I had a look in on Let’s Make A Deal this morning.
Wayne Brady is the host. Drew Carey is the host of Wheel of Fortune. Both are “graduates” of Whose Line Is It Anyway? Improv has come to day time television
The use of improv comics is a great way to animate a game show genre, now decades old and in danger of becoming formulaic, in spite of all that ingenuity and enthusiasm coming in waves off an extremely “amped” audience.
An improv comedian can turn a split second into something funny and fresh. Hey, presto, new blood for old shows. On Whose Line It is Anyway? Brady was fearless. Clearly, it doesn’t bother him that he was called upon to work without a net. No script. No direction. No advance warning. He could handle anything the show threw at him.
But here’s the question. Even as we acknowledge what Brady gives to the show, we have to ask what the show is taking from him. What is it like for someone this good at novelty to be stuck in something that is rarely very novel at all? I wonder if he feels like those World War II aces who were called upon to pilot space capsules in the early days of NASA. Accustomed to maximum control, they were now, in their language, “spam in a can.”
This is a tension in the entertainment biz. How do we deliver the soothing samenesses that come from genre and formula without creating something that ends up being stupefyingly dull? As it is, Let’s Make a Deal skews way too far in the direction of formula. This doesn’t just test the patience of the TV audience. It must also test the endurance of the host. For someone who can turn .5 seconds into comedy riches, 60 minutes of predictability must feel like an eternity. Five times a week.
Image courtesy of Creative Commons and Wikipedia. Author attribution: DaniDF1995