In 10 Words or Less
To protect and serve...is not their goal
Loves: "Reno 911!," "The State"
Likes: "Cops", Improv
The Story So Far...
The latest TV series from the alumni of the cult comedy troupe "The State," "Reno 911!" parodies the well-known format of "Cops," by following the inept sheriffs of Reno, Nevada. Made up mostly of inspired improv performances, the show features the sexually-ambiguous Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon) who leads a less-than-successful law-enforcement effort. Each episode shows several "busts," in addition to the main story, so there are plenty of chances for laughs in comedy that's both absurd and rapid-fire, playing with the conventions of the "ride along" genre.
Paramount has made "Reno 911!" releases an annual event, releasing the first season on DVD in June of 2004, and following it with the second season in June of 2005. DVDTalk has reviews for both sets: Season One: Robert Spuhler | Aaron Beierle, Season Two.
The second season of "Reno 911!" ended with a cliffhanger, as the county D.A. threw the Reno boys and girls in prison for doing a awful job as sheriffs. They start the third season in the pokey, and surprisingly keep the storyline going for the first two episodes, as their situation works its way out. As one would expect, they eventually get to return to the force, at which point they can get back to ineffectually policing Reno.
A new addition to the squad this season brought the genders into balance, as Cheresa Kimball (Mary Birdsong) joined the force. Though she starts out as a no-nonsense cop, the pervasive mediocrity of the Reno Sherriff's department brings her down the level of the rest of the crew. There's not much unique about her character outside of her hardcore approach, but her presence allows for quite a few jokes about her sexuality.
There were a few more changes, but that's no surprise for fans of the show, as the show avoids getting stagnant by mixing it up. The busts keep their usual variety, with some old friends like Terry the gay rollerskating whore (played by Nick Swardson) and Chief Carl making appearances, but the running jokes, like the old license-plate reading gags, have been completely revamped. This time, a series of school seminars, amateurish Police Tek 2000 commercials, and ill-cued press conferences, help fill the gaps between the "action" scenes with hearty laughs.
This season, several of the cops have spotlight episodes, including Jonesy's flirtation with a career as a singer, Raineesha and Garcia's run-in with Liberace's piano and Dangle meeting a young man who might be his son. It's obvious that the plots are a bit out there, which is the only way it could be. Not that it matters really, since stories like "C.S.I." shooting in Reno or a trio of Reno's finest being quarantined for SARS are just skeletons for the cast to hang their jokes onto.
As is usually the case with the show, the guest stars are great, including Matt Besser ("Upright Citizens Brigade") as a too-honest drug dealer and Zach Galifianakis playing Frisbee, a crazy militia man living in a school bus with his small family of gun-runners. The best of the bunch though is Brian Unger ("The Daily Show") who plays Reading Ron, a public television host. Shooting an episode with the Reno cops, he's pushed to the edge by their very inappropriate comments and actions. Several laugh-out-loud moments are found in this episode, one of the most complete and hilarious in the third season.
I'm not sure why, but no character draws more laughs than Trudy (Kerri Kenney), whose naive yet mental personality gives her an innocence that makes almost everything she says that much funnier. Her bizarre relationship with effeminate serial killer Craig gives her an odd new angle, but she's at her best when she mindless throws out whatever she's thinking, and ends up either insulting everyone or freaking people out. Thanks to that, she's able to get away with some memorable lines. Her performance when recreating a crime with Dangle borders on brilliance.
The number of episodes has dropped this time around, down three to 13, so the set has shrunk to two DVDs, packed in a pair of slipcased, clear ThinPaks. Each case has episode descriptions on the inside, and a line-up photo on the outside. The first DVD starts with a video intro by Dangle and Junior, on the set of the upcoming "Reno 911!: Miami" movie. It's a cute way to start the disc, but thankfully, you can skip it via a menu option. The main menu, which carries over the line-up theme, is full-frame and static, with episode selections, and options to play all, check out the bonus features and view some previews. There are no language options or subtitles, though the episodes have closed captioning.
This set is "uncensored," which means the language goes unbleeped, but the blurs are still in place, covering up faked nudity.
The full-frame video on these DVDs is beautiful, with a crisp image, bright, vivid colors and a good level of detail. It's much better than it looks on TV. Some minor pixilation is evident in spots, and the settings affect the quality of the video, as it does on "Cops," but overall, this is a quality visual presentation. There's not a spot of dirt or damage.
The audio, a Dolby Digital Stereo track, is very good TV sound, with clean dialogue and well-mixed background sound and music. There's nothing dynamic about it, but there's nothing wrong with it either. It's just solid audio.
Disc One: There's a 22-minute reel of extended outtakes, all from the crime recreation scene in Episode Seven. Lennon and Kenney riff off each other as they try to figure out how a man was killed, creating increasingly ridiculous scenarios. It shows just how hard it must be to edit together an episode of the series.
Three episode-length audio commentaries are included here, on episodes five, (director Michael Patrick Jann and Kenney, with special guests), six (Kenney and Birdsong), and seven (Carlos Alazraqui and Cedric Yarbrough). The tracks are very comfortable, and the participants just cut loose, having an enjoyable conversation about the series. The Kenny/Birdsong track is a bit quieter than the others, but they bring the twisted comedy as well.
Disc Two: The second disc has another pair of episode-length audio commentaries on this disc, with Robert Ben Garant and Lennon on episode 10, and Niecy Nash and director Brad Abrams on the finale. Like the other tracks, these commentaries are the kind you create when good friends get behind the mic, as they chat about making the show, or whatever else comes to mind.
There's a 30-minute reel of extended outtakes on this disc also, with three lengthy scenes. One features homeless nuisance Junior the Third, and the other two are taken from "CSI: Reno." They are similar in quality to the first set, though the CSI scenes, with the cops standing outside of trailers, can drag a bit. They are most effective in showing how good the cast is at improvising. Also included is a set of fourth-season commercials, which are done as toy ads for "Reno 911!" action figures. Leave it to the Reno crew to make even their promos hilarious. The disc wraps with three Comedy Central Quickies promos.
On the Hunt:
There is at least one easter egg on each disc, and impressive ones at that, continuing the tradition from the previous "Reno 911!" DVDs.
The Bottom Line
In watching these episodes, I don't think they are better than the show's second season, but they are absolutely great. Some changes helped keep the formula fresh, while the show's sense of humor remains remarkable dark and twisted. That there are less episodes is obviously a disappointment, but the presentation is very good and the extras, including some fun easter eggs, deliver the same fun times the previous discs featured, though in a bit smaller quantity. Fans of the show will want to own this set, and the curious can jump in without fear of missing anything.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.