My Name Is Earl
The best sitcoms have a simple premise. It’s a good general rule that if you can’t sum up your sitcom in a short sentence then you’re trying too hard. If you can weave conflict and comedy into the series premise then so much the better – you’ve got a fighting chance. If you can’t then you’re already struggling no matter how many wisecracks you force feed your characters or how many kerrazy situations you contrive.
"’Good for nothing scrote discovers karma and atones for his wrongdoing’ sums up My Name Is Earl ."
"Good for nothing scrote discovers karma and atones for his wrongdoing" sums up My Name Is Earl – NBC’s slick, funny sitcom starring Jason Lee as the reformed petty criminal Earl Hickey. I don’t know about you but I’m laughing already, though that could be the angel dust.
It turns out Earl just isn’t getting the breaks. He wins $100,000 on a lottery scratchcard and as he celebrates he is run down by a car and loses his ticket. As he recuperates in hospital he hears Carson Daly on the TV describe karma as the key to his happiness. And voila , he’s found the key to fix up his life. "Do good things and good things will happen to you. Do bad things and it will come back to haunt you"
“But I watched Dawn French’s Sex And Chocolate and the guy who commissioned that is still alive… this says There Is No God.”
I wish it were that simple – really, I do. But I watched Dawn French‘s Sex And Chocolate and the guy who commissioned that is still alive. More profoundly than Nietzsche this says There Is No God and Nothing You Do Means Anything.
But hey, we’re in TV land and all things are possible. And from the moment of his karma epiphany Earl makes a list of all the bad things he’s done and vows to make up for them one by one in the hope that good things will start to happen to him.
As he begins to right his wrongs he discovers his winning scratchcard ticket in the street. Karma’s working like a charm and now he has $100,000 to bankroll his obsession.
But this is no easy route – he tries to make up for stealing a car from a one-legged woman. This girl is pissed, has a gun and she’s not afraid to use it. Imagine Heather Mills if she spotted paparazzi in the grounds of the McCartney estate and you get the picture.
"We frequently flash back to Earl’s criminal past, a litany of botched heists and drunken incompetence – he’s spent more nights in jail than Lee Bowyer."
He is helped in his quest by his slow learner brother Randy (Ethan Suplee), and gorgeous Mexican maid Catalina (Nadine Velazquez). His trashy ex-wife Joy (Jaime Pressly) hangs around looking for ways to get half of the lottery money he won after their divorce. She can be persuaded to help out as long as there’s something in it for her. She’s followed around by her amiable husband Darnell (Eddie Steeples) who’s a total dumbass. Stupidity is a given in Earl’s world.
We frequently flash back to Earl’s criminal past, a litany of botched heists and drunken incompetence – he’s spent more nights in jail than Lee Bowyer.
“Earl is the walking embodiment of all of us whenever we tried to do the right thing and it just made everything a whole lot worse.”
The relationship between Earl and Randy is smartly played and often quite touching. It is remorselessly unsentimental, though, about family life and friendship with all the screw ups and selfishness that define human relations. It’s shot through with the spirit of Malcolm in the Middle, Fox’s peerless family sitcom.
Earl is the walking embodiment of all of us whenever we tried to do the right thing and it just made everything a whole lot worse. There’s over 200 items on his list and that’s not counting the ones he periodically adds as they occur to him. He’ll get there in the end but there’s no rush. Never forget that with redemption it’s the journey, not the destination that counts.
The best thing about it: No hugs, no lessons.
The worst thing about it: Not quite enough Catalina
The verdict on My Name Is Earl : Karma is a mother
Marks out of 10: 8