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 fourth and final season of the series starts off with a small gag that is one of the saddest and funniest little throwaway bits of the series. Earl walks through a trailer park and comes across a kid hammering randomly on a xylophone. Earl smiles and notes, "You keep practicing little buddy. I gave up the xylophone and always regretted it." As he walks away, he says to Randy, "Lucky kid, still got a shot at bein' somebody."
The season continues to see Earl visiting others he's wronged from his past, including one episode that involves his own parents ("Monkeys Take a Bath"). In the episode, Earl and Randy decide they want to apologize to their sensitive childhood neighbor (played by David Paymer). While the two thought the neighbor moved because of their teasing, he actually moved because of an affair with Randy and Earl's mom. When Joy finds out, she approaches Earl's mom, first calling her a hypocrite, then wondering why they couldn't have gotten along if they were both so similar. Of course, Joy gets a negative - and, not surprisingly, familiar - response.
Later in the season, "Nature's Game Show" offers up another darkly amusing gag as a twister (and the show's attempt at showing a twister coming through is about the most hilariously cheap portrayal of a twister I've seen in ages) passes by the town, resulting in a "commonly accepted rule" coming into play: the rule of "finders keepers", as townsfolk scatter to pick up whatever they can from the items that have been blown around by the twister.
However, one of the biggest highlights of the season comes in the second half, with "Darnell Outed", a 2-parter that starts with Earl trying to help Joy get on the new reality show, "Estrada or Nada", starring the former "C.H.I.P.S." actor. Upon seeing the ad for the show, Earl proclaims to Randy, "We truly live in the golden age of television." Shortly after, Earl introduces Joy's audition tape for "Fear Factor". While Pressley has offered up some very funny performances during the four seasons of this series, this is certainly one of the best, even offering up a few genuinely touching moments. The episode sees Joy getting humiliated, which also results in Darnell's witness protection program cover being blown. The second half has Joy (who renames herself Goldie) and Darnell finding themselves in a new life in the 'burbs. Upset that he couldn't make Joy's dream of being famous come true, he sets off to find her - by mailing himself and Randy to Joy's new forwarding address. A few episodes later, Earl and Randy have to explain to Mr. Turtle (who has had a long journey) what happened.
"My Name is Earl" may have gotten a little repetitive at times and hit an occasional bumpy patch with one or two of the subplots, but the series certainly goes out on a high note with this terrific fourth and final season - there's not a bad episode in the bunch, and a few are particularly funny.
• Season 4
70 25/Sep/08 The Magic Hour
71 25/Sep/08 Monkeys Take a Bath
72 02/Oct/08 Joy In A Bubble
73 02/Oct/08 Stole an RV
74 09/Oct/08 Sweet Johnny
75 16/Oct/08 We've Got Spirit
76 23/Oct/08 Quit Your Snitchin'
77 30/Oct/08 Little Bad Voodoo Brother
78 06/Nov/08 Sold a Guy a Lemon Car
79 20/Nov/08 Nature's Game Show
80 13/Nov/08 Earl and Joy's Anniversary
81 04/Dec/08 Reading Is a Fundamental Case
82 11/Dec/08 Orphan Earl
83 08/Jan/09 Got the Babysitter Pregnant
84 15/Jan/09 Darnell Outed
85 22/Jan/09 Darnell Outed, Part 2
86 05/Feb/09 Randy's List Item
87 12/Feb/09 Friends with Benefits
88 19/Feb/09 My Name Is Alias
89 05/Mar/09 Chaz Dalton's Space Academy
90 19/Mar/09 Witch Lady
91 26/Mar/09 Pinky
92 16/Apr/09 Bullies
93 23/Apr/09 Gospel
94 30/Apr/09 Insider Probe (Part 1)
95 07/May/09 Insider Probe (Part 2)
96 14/May/09 Dodge's Dad
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: Given the amount of commentaries offered on the prior season sets, it's more than a little surprising that none are offered here. For the final season, we don't get much in the way of supplemental features - all that are offered a deleted scenes (some of which are quite funny), the 30-minute "Earl's Mail Bag" featurette (Lee and the rest of the cast answer viewer mail), spoof trailer for the movie that one episode revolved around and a gag reel. A nice retrospective featurette wrapping up the series would have been welcome.
Final Thoughts: "My Name is Earl" may have gotten a little repetitive at times and hit an occasional bumpy patch with one or two of the subplots, but the series certainly goes out on a high note with this terrific fourth and final season - there's not a bad episode in the bunch, and a few are particularly funny. The DVD set offers minimal supplements, but audio/video quality is fine. Highly Recommended.