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.
"Earl" doesn't veer away from its formula much, but the show gets its laughs from the creative stories and the unexpected predicaments that Earl ends up in in order to fix the problems he's created in the lives of others. Some of the situations include Earl trying to make up for faking his own death in order to avoid having to break up with a girl, spending his time as a guest lecturer in order to make up for a stolen university laptop, trying to repay his taxes, make up for stealing a cop's badge and realizing the consequences of taking advantage of a golfer who kept offering Earl free beers.
"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 does an exceptional job casting great one-episode actors and really makes the most of some of the notable guest stars, like Jon Faverau. Overall, "Earl" is a sweet, very funny series that - like most shows - plays even better on DVD.
"Earl"'s second season premieres 9/21/06.
1. 1- 1 20 Sep 05 Pilot
2. 1- 2 27 Sep 05 Quit Smoking
3. 1- 3 4 Oct 05 Randy's Touchdown
4. 1- 4 11 Oct 05 Faked His Own Death
5. 1- 5 18 Oct 05 Teacher Earl
6. 1- 6 1 Nov 05 Broke Joy's Fancy Figurine
7. 1- 7 8 Nov 05 Stole Beer From A Golfer
8. 1- 8 15 Nov 05 Joy's Wedding
9. 1- 9 22 Nov 05 Cost Dad the Election
10. 1-10 6 Dec 05 White Lie Christmas
11. 1-11 5 Jan 06 Barn Burner
12. 1-12 12 Jan 06 O Karma, Where Art Thou?
13. 1-13 19 Jan 06 Stole P'S Hd Cart
14. 1-14 26 Jan 06 Monkeys In Space
15. 1-15 2 Feb 06 Something To Live For
16. 1-16 9 Feb 06 The Professor
17. 1-17 2 Mar 06 Didn't Pay Taxes
18. 1-18 16 Mar 06 Dad's Car
19. 1-19 23 Mar 06 Y2K
20. 1-20 30 Mar 06 Boogeyman
21. 1-21 6 Apr 06 The Bounty Hunter
22. 1-22 27 Apr 06 Stole a Badge
23. 1-23 4 May 06 BB
24. 1-24 11 May 06 Number One
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: Producer/co-creator Greg Garcia, producer/director Marc Buckland, producer/actor Jason Lee and actor Ethan Suplee offer a commentary for the pilot episode. "Teacher Earl" has commentary from Producer/co-creator Greg Garcia, producer/actor Jason Lee and actors Ethan Suplee and Giovanni Ribisi. "Joy's Wedding" has a chat from Producer/co-creator Greg Garcia, producer/director Marc Buckland, producer/actor Jason Lee and actor Eddie Steeples. "White Lie Christmas" offers commentary from Producer/co-creator Greg Garcia, producer Tim Stack and actors Jamie Pressley and Nadine Velasquez. "O Karma, Where Art Thou?" offers comments from Producer/co-creator Greg Garcia, guest star Jon Faverau, producer/actor Jason Lee and actor Ethan Suplee.
"Dad's Car" offers commentary from the moms of Producer/co-creator Greg Garcia, producer/director Marc Buckland, producer/actor Jason Lee and actor Ethan Suplee. "Number One" offers commentary from Producer/co-creator Greg Garcia, producer/director Marc Buckland, producer/actor Jason Lee and actor Ethan Suplee and finally, the bonus episode, "Bad Karma", offers comments from Producer/co-creator Greg Garcia, producer/director Marc Buckland, producer/actor Jason Lee and actor Ethan Suplee.
The commentaries are a whole lot of fun, as the varying groups have a lot of fun chatting about what went on during filming and making cracks about elements of some of the episodes. The mother/son commentary is a lot of fun, as the mothers share stories about their kids and chat about their feelings regarding the series. All of the commentaries are definitely entertaining, but this one is especially worthwhile.
Veeerrry different is the "lost pilot" for the series, "Bad Karma". Instead of being inspired by Carson Daly, Earl is inspired here by Stewie Griffin of "Family Guy". So, instead of seeking good karma, Earl instead goes in the exact opposite direction and searches for revenge.
"Makin' Things Right" is an excellent 38-minute documentary that takes a look into how the series came together. Creator Greg Garcia and members of the cast and crew discuss how the series came together, casting the series, scheduling, the look of the series and the writing process.
"Karma is a Funny Thing" is the blooper reel for the season. It also has to be the very longest blooper reel I've ever seen included on a DVD, running at nearly 20 minutes. There's definitely some good laughs here though, and fans should get a kick out of it.
Finally, we get deleted scenes (with optional commentary) and a soundtrack promo.
Final Thoughts: "My Name Is Earl" is a sweet, often very funny series that benefits from a terrific ensemble and solid writing. The DVD set boasts excellent video quality, fine audio and a really nice set of supplements. Highly recommended.