My Name is Earl: Season Two – DVD Review

Created by:
Greg Garcia

Starring:
Jason Lee … Earl Hickey
Ethan Suplee … Randy Hickey
Jaime Pressly … Joy Turner
Eddie Steeples … Darnell Turner
Nadine Velazquez … Catalina

Studio: 20th Century Fox.
Release Date: September 25, 2007.
Number of Discs: 4.
Number of Episodes: 22.
Running Time: 508.
MSRP: $49.98.
Available at Amazon.com

The Show


When it first started making a name for itself, My Name is Earl was never on my “must see” list. Something about the way NBC was marketing it as some strange white trash comedy that glorified trailer park living felt like they were desperately trying to steal Fox’s target demographic. The huge marketing blitz caused me to turn a cold shoulder on the show before the first episode even aired. I couldn’t even open up a magazine without hearing Jason Lee’s voice. Then something strange happened, it started being hailed by critics as one of the best new programs on television. In fact it wasn’t until the show made its way to DVD that I was able to see it for the shining piece of brilliant programming that it was.

The shows entire premise was set up early on, in the very first episode actually. At one time, Earl Hickey was the kind of guy who if you saw walking towards you, you’d probably cross the street. He was a bad guy who only knew how to lie, cheat and steal his way through life. Then one day fate intervened by way of him be struck by an automobile shortly after winning $100,000 off of a lucky scratch ticket. While bed ridden at the hospital channel surfing one night, he was introduced to the concept of karma. Naturally, he learns this piece of wisdom from Carson Daily.

This then set Earl off on a mission to write up a list of all the wrong things he’s done and he plans to make up for his past one good deed at a time, but he not alone. Along with his trusted motto of “Do good things and good things will happen to you,” he’s accompanied by his kind hearted brother, Randy, to help him when the list items are too big for just one man to handle. They’re also surrounded by supporting characters like Catalina, their trusted friend and maid at the Motel they stay in. While Earl is off trying to better himself, he has plenty of negative forces working against him. More specifically, his ex-wife Joy who left him for the mysterious guy known only as Crabman from the Crab Shack; their local eatery and bar, after his accident. Only she did all of that before finding out about the lotto winnings.


The summation of season one saw Earl with a completely new outlook on life. He was a giving member of society and his long journey since the very first item on his list that he crossed off has made him a better person. Season two continues that dedication of helping those who he wronged in the past where each week we see him learning something new and being better for it. There are also a few episodes where we see Earl being a bit too full of himself, ignoring his list and then having Karma to deal with, much like the incident with the bees in the first season.

Last season was set up in a way where you could basically jump in to the story at any point and still get a general idea of the characters history. This newer season, on the other hand, features a change of pace for the show. Implementing longer subplots that take place anywhere from the entire season to just a small handful of episodes. Don’t be afraid of those changes though as Earl’s list is still at the forefront of the writers’ mind.

We start the season off with Earl continuing his quest of crossing off all of the wrong doings on his list and Randy still pines for the spicy Catalina while continuing to helps Earl with his list. Joy has found herself in a whole heap of trouble and on the wrong side of the law. After stealing a truck from the local Bargain Bag for not returning the wall unit she saw on Britney & Kevin: Chaotic, she soon realizes that she accidentally kidnapped a Bargain Bag employee who was still in the back of the truck. Looking at a life sentence, she soon starts cooking up half-brained ideas on how to appear to be a model citizen and has Earl try to help her. Oh, and we also learn more about Crabman’s mysterious past.


Every single show should start to take notes from the Earl writing team. They have taken a show that could easily have followed the “Earl discovers something new each week” idea and completely spun it on its head with this season. Proving that the show can go beyond a simple premise. In just two short years they’ve created a cast of characters who we’ve come to truly care about. Even from a pure technical stand point, Earl manages to make the A and B stories of each episode connect without feeling forced. It’s almost impossible to point out any single episode to display the genius of the show because all of them are packed with rapid fire comedy that always hits.

One of the biggest joys I personally get from watching Earl is seeing all of the wonderful character actors or guest stars that pop up in each episode. From returning guest stars like Beau Bridges as Earl’s father, Giovanni Ribisi as Randy and Earl’s childhood friend and former partner in crime, to Mike O’Malley reprising his role as the bowling aficionado cop. In this season we see even more familiar faces like John Leguizamo, Christian Slater, Rosanne Barr, Sean Astin, Kathy Kinney, Burt Reynolds, Norm Macdonald, John Waters and Jenny McCarthy among others step foot in Camden County. It’s important to mention this because unlike other shows like, say, Friends, the stars never take the focus away from the main players. And that’s where so many other sitcoms fail when incorporating familiar faces for one-off episodes. All of the guest stars are perfect for their roles.

What really made me turn around and embrace My Name is Earl was the character of Randy. As such an easy character to be blown out of proportions or played up for cheap laughs, Randy steals every scene he’s in because he’s so full of personality and sincerity. Even when he makes a mistake when helping Earl, he only has the best of intentions at heart. Surplee has Randy down pat and has crafted one of the best supporting characters of the modern age. So it was with Randy that I really saw how My Name is Earl wasn’t just another “white trash” comedy reaching for the lowest common denominator. Instead, it’s a sitcom with a heart of gold that advocates tolerance and acceptance. And it’s good to see that, given the current TV landscape where betrayal and cheating seem par for the course.

The DVD


As a note, the first seasons DVD stirred up quite a bit of controversy when viewers realized that a lot of the song selections had been changed. Which was a bit strange given how in this day and age almost every studio plans ahead for DVD releases when they license songs. For what it’s worth, it appears that all of the songs have been keep intact with this DVD set. Wisely, the creators worked the songs in to the stories via how the show was edited or having the characters mention a song by name. However, I’m not entirely sure the copy I was given is the exact version that will be on retail shelves.

Quality:
OK, I don’t like mentioning other reviews from other sites, because most of the time it never feels necessary and unprofessional. With Earl, I’m making an exception. I noticed recently that numerous websites reviewing this title are giving the audio and video portions high marks and lavishing the transfers and audio selections with heaps of praise. The problem with this is that, like every single internet reviewer covering this title, I received the series on four screener discs where the DVD-Rs (you read that correctly) have been compressed to less than half of their intended bitrate and are packed with wall-to-wall edge enhancements and numerous other compression artifacts. Don’t even get me started on the audio. And I personally feel that people should know that, while you may be reading good things, you’re being told lies. I’d write up an assessment of the material I was given, but what would be the point? It’d be a waste of both my time and yours. I’ll be sure to update this part of the review once I’m able to get my hands on the retail version.

Extras:

Feature Length Commentary – The one strong attribute that the Earl DVD sets have going for them is that their commentary tracks are an endless source of entertainment. Eight tracks have been recorded for this set in all. Spread across the commentaries we have series creator Greg Garcia, Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, Jamie Pressly, Nadine Velazquez, Eddie Steeples, Giovanni Ribisi, Beau Bridges, Amy Sedaris, TV’s Tim Stack, director Mike Fresco, editor Billy Marrinson, writer Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, writer Hilary Winston, writer/producer Bobby Bowman, writer/producer Mike Mariano, and “Television without Pity”‘s Beth Perry and Alesia Lewis. All of them are highly enjoyable and, while not always providing the most insight, show how much fun the cast and crew have making the show together and how proud they are of all their hard work — only without the egos.

Deleted Scenes (8:52) – There are ten deleted scenes spread out across the first three discs that coicide with the episode they’re from. Series creator Greg Garcia offers an optional commentary track which explains that the show hardly ever has extra material that doesn’t make its way to the final cut. And it’s easy to understand that given how little is actually here to watch. Most of the scenes are alternate takes of scenes or a line that was cut out to reach the shows necessary runtime for the week. Little is revealed here and seems to have only been included because all DVD sets need deleted scenes.

Karma: Take 2 Blooper Reel (9:29) – Unlike most blooper reels where it feels like someone is just running through material, looking for when the cast and crew crack up, adding it to the pile of footage for the DVD, this is a very well put together little extra. Each cast member is given their own little montage of goofs and quirks that for once don’t come across as too “inside.” Nadine Velazquez’s parts are especially funny when they reveal some of the things that the writers had her say in Spanish by translating them on the screen. And as always, we get to see Jason Lee break down and show off his dance moves.

The Web Cam (5:37) – Here we have six online videos that the cast recorded in character after the episode “Kept a Guy Locked in a Truck” aired. They were all at one point on the shows main web page and still hold up quite well. From Randy trying to find out who shot J.R., Joy getting word out about her eBay auctions, Earl looking for some unfamiliar people he did some terrible things to and Catalina knowing exactly what the internet is for, the clips are funny and enjoyable to watch.

My Name is Earl as a Telenovela (:59) – As a one minute spoof on all of the Spanish soap opera ads that make background characters appear to be the leads — because they’re so beautiful — this is pretty funny. The only problem is that while it’s very smart and edited well, it fells a lot like fluff that you won’t go back to more than once; might have served better as a viral marketing tool on the internet for fans to laugh at.

The Inside Pulse

Season two of My Name is Earl has created a fully realized world, showing us even more of the third and fourth tier characters of Camden County. All of the players have been fleshed out even further over the twenty-two episodes presented here, with the show never skipping a beat with its writing or storytelling. And with this season proving that anything can happen in Earl’s world, one can only wait and see what Garcia and his team have in store with season three.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for My Name is Earl: Season Two
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

9
THE VIDEO

N/A
THE AUDIO

N/A
THE EXTRAS

6.5
REPLAY VALUE

8.5
OVERALL
8
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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