-->
Reviews

Reno 911!—Renos Most Wanted (Uncensored)

Daniel Carlson

Reno 911! could be the most American sketch comedy show ever to grace the airwaves, and certainly the funniest.


Reno 911! -- Reno's Most Wanted (Uncensored)

Distributor: Paramount
Cast: Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Cedric Yarbrough, Kerri Kenney-Silver
MPAA rating: N/A
Network: Comedy Central
US Release Date: 2007-02-27
Website
Trailer
Amazon
When we were doing Viva Variety, we knew, "Boy, this really cracks us up, but this is not for everybody. This is a little weird."

-- Robert Ben Garant

Reno 911! could be the most American sketch comedy show ever to grace the airwaves, and certainly the funniest. A loose spoof of COPS, with completely improvised dialogue, the Comedy Central series about the fictional Reno Sheriff's Department is infinitely more layered than the reigning champ of sketch comedy, Saturday Night Live, and its ugly stepsister, Mad TV. Unlike those more popular predecessors, Reno 911! commits completely to its characters and aesthetic, creating a bizarre but authentic little world. Other sketch shows, including Comedy Central's own Chappelle's Show (racism as satire) and Mind of Mencia (racism as entertainment), rely heavily on the performers' unshakeable personalities: Whether he's wearing white-face or riding around with Wayne Brady, Dave Chappelle is always Dave Chappelle. But the ensemble troupe of Reno 911! forsakes individual stardom in service of the weird characters they're playing, and that makes the show truly great.

Still, there's nothing special about Reno 911! -- Reno's Most Wanted (Uncensored), a single-disc compilation of seven episodes arbitrarily culled from the show's four seasons so far. That's not to say the episodes aren't funny, but there are just as many funny episodes and individual sketches that aren't represented here. (I'm thinking in particular of the story arc where one of the deputies winds up dating a serial killer.) But these episodes do have some wonderful moments and give a broad look at the characters while also demonstrating the show's worldview.

That worldview is a perverse one, peopled by wacky stereotypes who come across as likeable, if pathetic, working stiffs. On the Uncensored DVD, they deal with everything from Homeland Security training to an exchange program that brings a British constable into the mix, but the outsiders always wind up being con men or hypocrites, reinforcing the surprisingly soft-hearted notion that the group of deputies is a family all its own.

The seven half-hour episodes fly by pretty fast, but the DVD also packs some minor treats in the way of special features, including a "Top Ten Calls" segment that features a series of random sketches from the series, though how they assembled the list without one of Patton Oswalt's brilliant "D&D Nerd" sketches is beyond me. Though the box proudly proclaims the material to be "uncensored", all that means is that the bleeps have been removed from the blue dialogue, while certain body parts remain blurred. Apparently it's okay to say "fuck", but not to flip the bird, the kind of head-scratching hypocrisy it's best not to think about. The special features are rounded out by a cutesy if somewhat dull clip featuring Thomas Lennon (who plays hot-pantsed Jim Dangle), Cedric Yarbrough (the lothario Jones), Kerri Kenney-Silver (Trudy), and Niecy Nash (Raineesha) performing in character at Comedy Central's upfront presentation a few years ago, the first time the TV ad/scheduling bonanza was mined for consumer revenue.

The episode that best captures the show's zeitgeist is the first one on the disc: "Scavenger Hunt", in which the deputies compete for the chance to win tickets to an execution by collecting perps who have been assigned point values. The hunt unfolds like all the plots on Reno 911!, as a series of sketches in which the deputies respond to emergency calls and try (and usually fail) to keep the streets safe. Some of the cast members have been working together for years, from MTV's The State to Comedy Central's Viva Variety, but with Reno 911!, they blend their love of rapid-fire sketches with the subplots involving their characters. For every scene in which a deputy nabs a criminal for the contest, there are two or three scenes that don't fit into the larger narrative at all.

The best example of this is when Dangle and Junior (Robert Ben Garant) attempt to arrest a local felon named Big Mike (Toby Huss) in hopes that he has a tattoo (as this warrants more points). Not long after, they come across a naked drunk guy in an alley who speaks garbled Armenian and keeps trying to high-five them. The naked guy doesn't have anything to do with the main story, and could have popped up in any episode. It's moments like that one that keep Reno 911 feeling fresh, as if these actors are just riffing in front of a camera for the hell of it. In fact, a lot of the scenes with actors like Huss are shot sequentially, so that from episode to episode, the deputies might address Big Mike by name and later act as if they've never met him. It's a curiously blurred line between pure standalone sketch and continuity-driven sitcom. It's a little weird, but hey, that's Reno.

7

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image