Sunday, September 28, 2008

Almost forgot: My Name Is Earl

In doing yesterday's grab-bag post, I forgot that I had seen both of this season's new episodes of "My Name Is Earl." I forgot in part because I watched them both about a week ago on a review screener, but also because neither was strong enough to stand out in my memory after a day or two. Still, some brief thoughts coming up just as soon as I shove a squid in someone's face...

Greg Garcia has talked about how he wanted to bring the show back to its roots after last year's Prison Earl and Coma Earl experiments. The thing is, while the coma episodes were awful, the earlier prison arc featured some of the sharper outings the show had done in a while. It was a nice combination of the predictable List elements and some format-breaking surprises.

The two episodes opening this season were very much in the vein of the early days of "Earl," but I don't know that this is something to aspire to. Basic stories of "Earl" crossing items off his list have never done a lot for me, in part because they squander Jason Lee's talents by asking him to do nothing but act genial and confused. There are going to be funny moments here and there (in this case, I laughed at Randy's reaction to the prop squid, and at Earl and his dad getting beat up by David Paymer's wife in the stretch pants), but not enough to make it a must-watch, especially now that there isn't a show I care about airing immediately after it. (I haven't watched "Kath & Kim" yet, and could wind up liking it, but the clips and what I've heard from other critics isn't filling me with confidence.)

What did everybody else think? You glad for the back-to-basics approach, or are you as fatigued with "Earl" as I am?


Anonymous said...

Seth Green is a very charming actor. His character's death was somewhat maudlin in conception, but the reactions of the other characters to it was oddly moving and gave the episode a slight heft that made it watchable.

On the other hand, I bailed on the second episode midway through. There's just not enough time in the day to make extra room for this show anymore. It's simply not in the same league as The Office, and I take no pleasure in saying that because Jason Lee is a really engaging actor.

Some shows just aren't meant to go on this long.

Austin said...

Very fatigued. Very close to giving up on it.

I did enjoy the fact that Randy was the best actor, especially the scene where he acts out the famous movie scenes.

Not much else on Thursdays at 8 that I care about so I may just keep watching for that fact alone.

Lance said...

I was disappointed in the first episode - maybe expectations were too high due to Seth Green, who I've always found very funny. I really enjoyed the second one though, and laughed a lot - Milo the puppet, the gags against Paymer ("Why are all these babies killing themselves!??!"), and Earl's empathizing with his dad over women were all good gags, and Beau Bridges did his usual excellent job. Maybe I'm just a sucker for "Eye of the Tiger" being sung a capella.

As for the show's direction, Coma Earl was definitely bad, but I enjoyed Prison Earl as well as S2 with Joy's trial. I thought both plots gave them some fun ways to break the formula. I hope they don't think everything was a failure and go back to pure standalones.

jana said...

Maybe it was just the mood I was in, but I laughed a lot through both episodes. I'm keeping it my DVR schedule. I'm glad it's back.

David J. Loehr said...

I keep trying it out, because I do like Jason Lee, but honestly, I was fatigued midway through the pilot, and nothing's been enough to keep me coming back after trying it out again. Seth Green was good as always, but still...

Anonymous said...

Still love Earl,but ditto to glad the coma nonsense is over. That went on too long. I liked (not loved) the episode. Ethan Suplee
was terrific,especially when he got
to say all the movie lines. Loved
Seth Green,wish that they hadn't killed him off,too sappy.

Loved the Carl gets cheated on ep.
The Earl and Carl crying scene was
great as was Patty the Daytime Hooker keeping her mouth a peanut
free zone.

Not tired of Earl yet,but hope they
get back to season one quality writing.

par3182 said...

as long as joy keeps being incredibly pleased with herself i'll keep watching

crossing items off the list is the backbone of the show; it's a simple device but they manage to keep making the twists interesting

plus i love how the kooky recurring characters just keep on...recurring

i feared it had jumped the shark with that paris hilton appearance last season but it seems to be back on track

Rev/Views said...

It's remaining on my watching list for the duration but it really doesn't hold up so well when compared to the other comedy shows I watch (The Office, 30 Rock and HIMYM in particular). Ethan is as fantastic as ever and remains the prime reason to watch the show. Jason is good, but he seems somewhat hamstringed by the demands his role puts on him.

Anonymous said...

plus i love how the kooky recurring characters just keep on...recurring

Me too. I have a theory about good recurring characters being one of the secrets of a good sitcom (Lilith, Ma Clavin, Nick Tortelli, Newman, George's parents...).
I think Randy and Joy are the strongest parts of this show, and I was glad to see Earl's parents.
Joy squaring off with Mrs Hickey in the ladies' room was a classic. "Yeah, I read your Christmas letter!" As was "I am the mother of the child you thought was your grandbaby for a few minutes!"

Anonymous said...

I really like seeing the flashbacks to Earl's bad days, particularly when a stellar guest like Giovanni Ribisi pops up. I thought Ralph's episodes were some of the very best. The goofy schemes and misbehavior give the actors a chance to cut loose. I have always liked the central sweetness of the show, but it's starting to go overboard and get a little saccharine for me. A good dose of Earl's drunken debauchery levels that out for me. I also hope they don't reform Joy; that would be a tragedy.

David Clarke said...

This is one of those shows, like Scrubs and Entourage, I watch completely out of habit. i liked the show early on, with the list formula, but I gotta agree about the prison episodes of last season. I really don't know if I can keep justifying the time spent watching it. Its not bad, but there is enough amazing stuff on the air that I don't feel like I need to watch any half-decent but forgettable show anymore. If this season had better stuff, I'd quit, but for now at least, and thanks largely to The Office (and in a month, 30 Rock) the show has a reprive.

Still, I've never missed an episode of Scrubs, and both shows have largely the same exact pace, beats and formula (wacky sight gags, fast paced single cameraness, and some strained attempts at pathos, especially with Scrubs). Really, they gotta space out the tragedy a little bit better. And the narration has gotten a bit punishing for me, and the more narration a show has, the less I feel like I'm actually seeing the actors work. The screenwriting guru in Adaptation was right: it's lazy writing.

That's how I feel at the moment, anyway.

TL said...

As awful as the post-strike arc was, going back to the basic concept just shows that the concept has just run its course. I think that Alan forgetting to blog about it epitomizes the show's current problem. It's funny enough in spots, but it's just getting tired. Even the writers seem too bored to figure out something for Catlina and Darnell to do half the time.

Totally agree with David that watch is now just out of habit. We're now relegating this to "watch while doing other stuff" status.

Unknown said...

Eh, I liked it. I like arcs (the whole Joy-trial and prison thing were good with me), but I was entertained enough. I am sad Seth Green got killed off, I liked how his character worked on the show.

And heck, who knew Randy could act?!

And Joy in the bathroom. Bwahahahah.