Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant on the Past, Present and Future of Reno 911!



“Reno 911!” may have ended its own six-seasons-and-a-movie more than five years ago, but the show’s fanbase has seemingly only increased in the meantime.

“[We] have mastered the art of doing shows that are creatively popular five or ten years after they get cancelled,” Thomas Lennon tells us in a new interview conducted with him and Robert Ben Garant (who co-created and star on “Reno 911! alongside fellow “The State” alum Kerri Kenney).

Although many fans know them best as Nevada police officers Dangle and Junior, Garant and Lennon are also a powerhouse Hollywood screenwriting duo, whose credits include films ranging from Night at the Museum to The Pacifier to Herbie Fully Loaded. As they earnestly explain in the below interview, however, finally getting a project to the big screen can be a very mixed blessing.

While they jest that the newly-released “Reno 911!: The Complete Series” is perfect for all sorts of maladies and other altered states, the set, which can be had for roughly $30 at Amazon and includes all 88 episodes of the show, spread across 14 DVDs, is also likely to be a popular holiday gift this time of year. The set may one day see an addendum, however, as Garant and Lennon say that a “‘True Detective’ type limited run” of “Reno 911” could be on the horizon!

CS: What’s the feeling that comes with holding this complete set in your hands?

Thomas Lennon: It looks pretty amazing. Ben just pointed out that the box set of “Reno 911” is somehow thicker than the box set of “The Lord of the Rings.” So, you know, if nothing else in our careers, we put out a box set that is a tiny bit wider than “The Lord of the Rings.” Plus, we made these 88 episodes for probably the catering budget of like two days on “The Lord of the Rings.”

Robert Ben Garant: Oh my god, yeah. One of those Oliphants cost more than our entire series.

CS: I think a lot of viewers were disappointed that we never got an Oliphant on “Reno 911.”

Lennon: We did it and it got cut out!

Garant: Yep! Cutting room floor. It might be in the bonus features, though.

Lennon: Yeah, there was a long arc we cut where Dangle just ride with the tree people. The Ents. We cut it because it was just so boring. It was like the end of “Lord of the Rings.” Really boring. Way too many Ents.

CS: That’s all being saved for a super extended edition, right?

Garant: There actually are some — outtakes really isn’t the right way to say it — There’s some morning briefings and “Pooped in the Donation box” and “Guns on the Highway” where you get to see the unedited 30-minute versions. Which is how we shot almost everything. Big, long never-break-character takes. Everything that we thought was great is on this set. I love those.

Lennon: I would actually argue — and there are a lot of people that have been telling me this — that the “Reno 911” box set is actually reason enough to get the flu. If you get that right bout out the flu where you’re tripping just a little bit — maybe on some weird meds — and you just get under the blanket. You can basically do this just by getting high, too.

Garant: We timed it for the Ebola thing. If you get that 21-day sequester, please swing by the store on your way to CDC and buy one. Then you you’ll have something to watch on those 21 days.

CS: What is the current status on the future of “Reno 911”? Could it ever come back in any form?

Lennon: You know, it’s weird. Ben and I have mastered the art of doing shows that are creatively popular five or ten years after they get cancelled. We’re all doing a lot of other creative stuff. Ben has got a couple of horror movies coming out with Jason Blum at Blumhouse. I’m doing “Odd Couple” on CBS. We’re all pretty busy. That being said, I would be stunned at, if some point down the road, we didn’t do some sort of a “True Detective” type limited run with the “Reno 911” characters.

Garant: We did the characters again pretty recently for a Comedy Central Christmas special that they’re doing. It was fun. We’re back in the outfits and it’s easy. These characters are so fun to play that I think we were all looking at each other and thinking, “This is a pretty good job.”

Lennon: Outside of the permanent testicle damage, this is the best job I’ve ever had… One thing we always wanted to do with “Reno 911” characters is something that’s set in the New York, New York hotel in Las Vegas. We just wanted to do it just for the tile. Because the original was “Reno 911!: Miami,” we wanted to do the followup, which was “Reno 911!: Miami, New York, New York – Las Vegas.”

Garant: Nobody mentioned this in any of the reviews, but the reason we came up with that plot for “Reno 911: Miami” is because we thought it was just the stupidest title for a movie that we could think of. “Reno 911: Miami!” is a terrible, terrible title and all the reviews — good and mostly bad — nobody pointed out how stupid a title that was. But you can hardly come up with a sentence that’s more awkward.

CS: You guys both do a tremendous amount of screenwriting in a wide variety of genres. Are those seeking those opportunities out or do a lot of these just come your way these days?

Garant: It’s a combination. We’ll go out there with something that we think is a good idea. Also, though, because of our reputation from “Night at the Museum,” if anybody has an idea for a property — whether it’s a good idea or a terrible one — they usually come to us in the first two or three screenwriters in town. Whether it’s “Monopoly” — which is terrible — or “Choose or Your Own Adventure” — which we really sparked to, people come to us with those because I think we have a knack for cracking those in a way that people really enjoy.

Lennon: Two years ago we wrote a whole book called “Writing Movies for Profit.” We kind of talk about how the sausage is made in the studio system. We take a lot of s–t for the movies we write, but I would challenge anybody: If you can write one studio movie and get hired to write another one, you have just put yourself in .001% of people in the world. It’s a really, really complicated system with a lot of ups and downs. To get a movie to the screen? I think Ben and I’s ratio — and keep in mind that we’re at the top end of the game — we write about eight films — and I’m not talking specs. I’m talking eight studios jobs. One in eight can go. That’s if you’re at the very top of your game. By the way, it’s really, really fun and we love it, but the system is crazy and everyone will hate you on the internet. If you can handle those two things, you can be a very happy person.

CS: You guys wrote the script for a movie that I know isn’t one of your highlights, but I’m particularly fascinated by the continuity of and that’s “Herbie: Fully Loaded.”

Lennon: There’s a chapter about that in our book! That’s a movie where that, after we were fired from, 24 other writers followed. That, in our book, is a textbook case of when development does not work. Or it sort of goes wrong.

Garant: Our draft of that was really, really cool and good, believe it or not.

Lennon: Yeah, we were thinking, “Man, kid’s movies suck,” and really wanted to make a kid’s movie that didn’t suck. Then we did one and it turned out that it sucked. Here’s the thing though: 24 other writers came on after us and, pretty much scene by scene, it’s still every single part of our script. And it still f–ing sucks!

Garant: Man, people hated us so much for that one.

Lennon: It’s kind of like, pick your poison: Either they rewrite everything you have to say and you go, “God damn it! They rewrote everything and this movie sucks!” or they’ll shoot exactly what you wrote and it will also suck.

CS: There is something about that as a sequel, though, that seems to be more and more commonplace in that it maintains continuity with the whole of the Herbie franchise and doesn’t just reboot everything.

Lennon: Oh, sure! When we started writing, we said, “You know the one thing this movie isn’t going to start with? Them finding an old Volkswagen in a junk yard.” Then that’s exactly what it started with.

Garant: Yeah, that was the very last reshoot they did. Him in a junkyard with a grumpy old mustachioed junkyard owner. Our whole pitch literally started with, “That’s not what we’re going to do!” and it was the very last thing to get added onto the movie.

CS: My brother works quite a bit with police officers and, ever since, has become incredibly fond of your show. It seems like it’s not an uncommon comment that there are things about law enforcement that you’ve nailed.

Lennon: Many, many police officers have told me — and they’re not kidding — that “Reno 911!” is the most accurate police show they’ve ever seen. It’s a very common occurrence. And we kind of know why. It’s not because we’re buffoons or because we’re doing whippets in the cop car. It’s because we sound like real people. Because all the dialogue is improvised.

Garant: We also do something that most cop shows cut out, which is show the long, boring hours in-between the terrifying things. It’s a really boring job when you’re not getting shot at.

Lennon: There’s a lot of paperwork.

Garant: I mean, I’m sure there are cops that just don’t like it, but I’ve never met one. Every cop who has ever recognized us has just loved the show.

Lennon: There was a little bit of an incident at the very beginning when the Washoe Sherrif’s department got called asking, “Why are you letting your officers be filmed?” There is no Reno Sherrif’s department. There’s a Reno police department and a Washoe County Sherrif’s department. But when we go to Reno, they’re very, very nice to us.

“Reno 911! The Complete Series” is now available.

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Weekend: Dec. 13, 2018, Dec. 16, 2018

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