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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that a majority of the dialogue in this guerrilla-style, tongue-and-cheek parody is improvised by the actors, so, for the most part, anything goes. The motley crew of "cops" who make up the Reno police force also frequently swear and violate the law, and they generally make terrible role models. But there's good news, in a way: Their slip-ups aren't intentional; they're usually just the result of simple stupidity. No role models to be found here, but plenty of comedy.
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What's the story?
Filmed using a single-camera technique that mimics the on-the-job immediacy of COPS, improv comedy series RENO 911! follows the antics of the fictional Washoe County Sheriff's Department and the motley crew of officers therein, led by Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon), who has a fondness for the shortest of khaki shorts. Rounding out the force are deputies James Garcia (Carlos Alazraqui), Clementine Johnson (Wendi McLendon-Covey), Cheresa Kimball (Mary Birdsong), S. Jones (Cedric Yarbrough), Travis Junior (Ben Garant), Trudy Wiegel (Kerri Kenney-Silver) and Raineesha Williams (Niecy Nash), each of whom have their own idiosyncratic quirks. It's not uncommon for two officers to play a joke on another by slipping a little ether into his gas mask, for example, or for another member of the force to sample the drugs at a crime scene.
Is it any good?
Most parents would like their kids to grow up with a healthy respect for both police officers and the law, and that's the problem with this show when it comes to family viewing. It's bad enough that the officers aren't very good at their jobs; even worse, they frequently go out of their way to goof off -- and sometimes even break the law. It's hilarious stuff for grown-up viewers who prefer their satire droll and dark, but it's not meant for kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the ways in which police officers and other law enforcement officials are portrayed in the media. Do reality shows like COPS (which served as the model for this shrewd spoof) make you and your family feel safer or more vulnerable to violent crime? Why do those whose mission is to "serve and protect" us often become the butt of derogatory jokes? And has the popularity of shows like CSI enhanced the image of all cops, or just those who wear smart suits and investigate crime scenes?