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My Name Is Earl (S1)
DVD disk
Sep 25, 2006 By: Quigles
My Name Is Earl (S1) order
Director:
Victor Nelli Jr., Gregory Thomas Garcia (creator)

Actors:
Jason Lee
Ethan Suplee
Jaime Pressly

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Karma - do good things, good things happen to you; do bad things, bad things happen to you. Two-timing low life Earl Hickey learns about this philosophy while watching Carson Daly on TV as he heals in a hospital bed after having just been hit by a car, tricked into signing divorce papers, and losing a $10,000 lotto ticket. His life sucks, and now he's determined to right some wrongs. He compiles a list of all the bad things he's done, and one by one, he finds a way to make up for them.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
I'm not normally a fan of anything relating to white trash characters and its "culture", but this show is different. It treats its characters (most of them, anyway) with affection, not mockery. So despite their obviously low IQ's and poor living situations, you can't help but feel great fondness for them. You've got Earl (the mustachioed leading man, played to perfection by the always awesome Jason Lee), Randy (the kind, dim-witted brother, played by Ethan Suplee), Joy (the horribly bitchy ex-wife, played by Jaime Pressly), Crab Man (Joy's friendly, laidback new husband, played by Eddie Steeples), and Catalina (the hot, easy motel maid, played by Nadine Velazquez). Even if, on paper, these characters don't sound like the type you'd want to spend 30 minutes of your day watching, the actors help make them so. And even then, you've got loads of fantastic guest appearances to seal the deal, including: Jon Favreau, Juliette Lewis, Timothy Olymphant, Christine Taylor, Beau Bridges, Adam Goldberg, and tons more.

The show follows a standard formula for each episode - Earl selects an item from his list of bad deeds and tries to make amends (this ranges from things as petty as stealing 10 bucks, to things as terrible as thieving a car from a one-legged lady). Of course, they expand this a little further, usually with some form of subplot that later connects with the episode's theme. It's all fairly basic, but it works surprisingly well - everything in the show does. On top of the great writing and acting, the direction is impressive too (there's great visuals, a perfect choice of music, etc.). Even the should-be sappy messages work well. Plus, the humor is almost always effective, adding levels of dark quirkiness to the proceedings (much like a Coen brothers production).

I do have some minor gripes though, most of which are just personal nitpicks. For one, I hated how much they made karma out to be this powerful, supernatural force. They never really made the idea clear up until "The Professor", where it's very obvious that karma is punishing Earl. I liked the premise better when Lee's character was always just misinterpreting things as signs of karma, while the audience could just decide on their own whether it was an actual power or not.

Another gripe deals more with specific episodes, such as "Y2K" (too stupid and sitcom-y) and "Didn't Pay Taxes" (dull and frustrating). It seems the people behind the show hit a rut about two-thirds through the season, because over half the episodes on disc 3 are sort of lousy. Luckily, the show picks up again at the end, perfectly concluding the season with an outstanding finale (loved the "Golden Ticket" bit). There may be a few stinkers in the bunch, but overall, season 1 of MY NAME IS EARL proves to be the start of a first-rate show. Lets hope it lasts.

DISC 1
Pilot*
Quit Smoking
Randy's Touchdown
Faked His Own Death
Teacher Earl*
Broke Joy's Fancy Figurine
Stole Beer From A Golfer

DISC 2
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

DISC 3
Something to Live For
The Professor
Didn't Pay Taxes
Dad's Car*
Y2K
Boogeyman
The Bounty Hunter

DISC 4
Stole a Badge
BB
Number One*
UNSEEN BONUS EPISODE: Bad Karma*

NOTE: The above asterisks mark which episodes have commentary tracks available.
THE EXTRAS
The special features here, while not exactly high in number, are extremely high in quality, delivering everything you could possibly want from a TV show.

The packaging is nice too, including a cardboard slipcase holding two slimline plastic cases, each of which holds two of four discs from the set. This keeps the overall set thin, and easy to use when switching discs. Very slick.

Earl Misadventure: "Bad Karma" (13:41): This DVD exclusive has got to be one of the best extras I've seen. It includes an alternate version of the pilot, letting us see what would've happened if Earl had clicked past Carson Daily and happened upon Stewie from Family Guy. So instead of learning about karma, he learns about revenge and writes up a list of all the people who have wronged him. It's best not to look at this as an actual episode (since some of it doesn't make much sense), but it's still incredibly funny to watch.

Audio Commentaries (with creator Greg Garcia, executive producer/director Marc Buckland, and actors Jason Lee and Ethan Suplee being the main participants): There are 8 tracks in total (all of which are marked with asterisks in episode listing above). Some of them are particular interesting, including guest speakers like Giovanni Ribisi, Jon Favreau, Eddie Steeples, Jaime Pressly, Nadine Velazquez, producer Tim Stack, and in one case ("Dad's Car"), all of the main speakers moms deliver their own separate track. The commentaries are very fun and entertaining, focusing much more on joking around and telling stories then informing the viewer (in this case, that's a good thing). If you enjoy the episodes enough to watch them through more than once, then these commentaries are definite listening material.

Making Things Right: Behind the Scenes of "My Name is Earl" (38:21): This outstanding featurette tells the audience everything they could possibly want to know about the show, starting right off from how it was conceived to its development on NBC to the decision to actually make it a regular series. I don't normally like to watch making-of's from start to finish but I had zero problems getting through this one. Very informative, and enjoyable too.

Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary by creator Greg Garcia and executive producer/director Marc Buckland): These are separated by episode amongst the four discs, totaling to somewhere around 9 minutes worth (from eight episodes). Almost all of the footage is, surprisingly enough, worthwhile. Most of it was cut because of time restrictions, so be sure to check it out.

Karma is a Funny Thing: Blooper Reel (19:58): A very lengthy, but also continuously amusing, gag reel. Jason Lee in particular is fun to watch because whenever he flubs a line he tends to do this weird backwards-talking thing. Very funny, and something I'm sure all fans will love.

Also included is a Soundtrack Promo.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
MY NAME IS EARL has a solid gimmick, but it's the writing and actors that make it great. Jason Lee especially makes the show worthwhile, and the RAISING ARIZONA-esque approach only makes things that much more fun. There may be some dark themes explored (like adultery, suicide, larceny, etc.), but they're treated with such an easy-going manner that the overall style of the show isn't dampened one bit; instead, it comes across as pleasant and sweet natured. And to think, if it weren't for Jason Lee and a time slot right before NBC's other knockout show, THE OFFICE, I probably would have never even given it a second look. Don't risk making the same mistake.
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