Hold Onto Your Tacos
The new streaming platform Quibi has picked up the beloved Cops mockumentary show Reno 911! for a seventh season, more than a decade after the mayhem ended. The revival aims to catch up with the bumbling deputies of the fictional Reno Sheriff’s Department, with Thomas Lennon, Kerry Kenney-Silver, and Robert Ben Garant onboard to star and write.
Four main cast members squeezed back into their khakis to film holiday PSAs for a New Year’s Eve marathon on Comedy Central, which raised hopes. And if fans worry that the revival would water down the show’s risque humor, the earnest deputies encouraging Reno citizens to let their sex slaves out of their dungeons for Christmas should reassure them otherwise.
The outrageous series, packed with improv talent, explosions and hillbilly chases ran from 2003 to 2009, with a 2007 feature film set in Miami. Reno 911! distilled and magnified the genuine craziness of rural America we first glimpsed watching Cops: bus-dwelling preppers “shooting aliens” with anti-aircraft guns, brothel fights, crackhead burglars, and sex toy mishaps. It intersperses these callouts with awkward morning staff meetings, stiffly-acted PSAs, undercover stings gone bad, and horribly misguided youth “mentoring” events. The show unleashes Keegan-Michael Key, Patton Oswalt, Nick Swardson, Zach Galifianakis and Paul Reubens as Reno’s most bonkers citizens, and the gritty documentary style amplifies the humor by normalizing every insane encounter.
Lennon says Reno 911!’s sketch style is a good match for Quibi’s 10-minutes-or-less format, where encounters with vegetable molesters fleeing on roller skates will indeed slot neatly. But as with any fan-favorite reboot, expectation and potential disappointment build evenly over time. The spectre of another critically-acclaimed show that jumped to streaming offers a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of revisiting our favorite characters after too long away.
Arrested Development ran for three seasons on Fox from 2003-2006, when the network abruptly cancelled it. Netflix revived it for a fourth season in 2013, then a fifth in 2018. The writers tried to resolve the previous season’s cliffhangers by carrying the story forward as if no time had passed, even though it was obvious the actors had undergone plastic surgery, completed puberty, accumulated sun damage, and grown out their hair in the intervening years.
The now-famous stars’ busier schedules also kept them from shooting together in season 4, resulting in fewer group scenes to tie together the fragmented and repetitive storylines from each character’s point of view. Ultimately they had to recut the season in chronological order. Ironically, ignoring the time-gap conundrum (minus a few meta jokes) mishandled the pacing of an otherwise wonderful and witty show, and the story suffered from writers and actors contorting their talents and the limits of logic to preserve continuity.
As for Reno 911!, there’s no word on where we’ll pick up with the deputies. Cedric Yarbrough and Wendi McLendon-Covey have stayed busy doing movies and TV, while Carlos Alazraqui does mostly voice acting for cartoons like Rocko’s Modern Life, SpongeBob and Family Guy. Niecy Nash will complete filming the fourth and last season of Claws next year, and I’m crossing my acrylics that she’ll return as Deputy Raineesha Williams.
Most fans will just be happy to reacquaint themselves with Lieutenant Dangle’s famously snug shorts, Junior’s itchy trigger finger and Trudy’s uncomfortable body humor as they appear outside a cohesive ongoing storyline. Time is its own culture gap, but thanks to its actors and writers, Reno’s gonzo format may very well help the characters span that gap smoothly.
Lennon is also tentatively set to write and headline a comedy show for Quibi, following a disgraced techie who leaves Silicon Valley and takes over a failing winery. Quibi launches next April. In the meantime, fans can stream previous seasons of Reno 911! on Comedy Central’s website.