On its surface, Reno 911! is a Keystone ”COPS”: Starring an inspired comedic troupe that must set Lorne Michaels a-twitch, the series trails a dazzlingly inept Nevada police squad documentary-style. The befuddled, bored, and often enraged deputies deal with oddities like a recovering gunshot victim who tries to eat a poodle, or a naked, mulleted trailer-park loiterer who turns out to belong to a GANG of naked, mulleted trailer-park loiterers.
At its core, however, the largely improvised series is a jangly American version of ”The Office,” with its best comedy revolving around race, gracelessness, despair, and a glorious lack of self-awareness, courtesy of the kinds of outsize characters who inhabit the typical workplace: the needy boss, the not-hot hottie, the odd, bony person you worry may one day kill everyone….
”Reno”’s second season finds shorts-sporting Lieut. Jim Dangle (twangy Thomas Lennon, one of several alums of ”Viva Variety” and MTV’s ”The State”) as persnickety as ever. He’s the kind of guy who makes a party he’s throwing a mandatory work event, and the kind of crime fighter who refuses to save a writer’s novel from a burning building once he hears the plot — because it sounds too much like…the Dennis Quaid movie ”Frequency.” Of course, there’s an ensuing debate as to whether ”Frequency” was itself a rip-off of an ”Encyclopedia Brown” story: ”Reno”’s players, bless them, are pop-culture nuts — references to Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Rogers, and killer clowns abound.
Meanwhile, the plurally adored Deputy Jones (Cedric Yarbrough) — a guy as close to charming as ”Reno” will allow — is still battling the casual ”Who, me?” racism that the show loves to nail. When Jones expresses regret for missing Dangle’s party, Dangle blasts him for giving a lax ”hip-hop apology.” (”I apologize and I’m sorry,” Jones replies. ”Is that white enough?”)
”Reno”’s freaky crown jewel is the brilliant Kerri Kenney-Silver, who plays Deputy Trudy Wiegel as a haplessly prejudiced virginal slut whose inner workings are so transparent you can almost see the contents of her brain (some creepy old buttons, a dried boutonniere for the prom date who never showed, a jar of spiders). Thus Trudy’s take on a visiting British cop: ”[He’s like] someone from ”Mary Poppins”…who comes riding in on a jalopy…and says ‘Come along, everyone, I have whipped ices!’ And then he grabs them and rapes the s— out of them.” Now there’s a hell of a line — from one of ”Reno”’s finest.