Reno 911! and Tristram Shandy

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon should hire themselves out to do all DVD commentaries—whether they were in the movie or not.

Reno 911! Season Three

Paramount, $26.99

After three seasons, darned if Lt. Jim Dangle's short shorts aren't beginning to look almost normal in this defiantly, weirdly funny Comedy Central series. Which is to say, one doesn't snicker quite so much at the crotch-hugging aplomb with which he wears them (or the mirrored shades or bicycle helmet on those precious occasions). He belongs to the class of the unembarrassable, and with his fellow cops, claims membership among the uneducable. Like Larry David's old mantra for Seinfeld: no hugs and no learning. The Reno 911! gang does hug it out with some frequency, of course, but man, are they resistant to absorbing lessons from their weekly mistakes.

Season two left off with the gang wrongly incarcerated in jail. Now they're on the loose again, eagerly trying out for American Idol (in the case of Dangle, played by Thomas Lennon), still in love with a convicted serial killer (in the case of Deputy Trudy Wiegel, Kerri Kenney), firing their guns at inopportune moments and driving over their own spike strips. These guys can't be trusted to rescue a cat from a roof, park the new department Hummer, guard Liberace's (haunted) piano, or deliver assembly speeches to middle-schoolers without causing disaster.

Reno emerged with the cop-show boom of spin-offs from Law & Order and CSI, all of which celebrate competency and professionalism in law enforcement. This show gives us the flip side—cops who couldn't even spell "DNA," who are reduced to guarding the trailers of William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger when CSI comes to town. Reno bravely stands up for all us dumb kids in the back of the class, the underachievers who just want to get Petersen's and Helgenberger's autographs, who could never do their jobs.

All the 13 episodes have been de-bleeped for language (but not de-blurred for nudity); various commentaries and at least one hidden Easter egg episode are included. Best of all is a plug for next January's movie—Reno 911!: Miami. Crockett and Tubbs, prepare to get what's coming to you. BRIAN MILLER

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

HBO, $27.95

In the future, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon should do the commentaries for all DVDs, whether or not they acted in the original movie. Certainly, they won't have any problem pretending they did, so nimbly do they cue off each other's lies and provocations here. In Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of Lawrence Sterne's 18th-century novel, the two men played rival actors as Winterbottom pretended to pull back the curtain on his costume production. Coogan starred, or so he maintained, as Shandy (and his father), insisting on lower shoes for Brydon (as Uncle Toby), whom he suspects of not treating him with due deference. Well, he gets even less on this commentary track. Before they played versions of themselves in Shandy, they played opposite sides of the mike in radio, and they understand how that medium abhors dead air.

First off, they claim to be doing their commentary naked. ("It was a hasty depilation, too," offers Brydon.) They offer alternate suggestions for the soundtrack ("Eye of the Tiger," "Nobody Does It Better") and generally refuse to discuss the film at hand in serious terms. If Brydon makes such a sally, Coogan yawns, "Sorry, I wasn't listening to you." Then there are the shameless appeals for employment. If Wes Anderson, David O. Russell, either Coppola, or Paul Thomas Anderson are watching (well, listening to) the DVD, "We are available for work." And Michael Bay? They can't decide.

Incessant (and amusing) career complaints do make you want to reach for IMDb.com, too. Coogan's British TV series Knowing Me, Knowing You (in which he developed the character of bungling chat-show host Alan Partridge) is new to DVD this month. And on Amazon.com you can also dig up 2002's Cruise of the Gods, in which he and Brydon play washed-up sci-fi series actors now trapped on a cruise ship with their old fans. It's also nice to hear them slag on Winterbottom's fundamental awkwardness with comedy, and trade backstage gossip about fellow Brits on Match Point, who found Woody Allen to be "a little fuster" (whatever that means). Watching the movie's final credits (in which, on-screen, they compare bald spots and bad teeth), Coogan sighs, "I feel a bit like Dudley Moore," to Brydon making like Peter Cook. Even in jest, it's a flattering and well-deserved comparison. BRIAN MILLER

 
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