My Name Is Earl - Seasons 1-4 £54.97 @ Amazon - 16 DVD Set
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Season 1: The most original comedy since Arrested Development, My Name is Earl marked the launch of a lovable new loser. Earl Hickey (Jason Lee) sleeps all day and drinks all night. The pattern ends when he buys a scratch card--and wins $100,000. Seconds later, he's hit by a car and loses the ticket. While in the hospital, wife Joy (Emmy nominee Jaime Pressly) leaves him for Darnell the Crab Man (Eddie Steeples). Doped up on morphine, he's watching TV when Carson Daly says something about karma. Earl decides that's his problem: bad karma. He resolves to spend the rest of his life making up for all the harm he's ever done. In the pilot, Earl and brother Randy (Ethan Suplee) start by picking up litter around their motel (Joy got the trailer). While they're at it, Earl finds the lost ticket and collects his bounty. The plan is working! Along with comely maid Catalina (Nadine Velazquez), they set off to right more wrongs. Created by Greg Garcia and teamed with The Office, My Name is Earl put NBC back on the must-see comedy map. Unlike most sitcoms, it drops the studio audience in favor of flashbacks, freeze frames, first-person narration, and extensive So-Cal location work. A soundtrack heavy on blue collar favorites, like Lynyrd Skynyrd, completes the picture.
Throughout the season, Earl gives an old girlfriend self-respect ("Faked My Own Death"), plans his ex-wife's big day ("Joy's Wedding"), and makes up for the birthday he ruined ("Monkeys in Space"). First year guests include Brett Butler ("White Lie Christmas"), Juliette Lewis ("The Bounty Hunter"), and Emmy nominee Jon Favreau ("O Karma, Where Art Thou?"). Giovanni Ribisi and Beau Bridges also stop by as, respectively, Earl's pal Ralph and father Carl. Speaking of originality, "Dad's Car," which takes place during Mother's Day, features commentary from the mothers of Lee, Suplee, Garcia, and director Marc Buckland. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Season 2: After cooking up a winning formula for the first season, this karmic comedy could afford to shake things up. In Earl's equally successful second, there's an episode incorporating clay animation ("Robbed a Stoner Blind" with Christian Slater), an homage to Cops ("Our 'Cops' Is On!" with Kathy Kinney), a two-parter set in Latin America ("South of the Border" with John Leguizamo), and a Tarantino-style whodunnit with narration split between Earl, Randy, Joy, and Crab Man ("Buried Treasure").
As before, Earl (Jason Lee), in cahoots with brother Randy (Ethan Suplee), continues in his quest to become "a better person." He starts by turning to Camden County strip club owner Richard Chubby (Burt Reynolds) to get ex-wife Joy out of a jam involving stolen merchandise ("Jump for Joy"). Joy's struggle to evade prison will last all year, during which Earl falls for her "hot professional" lawyer (Marlee Matlin). Other highlights include "Sticks & Stones," in which Earl gives a bearded lady (Judy Greer) back her confidence, and "Larceny of a Kitty Cat," in which the allergic Randy dates a feline fancier (Amy Sedaris). When that comes to an end, he finally works up the nerve to tell motel maid Catalina (Nadine Velazquez) how he really feels about her ("Foreign Exchange Student').
From the start, Earl attracted a colourful array of talent. That trend continues with Roseanne Barr as a nun ("Made a Lady Think I Was God") and John Waters as a funeral director ("Kept a Guy Locked in a Truck"). Emmy nominees Giovanni Ribisi and Beau Bridges also return for a few episodes, along with other first-season favourites, like Patty, the Daytime Hooker (Dale Dickey). As with the previous set, there's a bushel of extras, including deleted scenes, commentary, and a blooper reel. --Kathleen C. Fennessy, Amazon.com
Season 3: So strong and simple was the original premise to My Name Is Earl that its a surprise to few its managed to fuel three straight seasons of the show and counting. Earl, played magnificently by Jason Lee, is on a continuing mission to make things up with every person hes ever managed to upset or offend, and its to the credit of the writers that they continue to mind this in quite such inspired fashion.
Which makes it puzzling as to why the third season of My Name Is Earl takes, for long periods, a different direction. Instead of working on his list of karma, Earl instead finds himself in more traditional sit-com scenarios. Its a not entirely successful gamble, with particularly the coma segue missing the mark.
Thats not to say, however, that My Name Is Earl doesnt work, because some of the writing in this third series is as good as anything the show has delivered before, with a plethora of belly-laughs to look forward to. And you cant help but admire the boldness in some of the thinking here. It may not be the strongest season of the show to date, but it is nonetheless arguably the most interesting. --Jon Foster
Season 4: The fourth and final season of My Name Is Earl continues with the overriding idea of Jason Lees Earl going down his list of wrongs to right. Its a simple concept for a show, as Earl tries to restore karma to his life, and it lends itself really well to the episodic format of a comedy show.
Season four of My Name Is Earl wisely gets things back on track after a bumpy-and-not-entirely-successful third series, and delivers many standout moments in the classic tradition of the show. It also fills in a few bits of back story, and the laugh count, while not quite up there with the shows debut season, is nonetheless back near the programmes peak. It goes without saying that the ensemble cast of characters, led by the terrific Jason Lee, are as fun to watch as always, and are set to be sadly missed now that the curtain has fallen on the show.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment with My Name Is Earl is that it doesnt end particularly comfortably. There were clearly plans afoot for a fifth season, and that does mean that those looking for a finale with a nice big bow are in for a disappointment. Those, however, tempted by one last run for a very funny comedy series are far more likely to have their investment rewarded, though, and My Name Is Earl is set to be a show enjoyed on DVD for a long time to come.