On its surface, Reno 911! is a Keystone ''COPS'': Starring an inspired comedic troupe that must set Lorne Michaels a-twitch, the series trails a dazzlingly inept Nevada police squad documentary-style. The befuddled, bored, and often enraged deputies deal with oddities like a recovering gunshot victim who tries to eat a poodle, or a naked, mulleted trailer-park loiterer who turns out to belong to a GANG of naked, mulleted trailer-park loiterers.
At its core, however, the largely improvised series is a jangly American version of ''The Office,'' with its best comedy revolving around race, gracelessness, despair, and a glorious lack of self-awareness, courtesy of the kinds of outsize characters who inhabit the typical workplace: the needy boss, the not-hot hottie, the odd, bony person you worry may one day kill everyone....
''Reno'''s second season finds shorts-sporting Lieut. Jim Dangle (twangy Thomas Lennon, one of several alums of ''Viva Variety'' and MTV's ''The State'') as persnickety as ever. He's the kind of guy who makes a party he's throwing a mandatory work event, and the kind of crime fighter who refuses to save a writer's novel from a burning building once he hears the plot -- because it sounds too much like...the Dennis Quaid movie ''Frequency.'' Of course, there's an ensuing debate as to whether ''Frequency'' was itself a rip-off of an ''Encyclopedia Brown'' story: ''Reno'''s players, bless them, are pop-culture nuts -- references to Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Rogers, and killer clowns abound.
Meanwhile, the plurally adored Deputy Jones (Cedric Yarbrough) -- a guy as close to charming as ''Reno'' will allow -- is still battling the casual ''Who, me?'' racism that the show loves to nail. When Jones expresses regret for missing Dangle's party, Dangle blasts him for giving a lax ''hip-hop apology.'' (''I apologize and I'm sorry,'' Jones replies. ''Is that white enough?'')
''Reno'''s freaky crown jewel is the brilliant Kerri Kenney-Silver, who plays Deputy Trudy Wiegel as a haplessly prejudiced virginal slut whose inner workings are so transparent you can almost see the contents of her brain (some creepy old buttons, a dried boutonniere for the prom date who never showed, a jar of spiders). Thus Trudy's take on a visiting British cop: ''[He's like] someone from ''Mary Poppins''...who comes riding in on a jalopy...and says 'Come along, everyone, I have whipped ices!' And then he grabs them and rapes the s--- out of them.'' Now there's a hell of a line -- from one of ''Reno'''s finest.