: 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 it’s a surprise to few it’s 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 he’s ever managed to upset or offend, and it’s 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. It’s a not entirely successful gamble, with particularly the coma segue missing the mark.
That’s not to say, however, that My Name Is Earl doesn’t 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 can’t 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 Lee’s Earl going down his list of wrongs to right. It’s 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 show’s debut season, is nonetheless back near the programme’s 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 doesn’t 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. --Jon Foster
All 91 episodes from seasons 1-4 of the American comedy series starring Jason Lee as Earl, whose life has hitherto been full of poor choices and mistakes. Upon discovering that he is the holder of a winning ticket, Earl is hit by a car and the ticket blows out of his limp hand as he lies unconscious in the street. While recovering in the hospital and watching television, Earl has a karmic epiphany, thanks to Carson Daly, who attributes his success to doing good for others. A light bulb goes off in Earl's dim head and he sets out to right every wrong he has done. Episodes are: 'Pilot', 'Quit Smoking', 'Randy's Touchdown', 'Faked His Own Death', 'Teacher Earl', 'Broke Joy's Fancy Figurine', 'Stole Beer from a Golfer', 'Joy's Wedding', 'Cost Dad the Election', 'White Lie Christmas', 'Barn Burner', 'O Karma, Where Art Thou', 'Stole P's HD Cart', 'Monkeys in Space', 'Something to Live For', 'The Professor', 'Didn't Pay Taxes', 'Dad's Car', 'Y2K', 'Boogeyman', 'The Bounty Hunter', 'Stole a Badge', 'BB', 'Number One', 'Very Bad Things', 'Jump for Joy', 'Sticks and Stones', 'Larceny of a Kitty Cat', 'Van Hickey', 'Made a Lady Think I Was God', 'Mailbox', 'Robbed a Stoner Blind', 'Born a Gamblin' Man', 'South of the Border Part Uno', 'South of the Border Part Dos', 'Our 'Cops' Is On', 'Buried Treasure', 'Kept a Guy Locked in a Truck', 'Foreign Exchange Student', 'Blow', 'The Birthday Party', 'Guess Who's Coming Out of Joy', 'Harassed a Reporter', 'Two Balls, Two Strikes', 'G.E.D.', 'Get a Real Job', 'The Trial', 'My Name Is Inmate #28301-016 (Part 1)', 'My Name Is Inmate #28301-016 (Part 2)', 'The Gangs of Camden County', 'The Frank Factor', 'Creative Writing', 'Frank's Girl', 'Our Other Cops Is On! (Part 1)', 'Our Other Cops Is On! (Part 2)', 'Randy in Charge: Of Our Days and Our Nights', 'Midnight Bun', 'Burn Victim', 'Early Release', 'Bad Earl', 'I Won't Die With a Little Help from My Friends (Part 1)', 'I Won't Die With a Little Help from My Friends (Part 2)', 'Stole a Motorcycle', 'No Heads and a Duffle Bag Killerball', 'Love Octagon', 'Girl Earl', 'Camdenites (Part 1), 'Camdenites (Part 2)', 'The Magic Hour', 'Monkeys Take a Bath', 'Joy in a Bubble', 'Stole an RV', 'Sweet Johnny', 'We've Got Spirit', 'Quit Your Snitchin'', 'Little Bad Voodoo Brother', 'Sold a Guy a Lemon Car', 'Earl and Joy's Anniversary', 'Nature's Game Show', 'Reading Is a Fundamental Case', 'Orphan Earl', 'Got the Babysitter Pregnant', 'Darnell Outed (Part 1)', 'Darnell Outed (Part 2)', Randy's List Item', 'Friends With Benefits', 'My Name Is Alias', 'Chaz Dalton's Space Academy', 'Witch Lady', 'Pinky', 'Bullies', 'Gospel', 'Inside Probe (Part 1)', 'Inside Probe (Part 2)' and 'Dodge's Dad'.