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My Name is Earl: Season Two (2006-2007)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/25/2007

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/24/2007

There are plenty of shows on television which gives us an inside look at the world of the wealthy and powerful. And, there are lots of programs, such as those which feature doctors and lawyers, which have very intelligent characters. But, there are few shows (outside of reality programming) which take us into the realm of the poor and ignorant. That's one of the things which makes My Name is Earl so unique. It takes a smart show to portray such stupid people, and we get a good dose of that in My Name is Earl: Season Two.

In Season One of My Name is Earl, we met Earl Hickey (Jason Lee), a loser and career criminal who has spent most of his adult life living in a trailer park with his brother, Randy (Ethan Suplee). He's also still close to his ex-wife Joy (Jamie Pressly), and her new husband, Darnell "Crabman" Turner (Eddie Steeples). One day, Earl experienced two miraculous events -- he won $100,000 in the lottery and he was hit by a car. This made Earl take a long, hard look at his life and he decided that he needed to make amends for all of the bad things that he'd done. This karmic view led to Earl creating a list of all of those bad things, and one item at a time, he tries to fix all of the things on his list.

As Season Two opens Earl is continuing to work on his list. Meanwhile, Joy is unhappy with a purchase which she made at Bargain Bag and when she can't return it, she steals one of their delivery trucks. She's eventually arrested for this, and because it's her "third strike", she is facing serious jail time. Seeing it as an opportunity to please karma, Earl decides to help Joy as much as he can. At the same time, Randy finally decides that it's time to tell Catalina (Nadine Velazquez), the maid at the motel where Earl and Randy live, that he loves her. So, Earl decides to help Randy with that. Is it possible for Earl to be too selfless?

In many ways, My Name is Earl is like other programs. It features a regular cast and a regular set of locations. Like many shows before it, there is a plot device which motivates a new story each week, as well as maintaining story arcs. But, there are some things which make the show quite unique.

As noted above, the characters of the show are ignorant to the ways of the world. Much of the humor in the show comes from the fact that Earl, Randy, and Joy, and to an extent, Crabman, all live in their own little world where they don't understand the everyday comings and goings which effect most people. Be it technology, etiquette, the law, or common knowledge, there are many things that this group doesn't know and the show exploits this ignorance for laughs. They are often either totally confounded by something, denounce it as dumb (this is usually Joy), or make an attempt to understand and adapt to it. It's almost as if this group is comprised of aliens who landed on our planet and are trying to fit in. And while all of this may sound absurd, and somewhat cruel, the comedy of the show is built around this bizarre group of people getting through their daily lives. Yes, we are laughing at them, but they don't know that it's at their expense.

This odd sense of humor is paired with a tremendous amount of heart. The show is about a man who is on a moral journey (while rarely leaving Camden County) and the show accurately portrays the love that Earl is trying to bring to the world. Earl may not be a smart or worldly man, but he's taken on a sense of doing the right thing and this message really lifts the show. Not in a corny way, mind you, there's still plenty of off-color humor here, but the love that Earl has for his brother and his friends only makes us care more for the characters. Of course, this wouldn't be possible without the great cast. It's still odd to see the Brodie as the redneck Earl, but Lee tackles the role as if he were born to play it. Recent Emmy winner Jamie Pressly shines as Joy and it's truly amazing how she can bring so much charm to such an evil character. The actors on the night-time soaps could take a cue from her. My Name is Earl also gets its share of great guest stars, such as Burt Reynolds, Marlee Matlin, Christian Slater, Giovanni Ribisi, Judy Greer, Amy Sedaris, John Leguizamo, John Waters, Norm McDonald, and Sean Astin.

My Name is Earl is an odd show. Most viewers will have known someone like Earl and his friends at some point in their lives. But, I can see some people being turned-off by the low-life nature of the characters. Also, the show features the kind of humor which is very silly, but also requires the audience to pay attention at all times in order to get every joke. For those who don't mind watching dumb people doing dumb things, My Name is Earl is a safe bet, as the show is clever, and often moving.

My Name is Earl: Season Two marks "getting on DVD" off of its list courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. This four-disc boxed-set contains all 23 episodes from Season Two of the show. All of the episodes are presented in their original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and they are 16 x 9. The transfer is quite nice as the show's quality rivals that of a digital broadcast. The picture is sharp and clear, with only a minute amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors are fine and the image is quite stable. I noted some video noise at times, but it wasn't overly bothersome. (There was some obvious pixellation here, but that could be exclusive to the preview copy which I viewed.) The DVDs carry a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This tracks brings us clear dialogue and sound effects with no hissing. The stereo effects are fine, but the surround and subwoofer effects are a bit too subtle. I noted some musical cues and occasional sound effects from the rear speakers, but it was never overwhelming.

The My Name is Earl: Season Two DVD set carries many extras. There are DELETED SCENES for the episodes "Very Bad Things", Van Hickey", Made a Lady Think I was God", "Mailbox" (All Disc 1), "Born a Gamblin' Man", "South of the Border", "Kept a Guy Locked in a Truck" (All Disc 2), "B.L.O.W.", "The Birthday Party", "Two Balls, Two Strikes" (All Disc 3). We get AUDIO COMMENTARIES for the shows "Sticks and Stones", "Larceny of a Kitty Cat", "Van Hickey" (All Disc 1), "Our Cops is On!", "Kept a Guy Locked in a Truck" (All Disc 2), "Foreign Exchange Student", "Guess Who's Coming out of Joy" (All Disc 3), and "The Trial" (Disc 4). All of these commentaries are hosted by creator/executive producer Greg Garcia, and they feature many of the actors from the show (Lee, Suplee, Pressly, Steeples) as well as guest stars (Amy Sedaris, Giovanni Ribisi). These talks are very loose and the participants have no qualms about laughing at the shows themselves.

The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 4. We have the "Karma: Take 2 Blooper Reel" (9 minutes). "The Stoner Files: Robbed a Stoner Blind: From Star to Finish" (39 minutes) is a very detailed, behind-the-scenes look at how an episode is created. From the script to the shooting, we see it all here. In "The Web Cam", each main character talks to a web cam for about a minute. Was this from a website? Finally, "My Name is Earl as a Telenovela" is a 1-minute commercial for the show in Spanish.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long