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Tim Allen's Hilarious Reno 911! Cameo Explained

This content was paid for by Quibi and created by Looper.

After an 11 year hiatus, Reno 911! returned to television on May 4, 2020. This time around, it delivers its law-enforcing shenanigans via Quibi, the latest short-form streaming service to hit the scene. The new season pulls out all the stops, bringing back cast members both major and minor. Even with their reunited comedy troupe, the seventh season squeezed in a few celebrity cameos for fun.

All things considered, Tim Allen's appearance on the episode aptly entitled "Space Force" is among the best of the entire series. The main plot revolves around Lieutenant Dangle (Thomas Lennon), who wants more than anything to join the ranks of the United States Space Force. Of course, this is a long shot. To appease his aspirations, his colleagues pay off a traveling ventriloquist to play Commander Lance (Tim Allen), the Space Force recruitment officer, who runs Dangle through arbitrary drills and procedures to get him ready for space.

Allen's time as the fictitious Space Force commander is hilarious. His training exercises with Dangle are nothing short of absurd, and they make for a great episode. The twist that he isn't even a real military commander makes it all the more hilarious. Interestingly, this brief guest spot actually bears some striking similarities to Allen's earlier work on the big screen.

Tim Allen's cameo references an actual United States military branch

As previously mentioned, Lieutenant Dangle's coworkers at the Reno Sheriff's Department were in on Lance's true identity all along. They hired him to humor their superior officer and make him believe all of the letters to Vice President Mike Pence about joining the US Space Force actually had an impact. The concept of an actual Space Force is an element ripped from the headlines, believe it or not. The United States Space Force is the newest branch of the armed forces. Like, for real.

Effective December 20, 2019, the US Space Force was established as a true branch of the military. It hasn't seen much action so far, but time will tell how integral it becomes to US national security. The United States Space Force Act ordered its creation with a mission to protect the people through space warfare. It sounds like a mission statement right out of a science fiction novel, but this is 2020 we're talking about. Science fiction is pretty much the new status quo.

Reno 911! vaguely alludes to Tim Allen's Buzz Lightyear character

Aside from connections to the real world, Tim Allen's Reno 911! surprise appearance relates to his filmography. Most noteworthy in this context is his performance voicing Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story franchise. Buzz is a space ranger sent out to defend those in need from tyranny and evil, obviously. His objective is to help people and carry out his galactic missions, which would make him a pretty nice fit for the Space Force. 

Allen has been the voice of Buzz Lightyear since the very first Toy Story movie in 1995 up until the most recent one in 2019. Over the years he's become synonymous with the Star Command ranger even more than many of his live-action roles. Coming into Reno 911!'s revival season to play Commander Lance, a man of similar (fake) employment, is no mere coincidence. It's no wonder Allen seemed such a natural in the role.

Tim Allen has more experience as a pretend spaceman than any other actor in Hollywood

The interesting thing about Tim Allen's part on Reno 911! is that it was an acting role within an acting role. He played a ventriloquist playing Commander Lance. Surprisingly, this isn't the first occasion in which he's played someone pretending to be a savvy space explorer. 1999's cult classic film Galaxy Quest, in which Allen stars, includes a similar central conceit.

In the film, Allen's Jason Nesmith is a washed up TV actor milking the convention circuit for everything its worth. His primary claim to fame was a role on Galaxy Quest, a show within the film about a ragtag crew of space explorers a la Star Trek. As the film launches into its zany plot, Nesmith is abducted by actual aliens alongside his cast-mates from their classic sci-fi TV series. The extraterrestrials believe all of their serialized adventures to be historical and enlist their help to overthrow their oppressive planetary government. Allen and his crew of actors find themselves whisked off to space, and charged with saving an entire alien race — higher stakes than training Dangle, certainly, but still an interesting parallel.

Reno 911!'s comeback season is streaming exclusively on Quibi. Sign up today with plans starting as low as $4.99, with full access to their ever-expanding library of originals, reboots, and adaptations.