Reno 911!: The Complete First Season (2003)
Review by ScottC

Written by Robert Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney & Thomas Lennon
Directed by Michael Patrick Jann
Starring Carlos Alazraqui, Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney, Thomas Lennon, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Niecy Nash, Cedric Yarbrough


Released by: Paramount
Rating: NR
Region: 1
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

My Advice: Rent it.

Cops popularized the "ride-alone" variety of reality television where viewers get a first hand experience of good honest police officers busting the criminally stupid in their city. Now I'm sure most cops are good, decent and hard working, but because of the nature of the format, that's all you see. But any organization, even law enforcement, has a certain level of mediocrity. And with this mediocrity, there's the potential for big laughs. So Comedy Central gives us Reno 911! featuring some of the oddest and most laughable cops this side of the Police Academy franchise.

Led by the ambiguously sexual Lt. Jim Dangle (Lennon), this cadre of sheriff’s deputies includes the highly sexual Deputy Jones (Yarbrough) and Deputy Clementine Johnson (McLendon-Covey), the good ole boy Deputy Junior (Garant) and home girl Deputy Williams (Nash), and the permanently pissed off Deputy Garcia (Alazraqui) and the off-her-rocker Deputy Weigel (Kenney). It’s fortunate for this group that the criminal element they deal with is even more incompetent and goofy than they are. No one is safe from this politically incorrect police force.

It's rare nowadays to see a comedy show not let good taste get in the way of good comedy. I'm not saying that these guys are vulgar so the sake of being vulgar. Still, sacred cows aren't just sacrificed, they are butchered, barbequed, and served with a side of slaw. You listen to Deputy Junior describe to a bunch of school kids how a prisoner was raped in every orifice and then some, and you're laughing with your jaw dropped in shock. That's not easy. Everyone from white trash to ghetto chicks are lampooned with equal measure. They even make fun of the FBI and The Office of Homeland Security and that could end you up in Guantanamo.

The main characters aren't spared either and a lot of the humor comes from their antics as well as the situations they get into. Deputy Weigel has her mother start a Beanie Baby collection after she's dead. That's just not normal. Another interesting aspect about the show is that because of the format of the reality show genre they're parodying, it can have a plot but still have sketches that have nothing to do with the plot. That gives a lot more flexibility when you're not forced to construct the entire show around a theme and include material that is just funny. So you have the deputies try to arrest some Jehovah's Witnesses on a burglary charge while they accidentally blow up a ice cream truck full of illegal fireworks while also letting a schoolchild selling candy kick the crap out of a mime for stealing his spot.

Four episodes are given commentary by the cast and the director of the series. While some information overlapped, you learn some interesting stuff. For once, location shots are done in Los Angeles, not Reno. Another is that pretty much all the scenes are improvised. All the cast is given is a situation and they just go off. Then they edit the material down into a half hour show. This raises my respect for the show up a couple of notches. I can tell you from personal experience, coherent humorous improv is not easy. Then to edit all that material into something approaching a narrative must be a task too. There are some scenes that were cut for time, alternate takes on situations, and the full improvisations on various scenes. The unedited scenes are really interesting to watch when two actors are playing off each other to see how outrageous they can be. Also trying and sometimes failing not to laugh at the ridiculousness they're producing. Still, the extras may not be enough to warrant a purchase when Reno 911! can still be seen on Comedy Central. It's definitely worth a rental. It would be a crime to miss out.

I can't believe I wrote that. I'm so ashamed.

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