On paper, it probably didn't seem like the kind of series that was going to win Emmys: a show about a low-life who, as he notes in the opening credits, is the kind of guy who makes people nervous and wait in their car when they see him in a convenience store. Oh, and that "he'll steal anything that isn't nailed down." Yet, the good-hearted series became a surprise hit during its first season and walked away with 4 Emmys and was nominated for a fifth for actress Jamie Pressley.
The series stars Jason Lee ("Chasing Amy", "Mallrats") as Earl, a drifter who finds himself tied down to a cheating wife named Joy (Pressley) who got him to marry her when he was drunk. Divorced from her in the pilot episode, Earl finally hits the jackpot with a $100,000 scratch-off lottery ticket, which promptly floats away after he's hit by a passing motorist a moment after scratching the ticket.
Drugged up in a hospital bed, Earl is flipping through the channel when he lands on "Last Call With Carson Daly", where the former "TRL" host is discussing karma. The cracked, flickering light bulb goes off over Earl's head: he'll turn his life around by making a giant list of all of his wrongs and trying to make each of them right. Whenever he's totally and completely fixed something or someone he's screwed up, he gets to cross another number off his list.
Along for the ride are Earl's dim-witted brother, Randy (Ethan Suplee, who co-starred with Lee in Kevin Smith's films) and the maid of the flea-bag hotel he lives in, Catalina (Nadine Velazquez). Also popping in at times are Joy (Jaime Pressly) and Joy’s new husband Darnell “Crabman” Turner (Eddie Staples). Shortly after he finds out about karma, the ticket drifts back into his life.
The second series largely sticks to the same formula - Earl helps those he wronged in the past - but does weave in the plotline of Joy getting into serious trouble when she gets into a battle over a bargain store. In the season opener, "Very Bad Things", Joy becomes a huge fan of the reality show, "Britney and Kevin: Chaotic" ("Those two are like American royalty," says Joy.) When she spots a TV on the show that disappears into the cabinet, she buys one - and it won't fit into the trailer. When the store won't take it back, she steals the delivery truck, which has surprising cargo.
After Joy gets busted, she's none too pleased to find that it's her third strike and it doesn't look like she'll be getting out any time soon. The gang turns to local "entrepenur" Richard Chubby (Burt Reynolds) for help. Although many episodes focus only on Earl's continuing actions to help those he wronged, the thread of Joy trying to stay out of trouble occasionally returns and figures in quite significantly to the surprising season finale.
Some of the highlights of the season include: "Made a Lady Think I Was God" (Earl tries to make up for making a woman - played by guest Roseanne - to think God was telling her to bring him and Joy her posessions); "Our Cops is On" (the gang watches a repeat of "Cops" that features themselves being chased by the local cops); "South of the Border" (a two parter where Randy and Earl head to Mexico in order to get Catalina - who was deported - back); "Blow" (Joy finds out that one of her enemies, Liberty - played by Tamala Jones - is actually her half-sister) and "Sticks and Stones" (Earl seeks to apologize to a bearded girl - played by guest star Judy Greer - he made fun of as a kid, and finds that she is living in a community with other people who work as carnival attractions.)
"Earl" wouldn't be what it is without the cast, as well. Lee is terrific at reactions and offers an energetic performance. Pressly's also a highlight and is a good contrast to Lee (and yet, the two also have good chemistry.) Suplee is wonderful as Earl's good-natured brother, as well. The series also pulls in some great guest stars, including Christian Slater, Roseanne and Burt Reynolds. Overall, "Earl" is a sweet, very funny series that - like most shows - plays even better on DVD.
25. 2- 1 21 Sep 06 Very Bad Things (1)
26. 2- 2 28 Sep 06 Jump For Joy (2)
27. 2- 3 5 Oct 06 Sticks & Stones
28. 2- 4 12 Oct 06 Larceny Of A Kitty Cat
29. 2- 5 19 Oct 06 Van Hickey
30. 2- 6 2 Nov 06 Made A Lady Think I Was God
31. 2- 7 9 Nov 06 Mailbox
32. 2- 8 16 Nov 06 Robbed A Stoner Blind
33. 2- 9 30 Nov 06 Born a Gamblin Man
34. 2-10 7 Dec 06 South of the Border Part Uno
35. 2-11 7 Dec 06 South of the Border Part Dos
36. 2-12 4 Jan 07 Our 'Cops' is On
37. 2-13 11 Jan 07 Buried Treasure
38. 2-14 18 Jan 07 Kept A Guy Locked In A Truck
39. 2-15 1 Feb 07 Foreign Exchange Student
40. 2-16 8 Feb 07 Blow
41. 2-17 15 Feb 07 The Birthday Party
42. 2-18 22 Feb 07 Guess Who's Coming Out of Joy
43. 2-19 12 Apr 07 Harassed A Reporter
44. 2-20 19 Apr 07 Two Balls, Two Strikes
45. 2-21 26 Apr 07 G.E.D.
46. 2-22 3 May 07 Get a Real Job
47. 2-23 10 May 07 The Trial
VIDEO: "My Name Is Earl" is presented by Fox in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation from Fox is absolutely terrific, as the show often looked slightly better here than broadcast quality. Sharpness and detail were consistently terrific, as fine details were often clearly visible.
The only issue noticed were a few minor instances of artifacting. Otherwise, the picture looked clear and clean, with no edge enhancement or wear. Colors remained bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other concerns. Black level looked strong, as well. Overall, the show looked simply superb here.
SOUND: The show's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is largely straightforward, with the majority of the audio coming from the front speakers. Audio quality is perfectly fine, with crisp dialogue and no distortion or other concerns.
EXTRAS: "Sticks and Stones" offers a commentary from Creator/Executive Producer Greg Garcia, Writer/Producer Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, Actor/Producer Jason Lee, Actors Ethan Suplee and Giovanni Ribisi; "Larceny of a Kitty Cat" offers comments from Creator/Executive Producer Greg Garcia, Writer/Executive Story Editor Hilary Winston, Producer/Actor Jason Lee, Actors Ethan Suplee; "Van Hickey" offers comments from Creator/Executive Producer Greg Garcia, Producer/Actor Jason Lee, Actors Ethan Suplee and Giovanni Ribisi; "Our Cops is On" has a track with Creator/Executive Producer Greg Garcia, Writer/Consulting Producer/Actor Tim Stack, Actors Ethan Suplee and Jaime Pressly.
"Kept a Guy Locked in a Truck" offers a discussion with Creator/Executive Producer Greg Garcia, Producer/Actor Jason Lee, Actor Ethan Suplee and Fans Beth Perry and Alesia Lewis; "Foreign Exchange Student" offers comments from Creator/Executive Producer Greg Garcia, Writer/Executive Producer Bobby Bowman, Writer/Producer Mike Mariano and Actors Ethan Suplee and Nadine Velazquez; "Guess Who's Coming Out of Joy" offers comments from Creator/Executive Producer Greg Garcia, Actors Jaime Pressly, Eddie Steeples and Beau Bridges and finally, "The Trial" offers comments from Creator/Executive Producer Greg Garcia, Director Mike Fresco, Editor Billy Marrinson, Producer/Actor Jason Lee and Actor Ethan Suplee.
On the fourth disc, we also get "Karma: Take 2", a lengthy and very funny blooper reel that shows the cast having a laugh as they screw up several takes. "Robbed a Stoner Blind” From Start to Finish" is a 40-minute "making of" doc that follows the cast and crew step-by-step as they go through the process of filming an episode. We see the early table read, discussion of the production issues at a pre-production meeting, a discussion of directing on the series, location work and post production. It's an excellent featurette that provides a great overview of what it takes to get an episode made.
"Web Cam" is a set of short in-character featurettes done for the internet. Finally, "My Name Is Earl as a Telenovela" is a fake promo presenting the series as a Spanish soap opera. Pretty amusing.
Final Thoughts: "My Name Is Earl" is a sweet, often very funny series that benefits from a terrific ensemble and solid writing. The writing is taken up another notch this season, as the dialogue is a bit funnier and faster and the situations enjoyably even more absurd. The DVD set boasts excellent video quality, fine audio and a really nice set of supplements. Recommended.