Friday, January 11, 2008

Earl: You're not so bad

Spoilers for the final "My Name Is Earl" until the strike ends coming up just as soon as I ask my optometrist for some frames like Stan's...

Anyone who's read my sporadic blogging about this show over the last few years knows that I gravitate towards episodes where Bad Earl surfaces and wish that the writers would trust Jason Lee's charm a little more and make Earl's behavior more outrageous. So an episode titled "Bad Earl" should be catnip for me, right?

Instead, what the episode mainly gave us was Grumpy Earl. Sure, he threw out The List for a while, he walked out on helping Mistletoe (who was definitely the episode's best sight gag, non-car accident division), he knocked over Crab Man and Joy's trailer and he bigfooted on Ralph's Stan scam. But none of his actions were that terrible, and certainly not for that long, that they merited an intervention that quickly, either by the writers or the characters.

I'd be inclined to blame some of this on strike-related problems, but like I said, the show has always been a little too willing (either by the writers' choice or because of pressure from NBC brass) to distance themselves from Earl's dark side, even though playing likable bastards is the thing that Lee does best.

Ah, well. I probably should've seen the first car crash coming, but I laughed in surprise nonetheless. (Then I laughed at the Alyssa Milano crash because the special effects were so terrible. At least they used a stuntman for the Earl crash.) So long as NBC puts it on a night with much better shows like "30 Rock" and "The Office," "Earl" is just good enough for me to keep watching, but I almost always wish it could realize its potential more than it does.

What did everybody else think?


Karen said...

It was Ralph's Stan scheme, not Frank's--thank heavens, because Michael Rapaport gives me a pain.

And lord the Milano car accident effect was horrendous. It looked like a cartoon.

No, this wasn't a particularly good episode. I saw their point; they just didn't execute.

Jaime Pressly was in top form as usual, though.

Alan Sepinwall said...

It was Ralph's Stan scheme, not Frank's

Whoops. Fixed.

Anonymous said...

I didn't enjoy the episode, but only because it was an oddly dark place for the show to end (at least until the strike finishes), and I hate to see it go out on such a downbeat note.

olucy said...

I agree it was a little dark, but it almost came across as a dark season ending "cliffhanger", even though it wasn't intended to be.

I still watch this show, but it's the least favorite of my Thursday Trinity (Earl/30 Rock/The Office).

It's never been the the consistent mother lode that it was in Season 1but it's still funny and has occasion bursts of greatness. When I check my tivo, it's always the show I watch first to "get it out of the way"--which sounds like a real Red Flag--but then it always rewards me with several moments of goodness, and I'm almost always glad I watched.

I have to give it credit for this: only one other show that I watch has had the guts to try to reinvent itself this season, and that's House.

Earl has a list with over 200 items on it, and with lesser writers, that S1 format of tackling the list would easily take over the show for the rest of its run. But Garcia dared to break the momentum by having Earl thrown in jail and then become disillusioned with Karma. (And I LOVED the dig at Carson Daly. A talk show host that comes after two other talk show hosts. So.True.)

It's said that a criteria of a good story is that it's character(s) show change or progress. That's a little more common in a drama, but in a sitcom? Almost non-existent. This show, and maybe Frasier, showed the most character progression, and that's worth something.

So I stick with it.

Anonymous said...

The Earl car hit was a visual effect just like the Alyssa Milano one was. The reason the Alyssa Milano hit is so fake looking is because she travels in a path that is exactly the opposite of the law of physics. A car travelling from right to left hits her and the force carries her in the opposite direction than the car was travelling? That's why it looks so odd. No visual effects artist could have made that look good.