Thomas Lennon, Cedric Yarbough. Includes Execution Tickets" (8/6/03), Jones Gets Suspended" (8/20/03), Halloween" (10/20/03) and 11 more for a total of 14 episodes on 2 DVDs. 2003/color/5 hrs., 30 min/NR/fullscreen.
From the creators of the flamboyantly fabulous Viva Variety (and when will that be released on DVD?) comes Reno 911, Comedy Central's most arresting comedy series. Ride along with the cluelessly cracked squad of the Wahoe County Sheriff's Department, who cross the proverbial thin blue line with impunity. "That's how we do it in Reno," exults Lt. Dangle (Thomas Lennon), after absent-mindedly rear-ending a car whose trunk pops open to reveal a cache of marijuana. Reno 911 has Cops's gritty documentary feel, and Police Squad's straight face in subverting cop show conventions. The hapless officers get no respect, not from the citizens they encounter, from their colleagues in the FBI, or even from themselves. Kerri Kenney-Silver's unfortunate Det. Wiegel is the squad's odd girl out. "She's like a bad casserole" is one of the more polite things said about her. In one episode, a misunderstanding leads to her being put under a suicide watch, and she so loves the attention, she doesn't bother to inform her brethren that she, in fact, did not try to kill herself. The forays into black comedy are about as subtle as a S.W.A.T. assault. In the first episode's opening moments, an officer answers a domestic disturbance call with guns blazing, only to discover it is a surprise birthday party for him.
But Reno 911 would have gotten old fast if it was just Police Academy-style mishaps and slapstick. What elevates this from being a one-joke series are the intimately observed characters' quirks and personal dramas. Dangle has a penchant for short shorts, and, in the first episode at least, comely male traffic offenders. Dangle is not exactly Capt. Furillo (from Hill Street Blues) in the compassion department. When the squad learns that unwed Deputy C. Johnson (Wendy McLendon-Covey) is pregnant, he jokingly searches for a phone book when considering who the father might be. "There's usually a phone book around here," he shrugs. "It would have been funnier." Comedy Central may be guilty of running these episodes into the ground, but for Reno 911's devoted following, and for rookies to the force, this boxed set of commercial-free episodes, some commentary-enhanced, is just the ticket. --Donald Liebenson