|Reno 911: The Complete First Season (2003)
Starring: Thomas Lennon, Cedric Yardbrough, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kerri Kenney, Robert Ben Garant, Carlos Alazraqui, Niecy Nash
Director: Michael Patrick Jann
Not so long ago, Comedy Central was the forgotten channel in your basic-cable lineup, an afterthought whose only real appeal was its endless hours of “Saturday Night Live” re-runs and the occasionally amusing stand-up act. That all began to change, however, with the premiere of “South Park” in 1997, a show that instantly became the most controversial series on television and simultaneously made Comedy Central one of the hottest stations around. And in the seven year’s since “South Park” debuted, the network’s popularity has continued to swell with the addition of hit series like “Chappelle’s Show,” “Crank Yankers” and, now, “Reno 911.”
Watch “Reno 911” and you’ll probably think, “How hasn’t this been done before?” It is, after all, just a “Cops” knockoff, a show that virtually begged to be spoofed during its heyday. Well, someone finally did it, and they did it very well, but it’s not merely the idea that makes “Reno 911” so damn funny. It’s the characters and the writing.
Set in the Biggest Little City in the World, Comedy Central’s latest hit follows seven of Reno’s “finest” through both their professional and personal daily lives. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon), the gay lieutenant whose nut-hugger shorts are part of his official uniform, Deputy Jones (Cedric Yardbrough), who’s constantly fighting off Lt. Dangle’s advances, and Clementine Johnson (Wendi McLendon-Covey), the trampy blonde who never fights off anyone’s advances, are joined by James Garcia (Carlos Alazraqui), Travis Junior (Robert Ben Garant), Raineesha Williams (Niecy Nash) and the mentally deficient Trudy Wiegel (Kerri Kenney). For a show like this, with so many co-stars chewing up screen time, a producer would be thrilled to have two or three of his actors nail their respective roles. But it seems like these seven roles were written exclusively for these seven respective actors, with each character played to near perfection. Plus, they pull it all off with the kind of on-screen chemistry that other casts would kill to have.
But as funny as the officers are, they’re often outshined by Reno’s criminals. Some of the highlight delinquents from this first season include: a lubed-up wannabe porn star and his inflatable colleague; an overzealous mime who’s introduced to Garcia’s nightstick; Terry, the roller-skating male prostitute with an apparent fondness for Skittles; and Steed Lankershim, Clementine’s degenerate boyfriend who goes on a bender the night before his wedding. Their appearances mark some of season one’s finest episodes, but the truth is there’s not one dud in this lineup.
Unfortunately, like many of these compilation sets, the special features are pretty thin, highlighted by 30 minutes of alternate and deleted scenes, many of which deserved to be cut in the first place. There’s also audio commentary by the cast and director on four of the 14 episodes, but while having access to some of the behind-the-scenes action and gossip is always a treat, much of the commentary sadly is generic and bland.
Still, the comedic quality here is simply too remarkable to be dragged down by lackluster extras. There’s no unique idea driving “Reno 911,” just unique chemistry, flawless execution and exceptional writing (Lennon, Kenney and Garant take on triple duty as actors, writers and executive producers). Once ignored by channel surfers everywhere, Comedy Central’s revival will continue to be fueled by staples like “South Park,” “Chappelle’s Show” and the relentlessly funny “Reno 911.”