TV Review: ‘Riot’

Riot TV Review Fox Steve Carell

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (and television), those responsible for “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” should be positively red-faced watching “Riot,” Fox’s amped-up, exhausting new improv show. Host Rove McManus bills the premiere as an “utterly ridiculous night of fun,” which is half right, as exec producer Steve Carell and a game group of performers undergo a series of stunt-enhanced physical gags — as if to reinforce how stretched they are for ideas, using one of them twice to begin and end the hour. Despite a few muffled chuckles, there’s nothing here that remotely approaches the title.

Indeed, a more general challenge with improv in almost any setting is how much toil goes into conjuring comedy, and how the fall-back position when a sketch isn’t completely working is just to keep getting louder and more frenetic. Based on decibel level, “Riot” — unnecessarily derived from a French format — makes a pretty strong case for the helping hands of writers.

As with “Whose Line,” there’s no game to speak of (“We don’t care who wins,” the Australian McManus says, echoing, “The points don’t matter”), and despite different celebrity guests — in the opener, Carell and “The Office” co-star Andy Buckley — most of the heavy lifting falls on a team of marginally ready-for-primetime players.

The twice-used set involves a room sloped at a 22% angle, resulting in a lot of stumbles and falls. Another bit is essentially a game of charades, only with a giant swinging ball that bowls over the clue-giver if the riddle isn’t solved fast enough. And so on.

Brevity is usually an asset in these situations, so Fox has done “Riot” no favors by scheduling the program as an hour, to the point where it’s clearly running on fumes, and the “Wipeout”-like obstacles thrown at the comics yield rapidly diminishing returns.

Landing Carell, obviously, and other assorted guests looks like something of a coup, but there’s only so much star power can do to prop up a construct this slight.

Ultimately, improv is always going to be a hit-miss proposition. But despite being inordinately literal about its hits, “Riot” proves too liberal with its misses.

TV Review: 'Riot'

(Series; Fox, Tues. May 13, 9 p.m.)


Produced by Satisfaction, Carousel Television and Shine America.


Executive producers, Steve Carell, Jim Biederman, Paul Franklin, Eden Gaha, Thom Hinkle; co-executive producers, Adam Zuvich, Rich Brown; director, Ron de Moraes; writers, Biederman, Evan Mann, John Plummer, Gareth Reynolds. 60 MIN.


With: Rove McManus, John Ross Bowie, Jamie Denbo, Brian Palermo, Jordan Black, Jessica McKenna, Meryl Hathaway, Rob Gleeson

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  1. I don’t think this show is gonna last very long, most of the reviews I have read there seems to be a general consensus that this program is a real disappointment. I myself have not been impressed, I found it boring and just plain stupid. I like Steve Carell and my expectations were set high for the show…I wanted to like it….but….I just don’t.

  2. GuruAid says:

    I thought it was funny! Did a good job at giving “who’s line is it anyway” a twist, and if idiots are saying it does not match what “who’s line”, it doesn’t have to, “who’s” is long gone and if it was such a success, it would still be around today. People need to stop living in the past.

  3. Judi says:

    Somewhat boring? I watched for maybe five minutes and thought…this is one of the most ridiculous programs I have ever seen! Never again…

    • D. Michael Ward says:

      First off, GuruAid, the show’s title is “WHOSE Line Is It Anyway?”, not “WHO’S Line.” Secondly, it wasn’t “long gone” by the time you posted your response to this article. It had already made its TV return on the CW after a six-year hiatus following an eight-season run on ABC, which came immediately on the heels of a successful TEN-season run on Channel 4 in the UK. There have also been live Whose Line shows in the UK and the USA in recent years as well as a live charity special in the UK back in 2011, and the brand’s second and current US TV run has lasted four seasons with a fifth one in the works as we speak. That in mind, Whose Line HAS been around for some time and has shown little to no signs of slowing down any time soon. In fact, I’ve no doubt that it was because of Whose Line’s resurgence on the market that Fox commissioned for Riot to air back in 2014, which should show you just how popular the Whose Line brand really is. If it doesn’t, then I’m sorry, but you need to pay closer attention to the world of televised entertainment.

      Furthermore, I’ve watched quite a number of televised improv shows over the years with varying degrees of similarity to and variation from Whose Line, and quite frankly, I don’t care how different Riot tried to be from Whose Line. Its whole “Japanese game show” aspect struck me as being FAR more evident than its improv elements did to the point where it didn’t even feel like much of an improv show at all, “Whose Line”-esque or otherwise. Too much hokey slapstick, not enough clever verbal comedy, and too many ultimately forgettable performances by its participants honestly made me not care about it in the long run, save for when I felt my intelligence outright INSULTED by what I saw. As such, I don’t blame Riot’s detractors, “idiots” or not, for disliking it for whatever reason, as the program was little more than a complete waste of time for viewers, scheduling for Fox, and money for its producers.

      Oh…and if the show Riot is ANY indication of the show off which it’s allegedly based on, France’s own “Vendredi tout est permis,” then quite frankly, I don’t feel compelled at all to watch said original program. I’d much rather spend my time watching ANY OTHER non-Whose Line improv show ever made: Thank God You’re Here, The Green Screen Show, Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza…heck, even 2003’s On the Spot was better than Riot could have ever hoped to be. Take that for what you will.

  4. J Kennedy says:

    This show is somewhat boring. It has few good moments but I end up fast forwarding parts. Don’t think I will be watching again. I really wanted it to be GOOD :(

  5. CK says:

    Watching into the show at 26 minutes and giving up. Cannot beat Who’s Line, not even in the same category.

  6. Drew says:

    Holy cow this was a train wreck, I actually felt sympathy for Carell. I wanted to like it, I really did, but wow, just wow…..

  7. Lorraine Davidson says:

    I never knew they could build an hour-long show on theatre games!

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