Reno 911! is comedy TV’s old reliable. While it has never really captured the zeitgeist in the way that something like South Park or, hell, even Mind of Mencia did, for the last six years it has been chugging along, quietly producing one of the funniest and raunchiest shows on the air.
Created by former State-ers (is that the term? I prefer ‘Statesmen’) Thomas Lennon, Kerri Kenney and Robert Ben Garant, Reno is a completely improvised faux TV-documentary series. Sort of a cross between Cops and a Christopher Guest film, minus the former’s bleakness and the later’s earnestness. Basically, they take a bunch of locations, add some incredibly talented comedians, film them for a few hours and then splice the footage, vignette style, over the course of the season.
The sixth season shakes things up by removing three regular cast members (Mary Birdsong, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Carlos Alazraqui) and replacing them with fellow former Statesman Joe Lo Truglio and Ian Roberts from The Upright Citizen’s Brigade. While the presence of the lost deputies is missed, the new deputies are both great. Roberts is especially impressive. On first impression, his Sergeant Jack Declan seems to be a pretty standard take on the “Fat Chicago Cop”. However, as the season progresses, Declan devolves into a truly dark and twisted creation, ending up responsible for a lot of the season’s funniest bits (unless, of course, raw human suffering isn’t part of your ideal recipe).
The inclusion of new blood seems to have inspired the returning cast to up their game as well, resulting in one of the most consistently funny seasons to date. Thomas Lennon still kills as Lieutenant Jim Dangle (one of the best gay characters in television history) and, while a little toned down, Kerri Kenney and Ben Garant can still stand as the gold standards for comic timing, while Cedric Yarbrough remains a master of the comic reaction and Niecy Nash still has a giant fake ass. And the aforementioned timing.
In addition to the new and returning regular cast, season six has a slew guest comedians. Jonah Hill shows up for one episode and is responsible for one of my favorite jokes of the season, Patton Oswalt, George Lopez, A.D. Miles and Nick Swardson all return, Rainn Wilson has a surprisingly funny and profane turn as a serial killer, Scott Thompson shows up out of fucking nowhere, and Human Giant (Rob Huebel, Aziz Ansari and Paul Scheer) make several, very funny appearances and Craig Robinson has a surprisingly animated turn as a sleazy video producer.
The audio/video presentation is about what you would expect from a documentary-style shot-on-video cable show. However, I will take a moment to comment on the number of impressive explosions and car chases that they squeeze into this modestly budgeted show: They squeeze in quite a few. It is awesome.
The extras are a bit light. There is some promotional material regarding the new deputies, a few full length versions of videos and commercials that are only shown briefly during the show and commentaries on selected episodes. The commentaries are the biggest disappointment. Delivered by various combinations of select cast members, they are surprisingly dull given the participants and subject matter.
For the first few years that it was on the air, Reno 911! was on of those shows I would catch from time to time, always loved, but never really went out of my way to watch. Over the last couple of years I have rectified that. It was and is one of the best comedies on television and deserves to higher on most people’s must-watch list.