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My Name Is Earl - Season Four
Proof that karma sometimes fails
Watching the blu-ray version of the September 15 release of the fourth season of the prematurely cancelled sitcom “My Name is Earl” brought another underappreciated creative sitcom to mind. An interview with Alan Spencer, who created the 1980s cop show parody “Sledgehammer,” stated in an interview for the DVD release of that show that he pushed successfully to have the laugh track removed for that release. Spencer said that the audience does not need to be told that something is funny.
I am not sure if the unusual elements of “Earl” or the fact that it lacked a laugh track were reasons for replacing it with what I predict is a lame and commercial-heavy Thursday night version of “Saturday Night Live.” I do not intend to watch that show to see if I am correct.
It is worth mentioning additionally that the better picture quality of the blu-ray version is a nice bonus. The outdoor scenes are much brighter, the purposefully seedy nature of the indoor locations is enhanced greatly, and the details of things such as the pigsquatch creature really come out.
The underlying premise of “Earl” is that the title character is a blue-collar small-time crook who discovers the power of karma, which essentially punishes you for doing bad things and rewards you for doing good things. Earl writes a list of the numerous crimes and general bad things that his has done and devotes his life to putting right what once went wrong because of his wrongdoing. Much of the humor comes from the initial bad deed and from things going awry when Earl tries to remedy the harm from it.
The eccentric blue-collar residents of Camden County where Earl lives provides the rest of the humor. Earl lives in a seedy motel with his dimwitted sloppy brother Randy, spends a great deal of time with his stereotypical trailer-trash ex-wife Joy, and hangs out at The Crab Shack where Joy’s current husband Darnell works.
Other residents of Camden include an unattractive prostitute/waitress, disgraced former TV star Tim Stack, and Catalina the stripper/motel maid. Catalina and the prostitute support the theory that working-class people cannot survive on one job in today’s economy.
The funniest missions that Earl undertook in the fourth season coincided with the best guest stars. The season premiere had Earl helping guest star Seth Green, currently of “Robot Chicken” and the Seth MacFarlane animated Fox comedies, make a minimal budget action film to compensate him for stealing a pony that Green’s character was supposed to ride in a parade as a child.
An even better episode had guest-star Betty White, of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Golden Girls,” appear as a “witch lady” who Earl and his friends tormented for years. The efforts of Earl to atone led to wonderfully twisted hilarity and offered a good lesson about tolerance.
White did her usual good job of depicting nastiness in a wonderfully sweet manner. I would love to share a cup of tea with her so long as she did not make it.
The show also seemed to suspect that its days were numbered. An episode that had Joy transformed temporarily into a bubble woman provided a Grinch-like moment in which her heart grew just a little. Further, Randy developed limited independence from Earl and a two-part episode explained the disappearance of the owner of the Crab Shack several years earlier.
The special features include the standard deleted scenes and gag reel. My favorite feature consisted of behind-the-scenes employees reading questions from fans that the stars and writers answered. This revealed candid information regarding limited efforts to achieve continuity through the series and divulged that creator Greg Garcia had the area of Waldorf, Maryland, in mind when creating the show.
My only complaint about the set is that I would have liked even a short resolution of the baby daddy season-ending cliffhanger.
Anyone who has thoughts about “Earl” and would like some karma points is encouraged to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Review by John Stahl
John Stahl is a freelance legal writer who is also a fan of classic and cult television programs. He can be reached at email@example.com.
My Name Is Earl - Season Four
Specs: Audio: English: 5.1 Dolby Surround
Episodes-Bonus Features: Disc 1: 182 Minutes
**The Magic Hour
Disc 2: 156 Minutes
**Little Bad Voodoo Brother
Disc 3: 182 Minutes
**Got the Babysitter Pregnant
Disc 4: 156 Minutes
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