LOS ANGELES - Drew Carey is going for the green, even appearing before a gathering of television critics with green hair.
The temporary dye job was to draw attention to "Drew Carey's Green Screen Show," which debuts 8:30 p.m. EDT Thursday on the WB.
The series stars Carey and many of his quick-witted chums from his "Whose Line is it Anyway?" series and his tour group, including Brad Sherwood, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops, Julie Larson and Sean Masterson.
The cast performs improvisational skits suggested by a live audience, minus all props but in front of a so-called green screen, which is typically used by Hollywood as a canvas for computer-generated imagery that is added later.
On Carey's new show, the green screen is electronically replaced with background, costumes and assorted props that fit the skit - all created by a variety of animation techniques, including hand-drawn, stop-motion and computer-generated.
The studio audience sees none of the effects, but the TV audience is treated to the result when the episode airs six to 12 weeks later.
In one skit, for instance, the actors' faces and voices remain intact, but their bodies become G.I. Joe-style dolls moving against a boot camp background.
In another bit, the background morphs from golf course to farm to baseball diamond to kids' playground to outhouse to jungle scene to picket line to...
Well, you get the idea.
Then there's the routine where Mochrie is overlaid with a blond wig and peppermint pink maternity pinafore as he gives birth to twins, drawn to look like Carey.
In a conversation heavily punctuated with his amiable laugh, Carey talked about why - after a combined 15 seasons on ABC's "The Drew Carey Show" and "Whose Line is it Anyway?" - he's playing with digital tricks on the WB.
For one, he says ABC treated him like a has-been, moving his shows all over the schedule and allowing them to peter out without any firm goodbyes.
But his "sad" experience with ABC hasn't dented his eagerness to make his new series popular on a different network. He says he dreamed up the concept because he's hooked by the talents of the improv players.
"I guess I just love working with them so much I am always trying to figure ways where I can keep working with them," Carey says. "I've done whole weeks of performance with them, for free, just hanging out with them on the tour bus. They are always so witty, always fun."
The "Green Screen Show" employs more than 50 computer animators under the direction of the Acme Filmworks animation house.
Carey, who also serves as the series' executive producer, stressed - as he always does - that he's "the worst" of the improv actors. He also said he "can't draw" so he finds the animators' work "downright inspiring."
On the show, Carey's hair is back to its normal sandy color - usually - and he's wearing his usual heavy-framed glasses, even though he doesn't need them all the time since having laser eye surgery.
"Once you are known for something," he said, "it would be like New Coke to change it."
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