It's stick time! As a full-fledged fan of Fox's granddaddy of reality shows, Cops (18 years and counting!), it's amazing how frighteningly close Comedy Central's brilliant parody Reno 911! comes to approximating it (the camera work is a dead-on imitation). Of course, the improvised material of Reno 911! is decidedly over the top, but if you're a regular viewer of Cops, you know the exploits of Lt. Dangle and his squad aren't too far off the mark from what really goes down out there on the streets. Comedy Central has cobbled together seven particularly hilarious episodes here for Reno 911!: Reno's Most Wanted - Uncensored, a good compilation disc for the uninitiated, with a few extra bonuses thrown in for good measure.
Following the comedic adventures of the fictional Reno, Nevada Sheriff's Department, Reno 911! highlights the sexually ambiguous Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon) and his racist, homophobic, mentally challenged, sociopathic, malingering, self-absorbed, and totally ineffectual co-workers. Helping Dangle in his misguided efforts to clean up the streets of Reno (and in the end causing far more problems than before they hit the streets) are Deputy S. "Jonesy" Jones (Cedric Yarbrough), a self-professed ladies man who may or may not be one of the "baby daddies" of Deputy Raineesha Williams (Niecy Nash) (she has three kids from three different men), who has a penchant for macing her male perps, and who once joined the Nation of Islam just to get the month of Ramadan off from work. Jones' partner, Deputy James Garcia (Carlos Alazraqui), is a racist who inadvertently sets off Jones with his insensitive remarks, while Deputy Travis Junior (Robert Ben Garant) is another racist who loves southern rock, NASCAR, and who's never seen without his sunglasses on. Deputy "Clemmie" Johnson (Wendi McLendon-Covey) is the blonde, buxom officer who can't keep her uniform blouse buttoned, while Deputy Trudi Wiegel (Kerri Kenney-Silver), is a totally incompetent officer with eight cats and severe mental disorders. Of course, the most boring officer in the group is the one who's the most competent: former law breaker turned karma-cleaner, Deputy Cheresa Kimball (Mary Birdsong).
Created and written by Lennon, Kenney-Silver, and Garant, who made names for themselves as co-creators and performers on two well-received MTV series, The State and Viva Variety, Reno 911! works off a scripted outline, with the actors improvising most of their dialogue. It gives the show an immediate, off-the-cuff feel which yields often hilarious results. What I particularly like about Reno 911! is the fact that no one is spared belittlement and contempt; its targets are Right, Left, and Center, with all groups, races and the myriad special interest groups out there, fodder for ridicule. It's truly politically incorrect, in the best sense of that often ill-used phrase: everyone is their sights.
The Reno 911!: Reno's Most Wanted - Uncensored compilation disc gathers together seven favorite episodes from the series' four seasons. While fans may quibble over what those "best" episodes may be, the seven included here are all gems. Particular favorites of mine are here, including a hilarious turn by The Office's Oscar Nunez as Spanish Mike Alvarez, a.k.a. Captain Duane Hernandez of Homeland Security, Brian Ungar as "Reading Ron" (what happens to that poor cat on the roof, is one of the all-time gross-out, hysterical moments on the show), as well as Toby Huss as Big Mike ("I'm not going to kill her. I'm just going to f#@* her up."). Timed to coincide with the release of the big-screen adaptation of Reno 911!, Reno 911!: Reno's Most Wanted - Uncensored is a good introduction for those new to the series.
Here are the seven, one-half hour episodes of Reno 911!: Reno's Most Wanted - Uncensored:
When the Sheriff's Department is given only two tickets to an upcoming execution, the officers compete in a scavenger hunt to win a spot at the event.
Homeland Security (Part 1)
The Office of Homeland Security comes to Reno to teach the Sheriff's Department protocol in case of a terrorist attack.
Homeland Security (Part 2)
Deputy Junior helps the department cheat to pass their Homeland Security training.
Reverend Gigg LeCarp
A fomer petty-criminal-turned-televangelist broadcasts his "Half Hour of Power" from the Reno jail.
A British inspector on an exchange program visits Reno to learn their methods and share a few of his own with Garcia.
While Wiegel, Johnson, and Garcia are quarantined because they may have SARS, the others hang out with Reading Ron, the host of a popular Reno children's show.
Rick from Citizen's Patrol
As a crime wave sweeps through Reno, the deputies get unwanted help from their least favorite Citizen's Patrolman, Rick.
The full screen video image of Reno 911!: Reno's Most Wanted - Uncensored is startlingly clear and sharp, with crystalline video resolution.
The Dolby Digital English 2.0 stereo soundtrack is strong and well suited to the presentation. Close-captioning is available.
There are two bonus features on the disc. First, a live musical performance by several cast members singing, "Don't Steal Cable," which doesn't really work, and a 14 minute Top Ten Calls, which are short snippets of some of the most memorable moments from the series (with a particularly funny bit featuring regular perp Tee Tee).
Reno 911!: Reno's Most Wanted - Uncensored is a pretty good representation of the hilarious Comedy Central series, and would make a nice gift for someone who's never seen the show. But fans probably already have the complete seasons on disc, so there's nothing here to really entice them for the additional purchase. This particular disc, Reno 911!: Reno's Most Wanted - Uncensored gets my recommendation (the series itself gets my high recommendation) as a good starter if you're curious, but fans of the show needn't buy it.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.