In 10 Words or Less
Going on patrol with Reno's finest
Loves: "Reno: 911!," "The State"
Likes: "Cops", Improv
The Story So Far...
The most recent 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 and season three in July of 2006, as well as a best-of DVD, which hit shelves in February of this year. DVDTalk has reviews for all four releases: Season One: Robert Spuhler | Aaron Beierle, Season Two, Season Three, Most Wanted.
After adding a new deputy in Season Three, the show was kept mostly at
status quo, with the exception of a mysterious pregnancy that fell upon
oddball deputy Trudy Weigel (Kerri Kenney-Silver.) Reflecting
Kenney-Silver's real-life pregnancy, this gave the show lots of
opportunities to make hilarious use of her physical state, along with
plenty of jokes about the baby's possible father and/or species. The jokes could have run thin over the course of a season, but with Weigel's unique brand of madness, it never gets old seeing her naked and eight-months pregnant.
It's impossible to change what "Reno:911!" is, at its core, so various
police busts still make up the bulk of the show, with old "pals" like
Terry the roller-skating male prostitute (Nick Swardson) and Big Mike
(Toby Huss) returning to get into more trouble, along with the deputies'
nonsensical in-car chats. The show's great side bits, like the sheriff
department's school seminars, badly-acted commercials and unaware press
conferences, return as well, though unfortunately not joined by anything
new and good, as the repeated interrogation gags falling short.
Some of the storylines in this season are as good as anything the series has delivered
to date, with the episode in which the police department is sponsored by
a Hooters-like restaurant, being one of the best in the show's run. From the
consequences of being sponsored to the very nature of the sponsorship,
the episode is ridiculous and hilarious, though the ending is a bit over
It's matched in quality by Paul Reubens' guest-starring role as Rick,
who, as the Citizen's Patrol, outwits the sheriff's department again and
again. Reubens slides perfectly into the show's world, creating a
excellent foil for the cops and a memorable character in a fun story.
The guest stars that visit Reno this season are a big boost to the
series, including Reubens, Zach Galifianakis (outsider Frisbee), Matt Besser (playing a too-honest dealer,) Brian Posehn (as Stewie the Coroner,) Paul Rudd (as an inappropriate lamaze
instructor) and Patton Oswalt (in his recurring role as a role-playing geek.)
But despite the fun gags in those episodes, none of them offer visuals
quite as great as the season finale, which piles jokes on top of jokes
in telling the tale of Lt. Dangle's (Thomas Lennon) wedding. There isn't
a frame of the episode that isn't funny, with Weigel taking center
stage. Oddly, there's a lot of finality to the show, as storylines wrap
up, but considering there's a cliffhanger, there's hope for more.
The only overwhelming negative in this season is an odd obsession with
explosions, which seems to crop up about once a show. It was funny when
the gang blew up the ice-cream truck in the show's second episode, but
when these explosions keep coming without reason or cleverness, they
lose their impact and their humor. Sure, once in a while they'll draw a
smile, but for the most part, it's just a time-killer.
(Note for newcomers: these episodes are uncensored, but that only applies to the audio, so don't expect to be enjoying Weigel's bountiful body. Most of the blurs and pixilations were just part of the jokes anyway, as you can see when one blur goes missing in the sponsorship episode. It's hard to say which is better, the TV edits or the DVD version, but it's certainly entertaining to hear the cast swear like drunken sailors.)
The 14 episodes of season four are split over two DVDs, which are packed
in a pair of slipcased clear ThinPak cases (each with episode synopses.)
The discs feature static full-frame menus, with
options to watch all the episodes, select individual shows, and check
out extras. There are no audio options or subtitles, though the episodes do have closed captioning.
The full-frame transfers on these episodes look fantastic, much better
than they seemed to look on TV, with gorgeously vivid color, very crisp images and a decent level of detail, considering the look the show is attempting to ape. There's not a speck of dirt or damage to be found either.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks on these episodes are high-quality for a standard basic-cable presentation, delivering solid dialogue and strong music, along with some minor separation in the sound effects.
Once again, there are five audio commentaries included, though instead of including the directors this time, it's all cast (with all of the main cast present and accounted for.) The chats are fun and friendly, as the participants reminisce about the episodes or just joke around. As you might expect from such talented improvisational comics, the tracks are fast-paced and witty.
The breakdown of participants is:
Ep. 4: Lennon, Robert Ben Garant
Ep. 8: Lennon, Garant
Ep. 9: Wendi McLendon-Covey, Mary Birdsong
Ep. 11: Carlos Alazaraqui, Cedric Yarbrough
Ep. 14: Kenney-Silver, Niecy Nash
Eight "Profiles in Valor," split between the two discs, are, in fact, profiles of the main characters, mixing "interviews" with the characters and footage from the series. They are funny, but the majority of the material has been seen before, which is a bit disappointing. The only other extra related to the show is an extended scene that's a let-down, after getting hours of cut content in the previous collections.
Things wrap up with a trio of Comedy Central quickies and some DVD previews. Fans of the previous DVDs may be disappointed by a lack of easter eggs, unless they are just extremely well hidden.
The Bottom Line
After four seasons, this "Cops" parody has lasted longer than anyone
would have predicted, and yet its highs are still as funny as ever,
thanks to a great cast and some creative expansion of the concept,
including several great guest stars. The DVDs look and sound better than
the show has ever been presented on TV, but the extras seem a bit light
in comparison to earlier seasons. Maybe with the Miami movie DVD
released at the same time, the group was stretched too thin, and after
three solid box sets, expectations were a bit high. Either way, it's easy
to feel disappointed, even if you're laughing hard throughout the
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 follow him on Twitter
*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.