Paramount // 2004 // 340 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 6th, 2005
They have what it takes to be cops: badges.
After resuscitating a long-shelved network series called Reno 911!, Comedy Central has turned it into another original hit show. An improv-heavy spoof on Fox's forever-running reality show Cops, Reno 911! is a gag-a-minute series of bits in rapid-fire succession. Season One delivered the goods; is the sophomore effort locked and loaded, or are the players out of ammo this go-round?
Reno 911! is filmed with a handheld camera, much in the same style as the show it spoofs. The show follows the exploits of seven members of the Reno sheriff's department:
Lieutenant Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon): The tight-shorts-wearing leader of the troops, prone to losing his bike and flaunting his alternative lifestyle.
Deputy Jones (Cedric Yarbrough): The towering "playa," constantly fending off advances from his coworkers (Dangle included).
Deputy James Garcia (Carlos Alazraqui): The profoundly racist veteran, eager to do violence and piss off his partner, Jones.
Deputy Raineesha Williams (Niecy Nash): The sassiest of the bunch.
Deputy Clementine Johnson (Wendy McLendon-Covey): The whore of the bunch.
Deputy Travis Junior (Robert Ben Garant): The trigger-happy redneck and point man for the K9 unit.
Deputy Trudy Weigel (Kerrey Kenney-Silver): The bipolar misfit with a penchant for dating serial killers.
While episodes are comprised mainly of individual comedy bits, there are show-long arcs, usually ending in a twist that makes the sheriff's department look even more inept than they are. But the thrust of this series is to unleash a fusillade of jokes, some of which are rattled off so fast that multiple viewings are required to pick them out. Think This Is Spinal Tap! with guns and badges.
Sixteen episodes. Three discs. Let's ride.
* Episode One
Dangle finds out he's headed for a promotion to Carson City and presses his deputies into a farewell dinner, despite no one's inclination to join him. There's a big game on the same night, and Dangle's party is second on the priority list.
A very funny episode, with ah hilarious twist at the end. Trudy's formal dining outfit is must-see television. Rating: 3 out of 4 spent shell casings.
* Episode Two
Weigel's new boyfriend may or not be an infamous serial killer. Dangle and Johnson go investigate, only to discover their instincts might, for once, be on the money. A memorable performance by Kyle Dunnigan as the boyfriend is the highlight.
Rating: 3 out of 4 missing patrol bikes.
* Episode Three
The gang welcomes a British inspector through an international exchange program for law enforcement. Turns out he may not be as charming and naïve as everyone thought at first.
Rating: 3 out of 4 badges.
* Episode Four
Dangle is surprised by a visit from his ex-wife and her soon-to-be husband. Ironically, Dangle and the new guy might have more in common than his wife is comfortable admitting.
Rating: 2 out of 4 too-tiny bike shorts.
* Episode Five
When a televangelist decides to broadcast a special from within the Reno jail, the sheriff's department is only too eager to comply. A funny twist at the end elevates this otherwise mediocre episode.
Rating: 2 out of 4 opaque sunglasses.
* Episode Six
It's firefighters versus police officers, as the sheriff's department tries to outdo their arch-nemeses, who are putting on a pancake social the same time as the policemen's ball. The competition escalates into life-threatening territory. One of the funniest shows of the season.
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 unused tactical vests.
* Episode Seven
Jones receives a troubling prediction from a psychic pertaining to one of his testicles. Meanwhile, several of the male deputies circulate a petition to strike down a recent ruling outlawing mustaches on the job. Despite the presence of a naughty bomb-defusing robot, the mustache plot is a one-bit piece, and the testicle gags are obvious and sophomoric. Not my favorite.
Rating: 2 out of 4 hair trimmers.
* Episode Eight
Kenny Rogers is in town, and Weigel and Garcia volunteer for the task of providing security. Believe it or not, they screw it up. A weak episode overall, but it does feature the Gambler using the F-word.
Rating: 1.5 out of 4 white suits.
* Episode Nine
A crack FBI profiler rushes to Reno to aid the sheriff's department in tracking down the lieutenant governor's kidnapped son. Unfortunately, he's even more clueless than the cops. Ian Roberts of Upright Citizens Brigade plays an inspired doofus.
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 lethargic police dogs.
* Episode Ten
Williams finds Islam, for potentially dubious reasons. Jones finds himself drawn to the newly religious Williams, and his horniness gives way to his own embrace of the Nation of Islam. This episode features a great bit where a joke by Garcia and Jones on a student driver backfires.
Rating: 3 out of 4 public beatings.
* Episode Eleven
Garcia's day is made when Clementine decides to give him a chance. At first Garcia is head over heels, but he eventually comes to realize the relationship may not have been all he had envisioned.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 venereal diseases.
* Episode Twelve
Garcia and Jones go undercover as hippies for assignment. They are surprised to discover the lifestyle is actually pretty alluring. So-so, this one.
Rating: 2 out of 4 wrongful shootings.
* Episode Thirteen
President Bush is in town, and the sheriff's department is tasked with providing security, a challenge that the department, of course, fails miserably.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 counts of police brutality.
* Episode Fourteen
Junior inadvertently marries an Asian sex slave and discovers marriage may not be what he's cut out for. Jones and Garcia embark on an epic pursuit of their nemesis, the Milkshake Man -- with tragic consequences. The best show of the season, hands down. Junior getting the spotlight is much needed and pays off with lots of laughs, and the milkshake chase is great, setting up the season finale.
Rating: 4 out of 4 concealed straws.
* Episodes Fifteen and Sixteen
I'll tie these two together because, in essence, they make up one super-sized final episode. Following the tragedy of the milkshake debacle, the entire sheriff's department is questioned by the D.A. and faces suspension and possible prosecution.
I found these last two shows a bit off. They spring us from the warped
reality where these seven clowns serve as cops and fling them into the real
world, where, of course, their actions won't stand up to scrutiny. I know what
the writers were trying to do here, juxtapose the inanity of the ensemble with
the reality, but I just didn't think it worked. Still, it was funny, and the
preview for the third season was great.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 badges.
All in all, I'd say this season, while funny, wasn't as sharp as its predecessor. I do think it remains one of the more original and consistently amusing half-hours on television. It is a different style of humor, so if you're not one for improv-based work, look elsewhere.
I dig the set Comedy Central has put together. From the packaging to the creative menus systems, the presentation is excellent. Episodes appear in their original fullscreen aspect ratio and look good, clean and free of flaws. Ditto for the Dolby Digital stereo mix.
While not terribly diverse, the bonus features are substantial. A live comedy presentation at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival is pretty funny (and lengthy), and the 90-plus minutes of extended and deleted scenes are often hilarious. Because of the type of series Reno 911! is, you know there's lots of good stuff that was filmed but excised, and here's the proof. Lastly, each cast member participates in an audio commentary, with Lennon and Garant's offering by far the funniest.
Keep in mind that the DVD release is uncensored. All curse words are unbleeped, though the blurring -- thankfully -- remains intact.
Another very funny round of episodes from the modern-day Keystone Kops. Or perhaps Key-stoned Kops is more accurate. While this second season represents a slight slip from the superb first, for those of you who dig this by-the-seat-of-your-pants comedy, it's an open-and-shut case: retrieve it.
Not guilty. Go forth and uphold the law!
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 340 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Cast Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Live Performance at HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival