"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Friday, January 2, 2009

My Name Is Earl: Quit Your Snitchin'

This episode involved Earl knocking another Randy-related item off his karma list, but the results were far less impressive. In fact, I would call it a disappointment. Okay, I will.

The episode started out strongly enough. Earl showed up at the Crab Shack with a new car and explained to Catalina that it was a birthday present for Randy. When Catalina commented that it was nicer than Earl's, Earl explained that the car served two purposes: it was a gift and it would let Earl cross another item off his list. I was then treated to a funny set of flashbacks of examples leading to #213 on the list: "Never let Randy have anything better than me."

Unfortunately, immediately afterwards, the car got stolen and Earl spent the rest of the episode dealing with various lowlifes in Camden County in order to get it back. Along the way, he had to accept the ramifications of going to the police and snitching on the people he knew were behind the auto theft.

Here's the thing, after a few years on the air, I know what makes the best Earl episodes: a mix of over-the-top humor with a nice message about redemption, forgiveness or something else to tug on the heartstrings. This episode just didn't provide that emotional component. There have been exceptions to that rule, where they went light on the sentiment, like "Our Cops Is On," for example. But that episode was a fresh idea and absolutely hilarious from start to finish. If they're going to skimp on Earl learning a lesson in the end, the episode better be amazingly funny. This one wasn't close.

But even with the lack of great jokes or sentiment, the most disappointing thing was that it failed at one of its strengths: character development. I'me always learning about the fringe elements of Camden County and what makes them unique. This episode had a few new characters, but unfortunately, didn't do anything with them. Maybe it was the directing or maybe it was the writing, but every new character acted like a cartoon, and that's not a good thing. There are a ton of supporting characters in the Earl universe that I've gotten to know over the years. Sure, they're all wackos and nutjobs, but they've also been flushed out and presented as real people, making them more fun to see in later episodes. This time out, guys like Clyde, Bedbug and Creepy Rodney were just paper-thin caricatures. They weren't funny, they weren't interesting and they brought nothing to the table. Who cares if I see them again.

The last two episodes have both been about Earl crossing an item off his list concerning Randy. And that's where the similarities end. The last episode was funny and touching and made great use of the bond between the two Hickey brothers. This episode was angry and unfunny and wasted a big opportunity to create new and interesting characters. More of the former, please.

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