Police officers have always had stoic personas: the MIP-issuing, speeding ticket-giving flatfoot who’s out to get you. Police officers have rarely incited laughter. Then came “Reno 911!” which followed the lives of eight eccentric cops in the Reno County Sheriff’s Department, as well as the ensuing hilarity on the job.
But “eccentric” is an understatement, as the characters don’t have little quirks but legitimate psychiatric problems. For instance, Deputy Cherisha Kimball (Mary Birdsong, “Crossballs: The Debate Show”) won’t eat donuts because they remind her of an orifice – and she’s the normal one. Another example and possibly the single most iconic thing about the show, is Lieutenant Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon, “Balls of Fury”) and his uniform shorts, which are comparable to pleated, khaki underwear.
The short sketches that make up the show are mainly populated with quick bursts of lewd, crazy hillbillies, but there’s also plot in each episode, like a criminal scavenger hunt, where the deputies compete to arrest the hottest hooker in Reno or someone over six feet, five inches. “Reno 911!” differs from other sketch shows like “Saturday Night Live,” in that the material they use isn’t time-sensitive, relying on rampant hijinx for laughs.
After four seasons the show is as funny as ever. The satirical use of blatant racial, gender and religious discrimination still holds strong five years later. Also keeping “Reno 911!” alive are the fleeting guest appearances. The high quality of these appearances is their subtlety. There’s no parade or special mention of a guest star at the beginning of each episode, and you’re lucky if you manage to catch a name in the ending credits. Often, the actors are on screen for about 30 seconds, probably giving them a fun break from their normal acting jobs.
While the humor is often easy for the average viewer to pick up on, “Reno 911!” has also mastered the art of awkward silence