There’s a charm that My Name is Earl has and it’s been there since the first episode. The show doesn’t have a lot of biting or quick fire humor like NBC’s other Thursday night lineup (30 Rock and The Office, both of which are awesome) but there’s something about Earl that just makes you feel good while watching it. With all the CSI and other FBI murder shows on air, it’s refreshing to see a show about a guy who tries to do nothing but good.
In My Name is Earl’s second season, we get an arc throughout the season that begins in the first episode and carries over into the shows third season (now airing). With Joy’s hijacking of a delivery truck, she gets the third strike on her record and faces jail time. Joy, still pregnant, is pleading her case and right when the hammer is about to drop, Earl turns himself and confesses to the crime that Joy committed. Despite the upswing his life was taking, Earl is shipped off to prison and that’s where we leave him as the final second’s role of the season two finale.
I was surprised how much I’d forgotten about the second season. While I watched every episode as it aired, considering it’d been over a year since the season two premiere, it’s no wonder so much left my head already. There were only a few episodes in this season that I didn’t like, one of which was the “Our ‘Cops’ Is On!” Everyone I talked to who watched the show seemed to enjoy it, but I didn’t realize it until I watched it on DVD that I missed the first half of the show, so I had no idea what was going on with this sudden and utterly random seeming episode. It still was random, but after finally realizing what was going on, it is cool to see what the “gang” was like back before Earl turned straight.
On top of the myriad of great episodes this season, there is a fair share of cameos in this season as well. The biggest was Roseanne Barr in the “Made a Lady Think I was God” episode who absolutely made that episode what it was. Burt Reynolds as Chubby (in “Jump For Joy”), Norm MacDonald as Little Chubby (“Two Balls, Two Strikes”) and Christian Slater in “Robbed a Stoner Blind.” All of the cameos work well in the show and none are there just for NBC to promote (not that I’m taking a dig at 30 Rock, mind you—if guest stars it what it takes to keep that show on the air, bring on the Seinfeld’s!) Also seeing Giovanni Ribisi show up as Ralph Mariano on more than one occasion is always a treat.
As I said before, I think the greatest thing about Earl is that, aside from the superb writing and hilarious situations, the show has real heart to it. The biggest instances of this are Catalina’s speech to earl in “Jump For Joy” (“I will not jump for Joy. I will jump for Earl.”) and, of course, the big sacrifice by Earl in the season finale for Joy. The show simply makes the viewer feel happy to watch it and while I’m sure the “white trash” element of the show many turn some off, My Name is Earl is just a feel-good show that you can easily watch and laugh at. There are a few episodes this season that take the vulgarity up a notch (in the episode “Van Hickey”), but for the most part the show is something that can be enjoyed by all-ages, which isn’t something that can be said for a lot of shows on TV today. Highly Recommended.
This four-disc set of My Name is Earl comes packaged in two two-disc thinpaks inside a cardboard slip case. Art for both of the thin-paks is similar to the main cover, with Earl sitting in a chair with the cast around him. Disc art features the cast on each disc (Earl on disc 1, Randy on disc 2, Catalina on disc 3 and Joy and Crabman on disc 4) and menus for the show are, from what I can tell, identical to the way the first season was set up with the scratch-off lottery ticket. If it looks like the producers of the DVD slacked off after producing a superb season 1 release, just wait till we dig into the extras.
The first of the extras are the commentaries, spread across eight episodes (“Sticks & Stones”, “Larceny of a Kitty Cat”, “Van Hickey”, “Our ‘Cops’ Is On!”, “Kept a Guy Locked in a Truck”, “Foreign Exchange Student”, “Guess Who’s Coming Out of Joy” and “The Trial”). All of the commentaries are a riot to listen to and feature plenty of behind-the-scenes insight into the show. The best tracks are the ones with Lee, as he’s both the star of the show as well as a producer, allowing him to give insight into more areas of the show.
Next up are a few rounds of deleted scenes on discs one and two. There’s not a whole lot of extra material shot, so we only get a mixture of eight minutes of deleted scenes. Greg Garcia (creator and executive producer) provides an intro the scenes and lets the viewers know what they’re in for. It’s kind of odd that there aren’t more—you’d think there’d be a lot of improv going on.
Moving onto the fourth disc we find the glut of the extras. First up is “Karma: Take 2”, a blooper reel that runs near ten minutes in length. While it’s not nearly as long as season 1’s reel (that ran over twenty minutes, if I recall correctly), this one is still a delight to watch. The cast make quite a few entertaining flubs and it’s always fun to see the crew constantly breaking up and being unable to deliver a line.
The biggest extra on this set is “The Stoner Files – Robbed a Stoner Blind: From Start to Finish.” Running nearly forty minutes in length, this extra follows the production of “Robbed a Stoner Blind” from the very beginning to the very end. This is as in-depth as making-of’s go and we get a great look into the writing process as well as the final revisions and what goes into making the sets for the series. On top of that, for those who don’t remember, this episode is the one with all the claymation that Randy see’s after taking some “home-remedy” drugs made by the community that he and Earl visit. Plenty of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage can be found in this extra. The only drawback to having such a lengthy extra for one episode is that we don’t get a end-of-season retrospective, although we kind of get a bit of that in “The Trial”’s commentary track.
The remaining extras are the online “Web Cam” extras that were previously released on NBC.com, as well as a My Name is Earl promo piece put together like a Mexican Telenovela. The web shorts and the Telenovela extras are entertaining pieces to watch and make for a fair close to a set for a great show.
On the video and audio front we have a strong transfer throughout. The episodes all look and sound great in their anamorphic (1.78:1) widescreen state with 5.1 Dolby Surround. There isn’t a lot of activity in the rear channels, but it’s a comedy so you’re going to find most of your sound coming from the front anyway. Video is clean and clear and looks great—not as great as the HD broadcasts, but that’s to be expected. I’m just spoiled by that.
Overall this season of My Name is Earl built upon what made the first season so great and kept it going. With two episodes of the third season already aired, it looks like the third season is going to be to just as good as the past two. For those that haven’t already, pick up this box set—it’s Highly Recommended.
My Name is Earl: Season Two is now available on DVD.