Whose Line Is It, Anyway? (Comedy Central, 3:30-4 p.m.): The commercial networks draw a big blank when it comes to spontaneity. Even their talk shows crank out assembly-line material that requires skill and talent but virtually no minute-by-minute wit or creativity. In an effort to fill the vacuum, Comedy Central launched this series last year, and it's beginning a new, nine-episode season with this show. Taped in London and featuring both British and American performers, the series airs Monday through F riday and is being launched during what the channel calls its "Fall Season in July," in an effort to get its goodies (like "Politically Incorrect," noted in this column last Friday) on screen before the networks start their new series in the fall.
The active ingredient in this improvisational format is studio-audience participation. When host Clive Anderson of London asks for subjects within a category - let's say movie formats - an audience member may call out "thriller," and a group of four players will begin ad-libbing. On the spot they create stories and characters. The pace is fast, irreverent, and, at best, witty.
("Whose Line Is It, Anyway?" repeats each weekday at 9:30 p.m. A show will also be offered on one Sunday only: Aug. 1, 8:30-9 p.m.)
Battle of the Bands '93 (ABC, 9-10 p.m.): They're calling the groups in this musical competition "professionals with local or regional followings" - exactly what Elvis Presley was, as a matter of fact, when his largely southern renown became an international one in the mid-1950s. Giving such artists national TV exposure is a good way to hear what music just below the big-time sounds like. These bands were chosen through auditions held in major cities, and none has a big recording contract yet. But the win ner of this contest - to be picked by a panel of music-industry figures - gets a major-label recording deal.
The event takes place at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, and the contestants are Noise Boys and 2 Skinee J's (New York), B.L.U. Dox Haus Mob and Flesh Blood (Los Angeles), and Wake (Dallas).
Please check local listings for both these programs.