On Monday’s episode of the Nerdist Podcast, Thomas Lennon spoke about the original pilot episode of Reno 911! that fellow The State members Robert Ben Garant, Kerri Kenny-Silver, and he had made for Fox. You should listen to that podcast goodness as Lennon is the first Nerdist Podcast guest Chris and the gang ever talked to five years and his voice feels like home. Warm and cozy and funny, that’s how we like ’em. On his most recent visit, Tom also talked about his latest show, The Odd Couple on CBS. But before he was cracking jokes with Matt Perry he was grinding out a living.
Lennon is now a go to script doctor, actor and funny man, but in 2001 Lennon was working on pilots for the Fox network after Viva Variety had been cancelled. When one of those projects was cancelled before it was ever even filmed, Lennon and his cast were unsure what to do. They decided to take a long shot and create a show with the limited time and resources that they had. That show was Reno 911!
As you can see, the pilot is basically the same show that we knew and loved for six seasons and a movie. In case you’ve been living under a weird, humorless rock, Reno 911! is a COPS parody set in Reno, Nevada following an absurd bunch of deputies in the sheriff’s department. The primary differences between the pilot and the eventual series can be seen in the cast of characters and some structure choices. The main cast differs with the exception of Robert Ben Garant’s character, Deputy Travis Junior — despite the fact that Garant appears several times as various other characters.
Deputy Celmentine Johnson, played by Wendi McLendon-Covey in the Comedy Central series, is also absent but the pilot includes brief appearances by Amy Brassette as Katie O’Brien, the Meter Maid. Despite her limited time in the episode, it is obvious Brassette’s character was the precursor to Johnson. The episode itself has more of a sketch comedy tone to it, with every character being portrayed by a member of the main cast. While this is something that carried into the real series, the use of guest stars and blurred faces made it less obvious how few of the characters weren’t played by the core cast.
Lennon also shared two other pilots that also didn’t get picked up by FOX: the sci-fi comedy U.S.S. Alabama and a sitcom parody called Hey Neighbor. U.S.S. Alabama was essentially Reno 911! in space, following a crew of peacekeepers one thousand years in the future aboard the spaceship U.S.S. Alabama. The cast boasted an all-star lineup including Lennon, Garant, Eddie Izzard, Mindy Sterling, Brandon Jackson, Rob Heubel, and Natasha Leggero.
Hey Neighbor, on the other hand, reunited several members of The State — Lennon, Kenney, Garant, and Michael Ian Black — for a sketch comedy-style sitcom about a wealthy family forced to move to a poor neighborhood as part of the FBI’s Witness Relocation Program.
Check them both out below as well:
What do you think? Miss Reno as much as I do? Think the other two shows should have been picked up? Let us know in the comments!