In 10 Words or Less
More screw-ups from Reno's worst
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 , season three in July of 2006 and season four in June of 2007, 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, Season Four, Most Wanted.
Could this be the end for the Reno Sheriffs Department? Truthfully, it seems like every season of "Reno: 911!" ends with that question, probably because they never could be sure the show would be renewed. Yet, like a comedy phoenix, the series returns strong, adding a some new ingredients, but staying true to the core concept. Season five comes up with a few new bits and a few stand-out new characters, though when it stumbles, it falls harder than it has in the past.
The show is, as always, at its best when watching the crew fail miserable at their jobs, and there's plenty of that, though it feels like there's less of the regular "line of duty" footage, and more of the repeated set-ups, like the frequent bridge jumpers, an overly-dramatic fellow who keeps getting busted at a brothel or a suspect who gives himself away transparently through hypothetical questions. The arrests are far too repetitive for a series so unique, and the deficiencies are all the more obvious when held up against Jack ("Drawn Together") Plotnick's creepy sex offender or Debra ("MadTV") Wilson's aggressive dominatrix.
The in-car conversations and morning briefings, complemented by new polygraph sessions, return, along with great characters like Nick Swardson's great male prostitute Terry, the creepy prostitute Jackie (who's not in good shape) and the ever-bizarre Big Mike (played by Toby Huss.) The usually entertaining PSAs that run before or after commercial breaks aren't quite as much fun this time though, split between Spanish-language advisories and somewhat-amusing animal shelter notices. To be honest, I don't think I really get the joke of the Spanish PSAs. There are also a few one-offs, like Weigel (Kerri Kenney-Silver) trying to sell her baby and Junior's (Ben Garant) campaign ad for his campaign to be Commissioner of Dead Carcass Removal. These are more along the lines of what these segments started out as, and, as such, are very funny.
While old favorites return, changes are to be expected, and the addition of two new characters is a boost to this season, starting with the new mayor of Reno, portrayed by George Lopez. Played like the Hispanic Marion Barry, he's over-the-top and perfect for the town, and opens the opportunity to bring along his wife Bunny for a fun run-in with the sheriffs. The other new arrival is Wanru Tseng, who creates the memorable Cindy, an Asian woman saved from the life of a sex slave and turned into an intern. Sure, it's a bit of a one-note stereotype joke, as she keeps reverting to the actions of a rub-and-tug girl, but there's a sunny innocence to the woman that makes it hilarious to watch. Cindy and the mayor are joined by a few excellent new guest stars also, including Diedrich Bader, as a parody of Dog the Bounty Hunter; a police acting coach played by Ryan Stiles; sketch pros David Wain, Michael Ian Black, Jay Johnson and Andrew Daly, as well as Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, Aisha Tyler, Ron White and Christina Applegate.
What didn't really work this season are the episode-length stories, the cases or storylines that the shows are built around. Too many simply weren't interesting or all that funny, like the sheriffs training a group of Iraqi policemen, Junior (Ben Garant) joining a militia, or the group being interviewed about Raineesha (Niecy Nash) for a magazine. Some of these plots work great, like the sheriffs confronting nothing but tragedy while selling Coconut Nut Clusters door to door for charity, Weigel and Dangle (Thomas Lennon) busting up a cocaine smuggling ring and getting their noses dirty, or the ridiculous idea of ladies Kevlar vests that act as bustiers, giving the girls on the force new weapons against crime, but too often, the stories weren't about law enforcement, which is where the show shines, like in their undercover exploits. Hopefully this isn't the last season, as the show deserves to go out on top.
With sixteen episodes this season, the set has expanded to three DVDs, with seven episodes on the first two discs and two on the final DVD. The discs are packed in three slipcased clear ThinPaks, which have episode descriptions. The DVDs feature animated full-frame menus with options to watch all the episodes, select individual shows and check out special features where available. There are no audio options and no subtitles, though closed captioning is available.
The full-frame transfers look better than they do on TV, thanks to the clarity of DVD, with a presentation that boasts nice, vivid color and a clear, consistent image, that's free of any noticeable defects or digital artifacts. For basic cable video, these episodes look great.
The audio is delivered as Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that are just what anyone who's watched the show would expect, presenting clean, distortion-free dialogue and strong music, right down the middle with a balanced stereo mix.
As is the custom, there are cast audio commentaries included, one more than last time out, and are available via the episode selection menus. There are less participants overall, though there are more people in the room at the same time, which makes for more conversation, which is as funny as any of the previous tracks. Displaying great chemistry, Yarbrough and McLendon-Covey are particularly entertaining together, though the five-man jam on the other four episodes are fun listens also.
Ep. 3: Cedric Yarbrough and Wendy McLendon-Covey
Ep. 6: Kenny-Silver, Lennon, Yarbrough, Garant and Carlos Alazraqui
Ep. 7: Yarbrough and McLendon-Covey
Ep. 9: Kenny-Silver, Lennon, Yarbrough, Garant and Alazraqui
Ep. 10: Kenny-Silver, Lennon, Yarbrough, Garant and Alazraqui
Ep. 16: Kenny-Silver, Lennon, Yarbrough, Garant and Alazraqui
"Cop Psychology: Inside the Minds of Reno's Deputies" is a set of 10 short clips, over 23 minutes in all, with UCB's Andrew Daly doing psychological examinations on the characters. These are like extensions of the better parts of the show, and Daly is brilliant as the examiner, bringing his prim and proper persona to the role. It's much better than the profiles from last season, but a chapter menu would have been appreciated, so you could pick and choose.
Unlike season four, there's a nice 40 minutes of deleted footage, but oddly, it's all from just four scenes. Basically, these clips show what happens as the camera rolls, and the result is the actors just going for it in their improv. The extended cocaine bust scene is solid, but too long, even for an extended scene, but the deathbed performance by Jackie theprostitute is a must see.
The Bottom Line
Sure, it's a hacky reference, but what the hell: "Reno: 911!" is like pizza and sex. Even when they're bad, they're still good. That's not to say this season is bad, but it's just not up to the level of some of the previous seasons, despite some quality new additions to the series. That said, if this is the end, it will be a disappointment. The DVDs look and sound as good as ever, and after a dip on season four, the extras are back up to par. Should the show leave the air, fans will want to have these episodes to look back on, but new viewers should give this a rental after checking out the previous seasons.
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.