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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Various
Cast:
Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, Jaime Pressly, Eddie Steeples, Nadine Velazquez
Writing Credits:
Zack Friedman, Gregory Thomas Garcia (creator)

Tagline:
Karma is a funny thing.

Synopsis:
Karma is a funny thing. Just ask Earl (Jason Lee), who's learning the hard way that when you do something bad, it has a way of coming back and biting you in the ass! Hoping to turn his life around, Earl's got a lengthy list of detestable deeds to make up for. Also starring Jamie Pressly, Ethan Suplee, Eddie Steeples and Nadine Velazquez, My Name Is Earl is wildly offbeat and hilariously irreverent — the #1 new comedy of the season!

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 526 min.
Price: $49.98
Release Date: 9/19/2006

Bonus:
• 7 Audio Commentaries
• Deleted Scenes for 7 Episodes
• DVD Exclusive Earl Misadventure: “Bad Karma”
• Blooper Reel
• “Making Things Right: Behind the Scenes of My Name Is Earl” Featurette


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


My Name Is Earl: Season One (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 18, 2006)

Since this gig as a DVD slave takes up so much of my TV-watching time, I almost never check out shows as they hit the air. Heck, I rarely view them as they make it to DVD either, but occasionally I indulge myself with a season’s worth of TV material.

Today’s new-to-me show: My Name Is Earl, a hit NBC comedy from the 2005-06 season. I’ll check out the 24 shows in the order broadcast. The plot synopses come straight from the set’s packaging.

DVD ONE:

Pilot: “After getting hit by a car and losing a winning lottery ticket, Earl (Jason Lee) blames bad karma and vows to make amends for every bad thing he’s ever done.”

Who knew that Carson Daly invented karma? That revelation comes along with a pretty good launch to the series. Earl risks being a little too self-consciously wacky, but it manages more than enough funny moments to overcome the potential pitfalls. It certainly boasts a clever concept, and I look forward to seeing it unfold.

Quit Smoking: “Earl finds that even quitting smoking is easier than facing the man who went to prison for a crime that Earl committed.”

Episode two faces a challenge the pilot gets to avoid: a lack of exposition. The first show can pack its running time with set-up, but the next one needs to succeed on its own. Happily, “Smoking” does so. From Silas Weir Mitchell’s sublimely crazy Donnie to the sight of Earl getting beaten with an absurdly oversized large print Bible, “Smoking” works.

Randy’s Touchdown: “The odds are against him when Earl tries to make up for having fixed a high school football game in order to win a bet.”

For all the series’ broad comedy, it throws out more than a few subtle laughs. After Joy paints “U R an ass” on Earl’s car, he adds “tronaut” to make it look better. The camera doesn’t linger on this and make it obvious, so the gag works even better. The episode develops the various recurring characters and amuses.

Faked My Own Death: “The next item on Earl’s karmic agenda is to make up for the fact that he faked his own death to avoid breaking up with a girl.”

I’m not sure that Earl needs to redeem himself for dumping Natalie, the clinging girlfriend from hell. She’s hot, but that doesn’t overcome her deficits. He gave the relationship a shot, didn’t he? Beth Riesgraf is hilarious as needy Natalie, and this ends up as the best episode to date.

Subtle allusion note: I’d already thought of Kevin Smith connections since both Jason Lee and Ethan Suplee have appeared in Smith flicks. “Death” gives us a more concrete reference when we go to a Quik Stop. That’s gotta be a lift from Clerks, right?

Teacher Earl: “Earl tries to teach English to a group of immigrants to compensate for having made fun of people’s accents, while his friend Ralph (Giovanni Ribisi), just out of prison, plots to steal Earl’s money.”

“Teacher” faces a new obstacle: the presence of Ribisi. Although not as annoying here as in Friends, he continues to irritate me and he detracts from the show’s quality. That’s too bad, as “Teacher” has a lot going for it otherwise.

Broke Joy’s Fancy Figurine: “The only way Earl can make up for breaking Joy’s (Jaime Pressly) figurine is to participate in a beauty pageant… as the target of a mother-daughter knife-throwing act.”

I’m not sure Earl should have to make up for anything he ever did to Joy – she’s an awfully awful person. “Figurine” goes a little high concept with the knife-throwing aspect, but the presence of the ever-reliable Missy Pyle as Shelley helps turn this into another good show.

Stole Beer from a Golfer: “Randy’s (Ethan Suplee) excited about going to the county fair, but it will have to wait until Earl can clear up some bad karma at the local country club.”

“Golfer” reveals the complexity of Earl’s list. What he feels is a simple matter of buying brew turns more difficult when he sees the full impact of his activities. This gives the program nice room for Schadenfreude as Earl suffers to repay his debt.

DVD TWO:

Joy’s Wedding: “Earl tries to make up for ruining Joy and Darnell’s (Eddie Steeples) wedding, but he only makes things worse when he winds up sleeping with Joy.”

Once again, I might argue that any things Earl does to harm Joy feel like karma. She’s so horrible that she deserves misery, doesn’t she? Granted, this turns into an offense against Darnell, and he’s a good guy, so Earl ends up needing redemption. The show gets a little too sappy, but it covers with enough comedy to work.

Cost Dad an Election: “Four years ago, Earl’s unruly behavior cost his father (Beau Bridges) the mayoral election, and now it looks like history will repeat itself.”

The sentiment of “Election” rings a little more true than in “Wedding”. I like the portrayal of family relationships, especially as Earl tries so hard to redeem himself to his dad. The show still comes with the requisite number of laughs, but it also has a good heart.

White Lie Christmas: “’Tis the season, and when Joy’s parents come for a visit, Earl has to pretend that he and Joy are married. Ho ho ho!”

Christmas episodes tend to get pretty treacly, but “Lie” manages to avoid those pitfalls. Joy’s mother is especially delightful in her sleaziness; we can see where Joy got her own selfish tendencies. The car competition with Randy and Catalina is also a hoot, and these elements add up to a strong show.

Barn Burner: “Hoping to get Joy’s children admitted, Earl return to the ‘rotten kids camp’ where he accidentally burned down a barn as a wayward youth – or did he?”

“Burner” drags a bit at first, but once it presents a twist, it becomes more entertaining. We get to see a slightly sadistic side of Earl as he blames Randy for all his misdeeds. I could live without the sappy parts with the kids, though.

O Karma, Where Art Thou?: “Earl fills in at a fast food restaurant and his faith in karma is shaken by his new boss (Jon Favreau), a reprehensible jerk with an enviable lifestyle.”

A fine guest turn from Favreau helps benefit this episode. I also like the odd turn the program takes as it affects Earl’s concept of karma. A cruelly hilarious jailhouse twist on the “world’s best” mugs makes this one a winner.

Stole P’s HD Cart: “The fast food wars are on as Earl tries to put a well-liked hot dog vendor (Ramon Chavez) back into business. Care to supersize that?”

Part of the fun comes as we wait for the bottom to fall out of Earl’s plan. He quickly rights his wrong, so the question becomes how things will go amiss. Despite the return of Ribisi, the episode’s weaving plot and its crime caper spoofs make it fun.

Monkeys In Space: “While Randy searches for his purpose in life, Earl tries to brighten the day of an old buddy (Tim DeKay) who is being transferred to the state prison.”

If nothing else, Catalina’s brief simulated pole dance makes this a memorable show. Earl encounters a lot of obstacles as he tries to give Hank a good day, and poor Randy finds it tough to hold down a new job. Both threads bring a lot of energy to the series and work out well.

DVD THREE:

Something to Live For: “While trying to compensate for having stolen some gasoline, Earl becomes determined to help a suicidal man (Adam Goldberg) find a reason to go on living.”

That karma’s a complicated thing. Here Earl finds that a bad thing he did was actually a good thing since he inadvertently prevented a guy from killing himself. Not that letting Philo off himself would necessarily be a bad thing; as played by Goldberg, he may be the most annoying character to grace the TV screen. We get a darkly amusing program here.

The Professor: “It’s back to school time! Earl becomes a guest lecturer and Randy pledges a fraternity when the two head to a university to return a stolen laptop.”

After all these episodes, it’s about time some romance entered Earl’s life. It seems a bit of a stretch to believe that a smart babe like Alex (Christine Taylor) would fall for a lunkhead like Earl, but it creates an interesting story nonetheless, especially as karma gets back at Earl.

Didn’t Pay Taxes: “Earl gets tangled up in red tape as he tries to repay his debt to the government.”

“Taxes” isn’t exactly a scathing indictment of government inefficiency, but it makes a good – and funny – point. Earl goes through an awful lot of suffering too soon after “Professor”, though, which makes this episode a little redundant. Still, it has more than enough amusing moments to succeed.

Dad’s Car: “As a Mother’s Day gift to his mom (Nancy Lenehan), Earl tries to men his strained relationship with his father – a task easier said than done.”

I like seeing more of Earl’s family, though I wish “Car” placed more of an emphasis on his mother. We’ve already gotten a dad-centric show, so it’d be nice to learn more about his mom. Tim Olyphant also sports the worst bald cap I’ve ever seen. The show boasts some quirky laughs but isn’t one of the best programs.

Y2K: “Earl fondly recalls New Year’s 2000 when the Y2K bug spelled ‘doomsday’ and the gang had glorious plans for building a new world.”

While the series features many flashbacks, this stands as the first full flashback episode. And it’s a good one as we revisit the wackiness that surrounded the new millennium. That theme allows the show to indulge its nuttier side in this funny program.

Boogeyman: “Earl has his work cut out for him as he tries to cross ‘made a kid scared of the boogeyman’ off his list.”

Usually when Earl explains his list to the people he harmed, they understand and are on his side. “Boogeyman” shows a more vengeful side of things and creates a lot of laughs in that vein. It indulges the series’ more slapstick tone and succeeds despite a little mawkishness at times.

Bounty Hunter: “With a warrant out for her arrest, Joy is stalked by a vicious bounty hunter (Juliette Lewis) who happens to be Earl’s embittered ex-girlfriend.”

Like Ribisi, Juliette Lewis usually annoys me. Unlike Ribisi, she does pretty well here. I like Jesse’s transition from mousy secretary to butt-kicking, front-teeth-missing bounty hunter, and the show’s action montage is amusing. This is a broad but solid episode.

DVD FOUR:

Stole a Badge: “Earl and Randy return a stolen police badge and try to help its owner get a promotion, but all he wants is to become a professional bowler.”

“Stole” works best when we see the highlife Earl and company enjoyed with their purloined badge. We also get a delightfully scummy guest spot from Clint Howard as “Creepy Rodney”. All these components coalesce to create a strong program, though the family of identically-coifed female cops is a little too Coen-esque for my liking.

BB: “Earl helps to reunite a former crush (Miriam Shor) with her estranged father (Geoffrey Lewis) in order to make up for having shot her with a BB gun.”

Basing humor on the activities of an alcoholic may not be politically correct, but “BB” goes for such a cartoony portrayal of Mr. Waters that it doesn’t offend. Lewis brings out an amusingly incoherent performance, and I also like Shor’s taut and acerbic take on Gwen. While not one of the series’ most memorable shows, “BB” has more than enough going for it to succeed.

Number One: “Earl decides to cross the first item off his list, but what he thinks will cost him just ten dollars winds up costing him all of his lotto winnings, leaving him broke and wondering when his good karma will kick in.”

Earl’s first season concludes with an intriguing notion: how can Earl accomplish his mission with no funds? This fills out the show well as Earl deals with new issues. Throw in a clever Willy Wonka spoof and “One” ends the year well.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus C

My Name Is Earl appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The shows suffered from only a few minor concerns.

Very few issues with sharpness occurred. The shows usually came across as crisp and well-defined. Wide shots occasionally looked a bit soft, but not to a significant degree. I saw light examples of jagged edges and shimmering, and edge enhancement was minor. Source flaws weren’t a concern, though the shows tended to look a little grainy at times.

Earl came as a series with a natural palette. Colors were consistently lively and vivid throughout the episodes. Very little stylization occurred as we got clear, concise tones. Blacks always seemed deep and full, while shadows were mostly clean and smooth. The occasional interior shot was a little murky, but otherwise low-light elements seemed concise. Overall, the series was very attractive.

Though not amazing, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Earl worked well. The audio supported the shows just fine. The soundfield emphasized the forward channels and worked quite well within that realm. The front spectrum was nicely broad and blended together cleanly. The elements remained in the appropriate locations and panned smoothly across the channels. Surround usage tended toward general reinforcement and atmospherics, though the rear speakers came to life pretty well during a few sequences. For instance, the jets over Carl’s house involved the channels nicely. The surrounds didn’t dazzle, but they brought some life to the mix.

Audio quality usually seemed good. Speech displayed a bit of edginess at times but mostly remained natural and clean. Music was clean and concise. The score and songs were well-recorded and dynamic. Effects also came across as lively and distinctive, and they lacked distortion. Bass response was deep and firm. Overall, the audio was more than fine for the series.

A mix of extras rounds out the set. We find seven audio commentaries. These involve a variety of participants:

Pilot: Series creator/executive producer Greg Garcia, executive producer/director Marc Buckland, producer/actor Jason Lee and actor Ethan Suplee. The guys go over sets and locations, various actors and performance elements, deleted segments, and general production details. Frankly, this opening commentary disappoints. There’s a lot of praise on display but not a lot of interesting notes. We learn nothing of the series’ origins or challenges getting it off the ground. Hopefully subsequent commentaries will improve on this lackluster one.

Teacher Earl: Garcia, Lee, Suplee and actor Giovanni Ribisi. We get info about the episode’s origins, sets and locations, and performances. Even with the addition of Ribisi, the track doesn’t offer more depth compared to its predecessor. Lee often comments on his ballooning weight and a few decent tidbits emerge, but the track remains uninspired.

Joy’s Wedding: Garcia, Buckland, Lee and actor Eddie Steeples. A new participant enters but the results remain unchanged. Look at my comments for the prior two tracks and you’ll know what to expect here. This becomes another lackluster chat.

White Lie Christmas: Garcia, producer Tim Stack, and actors Jaime Pressly and Nadine Velazquez. This track offers the biggest change in personnel, but it doesn’t present a different kind of experience. As with its predecessors, the commentary focuses on basic production notes without much depth. I’d hoped the arrival of the two women would open things up a bit, but they stay in the same mode as the others. We hear how much everyone likes the show but not much insight.

O Karma, Where Art Thou?: Garcia, Lee, Suplee and actor Jon Favreau. Though this one doesn’t broaden the content too much, Favreau helps make things much livelier. He adds some character and performance notes, but more importantly, he brings a sense of fun. He’s very amusing and entertaining as he takes control of the commentary. I can’t say I learned a ton from this piece, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Dad’s Car: Garcia, Buckland, and cast/crew mothers Natalie Garcia, Mary Buckland, Carol Lee and Debbie Suplee. I expected little from this gimmicky discussion but found it to be surprisingly interesting. The mothers tell us about their kids’ childhood endeavors and reflect on the series. The women tend to be frank and amusing – especially Buckland’s salty mother – and this ends up as the most enjoyable of all the commentaries.

Number One: Garcia, Buckland, Lee and Suplee. The commentaries end on a mediocre note. Actually, this one’s a little better than some of its predecessors, mainly because Garcia directed the show and tells us about those experiences. Otherwise the track is a lot like the earlier ones, so don’t expect much meat.

Also spread throughout the four discs, we get Deleted Scenes. We find clips for seven programs. These include “Pilot” (one sequence, 1:07), “Broke Joy’s Fancy Figurine” (one, 1:01), “Monkeys In Space” (three, 1:33), “O Karma, Where Art Thou?” (one, 1:30), “Something to Live For” (one, 0:25), “The Professor” (two, 2:25), and “Stole a Badge” (one, 1:21). As you can tell by the brief running times, all of these are pretty minor. They’re usually funny, though. They may not add much to the shows, but they’re enjoyable to see.

We can watch the clips with or without commentary from Garcia and Buckland. They give us the appropriate basics about the scenes and also let us know why they excised the segments. There’s some good info on display here.

Brand new for this set, we discover a DVD Exclusive Earl Misadventure called “Bad Karma”. As described on the box, “In an alternate reality, Earl makes a list of everyone who’s ever screwed him over… and it’s payback time!” The 13-minute and 42-second clip purports to offer an alternate pilot in which Earl takes his advice from Family Guy’s Stewie and seeks revenge. This doesn’t work out well. This was created as a joke for the DVD, and it’s a funny one as we see an alternate direction for the series – one that wouldn’t have lasted very long. Those involved recreate aspects of the real pilot well for this clever alternate take on things.

The “Misadventure” comes with optional commentary from Garcia, Buckland, Lee and Suplee. They tell us about the feature’s origins as well as some production details. A few decent notes emerge but there’s not much meat to the chat.

Next comes a Blooper Reel entitled “Karma Is a Funny Thing”. This 19-minute and 58-second piece includes the usual allotment of gaffes and guffaws. Should you expect anything out of the ordinary? Nope – just lots of silliness. Lots and lots, in fact, given the length of this piece. More isn’t better, unfortunately.

Finally, we watch a featurette called Making Things Right: Behind the Scenes of My Name Is Earl. The piece runs 38 minutes, 21 seconds as it presents footage from the set and interviews with Garcia, Buckland, Lee, Suplee, Pressly, Velazquez, Steeples, director of photography Eyal Gordin, head hair stylist Patricia Gundlack, head makeup artist Peggy Teague, editors Lance Luckey and Billy Marrinson, associate producer Kim Hamberg, executive producer/writer Bobby Bowman, and actor Gregg Binkley. We learn about the show’s inspirations and development, casting, shooting the pilot and getting the series on the air. From there we get into cinematography and editing, hair and makeup, the atmosphere on the set, guest actors, the series’ tone and the writing process, and the end of the first season.

While the commentaries disappointed, this documentary indeed “makes things right”. It covers all the bases missed during the commentaries and gives us a very nice look at the show’s creation. We find lots of fun footage from the set and learn a lot in this useful program.

One of the 2005-06 season’s hits, My Name Is Earl brings a quirky presence to network TV. The series balances offbeat humor and heart to create an amusing and likable experience. The DVDs present solid picture and audio along with a decent roster of extras. There’s a lot to like about Earl, so Season One earns my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4 Stars Number of Votes: 15
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main