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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

August 8, 2005
Reno 911// Sitcom, Wednesdays at 10:00pm on Comedy Central
Rating: 7/10

Stella// Sitcom, Wednesdays at 10:30pm on Comedy Central
Rating: 4/10


Back when it premiered two years ago, Reno 911! was an unexpected gem. I didn't have very high expectations for the program, but was willing to give it a go anyway after reading a positive review in Entertainment Weekly and was thus surprised by the show's ability to provide consistent laughs from its semi-philistine premise that Cops are unprofessional and incompetent.

Three seasons in, Reno! 911 is beginning to show signs of age. The show just isn't as funny as it used to be, which is to say that it no longer ranks among television's comedic elite. But even with it's slight faltering, the show is still uniformly funny and continues to provide some much need quality in a summer stacked with mediocre television show after mediocre television show.

Reno 911! follows the exploits of the Reno, Nevada Sheriff's department in all their incompetent glory. There's the ambiguously gay lieutenant Dangle (played by the superb Thomas Lennon) who happens to entertain somewhat of a crush on ladies' man Jones (Cedric Yarbrough). Backing up Dangle and Jones are the socially awkward and manic-depressive deputy Trudy (Kerri Kenney), who harbors some resentment toward her fellow females of the force, including the promiscuous deputy Clementine Johnson (Wendi Mclendon-Covey) and the token black girl, deputy Raineesha Williams (Niecy Nash). Also along for the ride are deputy Garcia (Carlos Alazraqui) as the marginally sadistic and lonely 'angry Mexican' officer and officer Junior (Ben Garant), who is basically your typical red-blooded American. Together, these officers form one of the most hopelessly unskilled work forces in the western world.

To add some spice (or maybe to do the opposite), the show's producers have decided to add a new officer whose name I don't quite remember, which is most likely the way it's supposed to be. The season began with Reno's finest in prison (after the events of the season two finale), where deputy Junior finds the time to start his first novel, and by that I mean he commenced reading Stephen King's Christine. Ultimately, the gang are released and, after a string of mildly entertaining events, are invited back onto the police force. The laughs aren't as frequent as they once were, but at times the series displays some creative sparks and can still serve up a surprise or two.

The best jokes this season include Junior throwing a cat into the spinning fan blades of an air conditioner in front of the host and film crew from a children's television show, and Garcia and Jones' foray into mall security, which actually seems like a sweet low-risk gig.

The show is a nice enough summer diversion, but three years on it is hardly outstanding. Basically, if you liked previous seasons of Reno or Raising Arizona, you will most likely enjoy this too, but even the most enjoyable moments are likely to leave you wanting something new and fresh... Perhaps another sitcom that could follow Reno 911! and also feature cast members of the former series The State, who worked with cast members from Reno on creating a kind of 'The State' reunion, would hit the spot. Enter Stella, starring Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain.

Before I continue, its truth time! I've never much cared for Michael Ian Black. He had a one-note character on Ed (which, luckily, the writers were keen enough to downplay) and appears on VH1's Best Week Ever program, where he is known for making snide remarks about everything the producers through at him. Overall, Black is hit or miss, with about a 3/7 ration in favor of the later, which affords me the opportunity to take some pot shots at a person I barely know anything about.

Michael Ian Black's appearance is along the lines of a sexually frustrated beaver on speed, a heavy-tailed creature who wheels and deals his badly repetitive humor all across this fair (well, kinda fair I guess) nation with the apparent intent to destroy every last thinking molecule in your body's system. A humor he and his cohorts cram into Stella like they've just forgotten an important exam.

I was actually prepared to enjoy Stella. And I don't actually despise Black, I just wanted a chance to be negative is all. And trust me, this review will give me plenty of opportunities to be negative. Now back to me being prepared to enjoy Stella...

The premise seems rather reminiscent of the Young Ones, my favorite British comedy. Stella centers around three men who share an apartment and the wacky antics they find themselves in. One episode finds Michael Ian Black's character (who also happens to be named Michael Ian Black) running for the presidency of the building's resident's board. In doing so, he and campaign manager Michael Showalter alienate David Wain, who in turn is brainwashed by the current president of the board and sent on a mission to assassinate Black. Sounds funny right? Not so much. Stella has only made me laugh twice, and it really isn't that hard to make me laugh.

It's not that Stella is mediocre (too much credit I'm afraid), it is just deficient in all regards. Like that gawky kid in high school who tried too hard to fit in with the slackers, wasn't smart enough for the geeks, wasn't depressed enough for the goths, didn't have a skateboard to gain acceptance with the skater kids, and was too uncoordinated for the jocks. You felt bad for the kid, and even tried to strike up conversation with him at times, but he was just so damn off-putting you couldn't bring yourself to feign interest for extended periods of time. Basically, a waste, a being so dead-set on pleasing people that it goes overboard in trying to achieve its goal. Not trying at all is usually better than trying too hard and failing. Of course I was a slacker so my views on effort may be a tad bit skewed. Regardless, Stella is not quite a bad show, just a lacking one.

Which is perhaps the most damning quality one can possess. Being trapped in a state of sub-mediocrity. While the good shows are fondly remembered and bad ones sneeringly dismissed and referenced at all possible intervals (hey, did you guys ever see My Mother the Car? Wasn't that show awesome?), shows like Stella are caught up in a vortex of forgetful programming alongside the likes of Veronica's Closet, Titus and the recent Committed. Of course, Stella can possibly (hopefully) succeed where that gawky kid and those other show failed, by realizing the problem and swiftly fixing it. If it can, I for one will be willing to give it a second chance. But if that kid calls, I'm so totally not here.

SEE ALSO: www.comedycentral.com

--
Tim Smith
LAS' resident television expert.

See other articles by Tim Smith.

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