From The Keystone Cops to the Police Academy movies, wacky cops have been a fertile well for American comedy. Following in this fine tradition is my new favorite TV show (I am truly addicted to it), Reno 911! (Don't forget the exclamation point!)
This is a series that has been running on Comedy Central since 2003, and we're now getting 2 rerun episodes a night at 10pm in Burlington on the CW, Channel 20. The show is a take-off on another TV show called Cops, a for-real documentary of police officers in action. (Hilariously, Cops airs on the same station right after Reno. The irony alone is head-spinning.)
Every episode follows a squad of the Reno, Nevada police force in the station and on their daily calls. Needless to say, they are utterly and cluelessly incompetent.
What makes this show so original and compelling is the improvisation. The scenes obviously have "beats," as they call them in improvisational theater exercises: certain actions that need to occur to move the plot, such as it is, forward. But, other than that, the dialog and action is improvised by the actors, and each cast member, including the marvelous collection of minor players, is sterling at this most pure form of acting.
An actor once told me the basic rule of improv: never deny. Whatever your fellow actor puts out there, that becomes your reality and you go with it. So improvisational theater is akin to a great jazz band, jamming after-hours, going where the muse takes them.
The wikipedia site lists the all the characters on the show and their ridiculous personality traits and back stories: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reno_911!
(A year or so ago, a movie version of the show was released, but I found it less funny than an average TV episode. The TV show has a certain jury-rigged, low-key charm that was lost when it was blown-up to feature length.)
So, if this is your cup of tea, and you want to laugh your ass off before bed, check it out.