In 10 Words or Less
(Most of the sheriffs are) back for more in-justice
Loves: "Reno: 911!," "The State"
Likes: "Cops", Improv
Hates: Not having Clemmy around
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 up each year since, along with a best-of DVD, which hit shelves in February of 2007. DVDTalk has reviews for all six releases to date.
I miss Clemmy. Sure she was a walking visual sex gag, but she was my (our) walking visual sex gag. Here, in season six though, Wendi McLendon-Covey's no longer one of Reno's finest, and the show suffers from her absence (along with the loss of Garcia and Kimball, to a lesser degree) as they all perished at the end of Season Five.) In their place slip a pair of hard-edged transplants to Nevada, played by a pair of sketch-comedy veterans. Jack Declan, a brawny man with a short fuse, is played by an almost unrecognizable Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder Ian Roberts, but his gruff nature is hard to warm to, even if he does improve over time (mostly by showing a softer, more psychotic side to his personality.) He's not the only alumni from the UCB to appear this season, as only Amy Poehler is missing from Reno, with Matt Besser and Matt Walsh (and even Andrew Daly) stopping by.
The other new arrival is one who may sound familiar to longtime DVDTalk readers, as Joe La Truglio, yet another member of The State, portrays New York expat Francis "Frank" Rizzo. I like to think that the writers enjoyed my reviews of previous seasons of Reno 911! and named him in my honor, but it's not the rarest name in the world (having also been the name of my father, a famous mayor ofPhiladelphia and a character from The Jerky Boys.) Either way, just having another State alumni on board is reason enough to enjoy Rizzo's presence, as LoTruglio is simply fun to watch, but Rizzo isn't a bad character either, reintroducing an outsider's presence while also being mildly psychotic and probably a dirty cop.
The rest of the show is somewhat the same as it's ever been, which is just fine, because when it's on, it's fantastic, which is frequently the case in this collection. When the Pope's advance team visits Reno to see if he should make a stop there, thesheriffs ' attempts to dissuade them is hilarious, and a flashback storyline kicked-off by the need to transfer old evidence tapes to DVD is a great look at the origins of the characters. The stories have always been important to the show, as they help get an episode from Point A to Point B, but it's the ride-along bits that make the series, and though some old favorites remain in place, including the now traditional PSAs (now with green-screen,) old friend roller-skating hustler Terry (Nick Swardson,) former sex-slave-current-employee Cindy (Wanru Tseng) and the wacked-out mayor of Reno (George Lopez,) there are several great new bits (and an unusually frequent tinge of (hilarious) race-based comedy.)
A Spanish-language radio station that lets the sheriffs sit in for announcements is pretty funny (and has some incredible eye-candy in the form of busty Jessie Camacho), but the highlight has to be Carmen (the hilarious Sarah Tiana,) a nutbar woman who gets several visits from the authorities and who somehow gets funnier with every appearance, with one joke being so literate it's probably missed by 95% of the viewers. Perhaps its a coincidence that several of the great episodes feature some incredible guest stars, but they're still beyond enjoyable, like Rainn Wilson (The Office) as a serial killer leading the sheriffs on a wild goose chase, or Patton Oswalt turning himself in for extradition to Thailand (taking Junior (Ben Garant) and Jones (Cedric Yarbrough) along with him.) The show has always had great guests, but this season seems to be packed with them, including A.D. Miles, Jonah Hill, Jane Lynch, Carmen Electra, Craig Robinson and Mindy Sterling and cameos by Jay Johnston (Mr. Show) and Keith Powell (Toofer from 30 Rock.)
The only place the season really feels to be a bit of a let-down (aside from the lack of Clemmy) is in the two-parter when Dangle hosts a murder mystery dinner, a traditional problem for the show, as the longer episodes tend to get too bogged down in story over the rapid-fire jokes that work best. Though it does allow for yet another sketch legend to appear (this time Kids in the Hall star Scott Thompson), there's not enough laughs for one episode, no less two. Oddly, one of the other bits that falls flat not once, not twice, but three times, is a gag that guest stars an entire other troupe, Human Giant. The premise is solid, as they are con-artists trying to scam the sheriffs, but the bit goes on too long all three times, and ends up failing, which is surprising considering how funny the Human Giant guys are.
Down one episode from last season, to 15 this time, the set dropped an entire disc, with seven episodes on the first disc and eight on the second DVD. The discs are packed in two slipcased clear ThinPaks, which have episode descriptions. The DVDs feature animated anamorphic-widescreen 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.
After watching the show in full-frame for so many years, these anamorphic-widescreen transfers look amazing, with an image that has bright, vivid color and a clean picture that's suffers from no noticeable defects or digital artifacts. One assumes the show was shot for high-definition this time around, because they simply look that much better.
The audio hasn't improved the way the image has, but the Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are just as expected, with clear, distortion-free dialogue and strong music, offered up in a center-balanced stereo mix. The audio is uncensored on these discs, and the profanity is flying fast and furious, giving the episodes a much different feel than they had on TV.
As is usually the case with Reno 911! DVDs, there's a decent selection of extras, kicked off by eight audio commentaries, two more than last time. This may be making up for the fact that there's a lack of deleted scenes, but either way, it's much appreciated, as the groupings are solid, even if the episode selections are somewhatquestionable. Pairing Cedric Yarbrough and Niecy Nash is a guaranteed good time, while putting Nash with Lennon behind the mics offers the chance to hear what sexual harassment sounds like. Smartly, Roberts and LaTruglio are together to chat, so they can talk about their experience as newcomers. The tracks are quite good, and actually includes the first commentary to make me laugh out loud, as Kenney-Silver tells a story that is unbelievable.
Aside from that, there's an extended version of one of the aforementioned Human Giant bits (which is less funny for its 13-minute length), two "Profiles in Valor" (two-minute web videos that, well, profile the new characters, using mostly clips from the series), as well as the full commercials from the Robinson episode. These are a must-watch for a couple of reasons, including Robinson'sperformances, the Asian girl's very sexy dancing, and Weigel and Williams' booty dances. Not getting the wealth of deleted footage on the DVD that earlier seasons offered has to be considered a disappointment.
On the other hand, some people might really enjoy the ability to download all 15 episodes, plus exclusive bonus footage, on your computer with a code that's included in the package. That is, if you have a PlaysForSure PMP, which doesn't include the iPod, iPhone or Zune. But you can still watch them on your computer, after the slow, lengthy download. The six additional pieces have five longer uncut scenes, including more of Lopez' mayor fighting with a hooker and two scenes with Walsh's lonely park ranger. I could tell you more, but after sitting and waiting for them to download (along with the app you need to install to download,) they wouldn't play. And by the way, these must be downloaded by July 7, 2010, or the code expires. (Thanks!)
The Bottom Line
After something of a down season, this year the show came back strong, despite losing three main cast members, and having to work in two new ones. Perhaps it's because of the strong roster of guest stars or a refreshed series, but this season is a lot of fun, and the DVDs, now in anamorphic widescreen, look terrific and sound as good as ever, though the extras may let some people down in some ways and impress in others. Whether a long-time fan or new to the force, this is one everybody can enjoy.
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.