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Fox's Riot hopes to break out with improv


Executive producer/guest star Steve Carell on the premiere of Riot. Fox photo

Premiering: Tuesday, May 13th at 8 p.m. (central) on Fox
Hosted by: Rove McManus presiding over a group of regular players and celebrity guests
Produced by: Steve Carell, Thom Hinkle, Eden Gaha, Paul Franklin, Jim Biederman

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There’s no particular reason to quell this Riot, even though its young Australian host just isn’t cutting it on Tuesday’s opener.

Arriving on Fox as a spring/summer breeze from Steve Carell’s Carousel Television, it’s basically a wholly transparent version of Whose Line is It Anyway? -- but with more props and physicality.

Carell gamely guest stars on the one-hour premiere along with former castmate Andy Buckley of The Office. In addition to a rotating group of seven young “regular players,” Riot’s weekly celebrity drop-ins also will include Jason Alexander, Cheryl Hines, D.L. Hughley, Nicole Sullivan, Orlando Jones, Tom Green, Mayim Bialik, Chris Kattan, David Arquette, Oscar Nunez and the inevitable Andy Dick, according to Fox publicity materials.

The show’s off-camera announcer promises an “unpredictable, unrehearsed and utterly ridiculous night of fun” before host Rove McManus is first seen within the confines of Riot’s weekly staple, a set tilted at a 22-degree angle.

“This is the show where we don’t care who wins and anything can happen,” McManus says. “To be honest, we kind of hope it does.”

Almost immediately, one kind of hopes -- actually, prays -- that he’ll go away. But that’s not likely to happen, so viewers who find the show amusing also will have to endure McManus’ obviously scripted patter and frequent guffawing. Maybe he’ll at some point get easier to take, although can’t a law be passed mandating that Tom Bergeron be put on permanent emergency call?

The 22-degree angled set is put to immediate use in a fast food drive-in segment featuring Carell as the manager. Slipping and sliding is encouraged as Carell and company try to fill various orders while spilling stuff. It all goes on for too long but does have its moments. These moments are not, however, when McManus is caught laughing and laughing -- and laughing.

Next is a bit in which Carell, Buckley and a regular player must correctly play according to the verbal rules or be hoisted Peter Pan-style to a height of several building stories. The best game is one in which all involved are “journalists waiting for a celebrity” and must speak in sentences incorporating a Michael Jackson song title.

A “Mime Sweeper” segment lets others -- not Carell or Buckley -- take potential hits from a harmless wrecking ball that knocks them off a perch and onto a padded floor if their miming doesn’t quickly do the trick. There’s also an “In The Dark” bit involving a dinner party and a few other challenges before the 22-degree angle set again is deployed for a closing “Boot Camp” gambit.

Viewers who enjoyed NBC’s Hollywood Game Night -- and not enough did to make it successful -- might warm to the various mental and physical gyrations of Riot. It’s oddly titled, though, suggesting a violent prison drama more than a show in which movie titles are guessed based on “Shadow Puppet” clues. And the host certainly is no Jane Lynch, who brought a welcome barbed wire, seemingly ad lib sensibility to Game Night. She still works for Fox on Glee. So perhaps next time -- should there be one.


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