It’s been more than a decade since television last focused on the beleaguered sheriff’s department of Reno, Nevada. But now, miracle of miracles, Reno 911! is back. The original Comedy Central series, which ended in 2009, is a mockumentary-style show about a group of colorful Reno police officers, most famously the short-shorts-wearing Lieutenant Dangle (Thomas Lennon). The show’s revival, which reunites the original cast and creators, comes courtesy of the new streaming platform Quibi. Since its launch in April, Quibi’s big selling points have been its format — “quick bites,” available exclusively on your phone — and its slate of original content. Reno 911! is the first Quibi series that isn’t original to Quibi — and it’s also the best thing the platform currently has to offer. (Taking Polygon’s own Quibi show Speedrun out of consideration, naturally.)
Quibi calls its other non-reality or docu-series “movies in chapters” — they’re ongoing stories split up into short sequences. But trying to reduce films to tiny chunks often means not actually revealing the plot until the third or fourth episode, or cutting down on character development to focus on viewer-attracting action. Reno 911! has neither issue. The show has always been structured around sketches — the episodes are filled with footage of briefings at the station, or officers responding to calls, so they’re already made up of “quick bites.” The move to Quibi from Comedy Central just means there are fewer quick bites per episode.
The three episodes sent to critics make it feel as though the show never went away. But the 12-episode Reno 911! revival is just as accessible for new viewers as it is for diehard fans. The show never had much continuity, so there’s nothing to really catch up on. Though some storylines took multiple episodes (one officer’s romance with and eventual marriage to a serial killer, for instance), those arcs weren’t significant, apart from the way they provided further opportunities for goofs. Character development on the show is nonexistent. The clueless Trudy Wiegel (Kerri Kenney-Silver) remains clueless. The loudmouth Deputy Jones (Cedric Yarbrough) remains a loudmouth.
There’s still plenty to reward longtime fans, however, as the new series brings back not only the police officers, but the repeat offenders they deal with, including drug addict Big Mike (Toby Huss), and recurring bits like Dangle’s constant problems with having his bicycle stolen, and the routinely disastrous traffic stops involving Deputy Junior (Robert Ben Garant).
More importantly, the show’s razor-sharp sense of humor is still intact. From the first scene of the revival, in which Jones berates a white woman for calling the cops because black children are in the neighborhood pool, only to discover she called because the kids were drowning, it’s evident that the creative team — Lennon, Garant, and Kenney-Silver — aren’t just repeating what they did before. They’re updating the material they’re working with, and taking into account the way public perception of cops has changed in the decade since the show was last on the air.
The show’s move to Quibi also feels natural in that Quibi’s default vertical viewing orientation fits with the way we often see footage about police on social media. The second episode features the cops being surveilled by local youths, who intend to upload the videos online, and the vertical orientation mimics the phone videos they would ostensibly be shooting. A later segment features the cops crashing a livestream of a dangerous prank, and the vertical orientation includes a scroll of comments and favs, as if we were watching the stream itself.
Reviews for Quibi’s initial slate of programming have been less than stellar, with some drawing widespread ridicule. But if anything will turn that trend around, it’s the Reno 911! revival. Even though the show wasn’t originally built for Quibi, it’s perfect for the platform, since it was always designed around the Quibi short-hit mentality. It’s also smartly written, and cleverly attuned to the platform’s flip-flopping orientations. And as the cherry on top of the cake of simply being a good show, the series has a built-in fanbase. If Reno 911! can’t rehabilitate Quibi’s reputation, nothing can.
The new season of Reno 911! is now streaming on Quibi, with a new episode daily.
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