"MY NAME IS EARL: SEASON ONE"
by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
Jason Lee as EARL HICKEY
Jamie Pressly as JOY HICKEY
Ethan Suplee as RANDY HICKEY
Nadine Velazquez as CATALINA
Eddie Steeples as CRAB MAN
Created by: Greg Garcia
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Karma is a complex concept, if you really want to study it. However, if you want to boil it down to its simplest form so a rock-stupid redneck can understand it, it’s basically the concept that if you do good things, good things will happen to you.
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We all know this isn’t always the case. There are plenty of yahoos out there that are bad people and continue to have good things happen to them. But still, having some respect for karma isn’t a bad way to lead your life.
This is put into practice in the new show “My Name Is Earl.” The show came out of nowhere, it seemed, and it became a sensation. It’s a classic example of how Hollywood is always afraid of a different show, but when its done right in spite of the powers that be, it works like a charm.
“My Name Is Earl” stars Jason Lee as Earl Hickey, a career criminal and white trash poster child. He’s got a sleazy wife (played by the lovely and effervescent Jamie Pressly) and a sleazy brother (played by ex-Frankie the Enforcer Ethan Suplee) who is usually his partner in crime. After being hit by a car only seconds after winning $100,000 on a scratch-off lottery ticket, Earl is hospitalized.
While in the hospital, Earl watches a clip of Carson Daly who explains the redneck version of karma is why his life is so great. Earl then decides that karma was responsible for almost killing him, and he needed to change his ways pronto. So, Earl makes a list of everyone he has wronged and uses his lottery winnings to help these folks out to undo his bad karma.
I’ll admit, the premise is a bit of a stretch, but the real magic of this show is in how the stories are constructed and the cast who performs it. Simply put, it’s one of the best cast shows on television. Jason Lee is completely in his element, and his chemistry with Jamie Pressly and Ethan Suplee is amazing. At the same time, he isn’t the hog of the show, and everyone gets a chance to shine.
“My Name Is Earl” provides a slate of hilarious stories and one-liner zingers you’d expect from a show like “Family Guy.” “My Name Is Earl” takes a page from the “Scrubs” template. It’s shot like a film rather than a multi-camera sit-com. Back in the day, these so-called half-hour “dramadies” were few and far between. Nowadays, filming without a live studio audience works well, and often produces some of the best stuff on television.
The biggest danger the show faces is a possibility of growing out of its premise. While Earl’s list numbers over 200, I’m hoping the writers can continue to come up with funny ways for Earl to earn his good karma back. Also, when a show presents a cast of hilarious dysfunctional characters, it’s hard to not let them grow and become better people.
Other hit shows like “Arrested Development” struggled to keep the characters you love to hate remain hateful but lovable. Still, even though these characters are creepy redneck thugs, they are loveable in their own right.
Like many first seasons of television shows, the inaugural DVD of “My Name Is Earl” comes with a great selection of bonus features along with all 24 episodes from the season. Select episodes have audio commentary with the cast and crew. There are quite a few deleted scenes with optional audio commentary. Other features include a blooper reel and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
However, the best part of the DVD is an exclusive spoof of the show itself: “Bad Karma.” This Earl misadventure is a supposed lost pilot in which the filmmakers explore what would have happened if Earl took the advice of Stewie Griffin from “Family Guy” instead of Carson Daly, thus spewing even more bad karma into the world.
Specifications: Dolby Digital .1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.78:1) – Enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French language track. French and Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.