a whole new audience and is definitely worth a watch.
Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza airs weeknights at 8/7c and 11/10c on Game Show Network.