So goes another unremarkable episode of My Name is Earl. When the season began, I had high hopes because they were going back to basics. Instead of throwing Earl in front of a lot of obstacles, (jail, coma, crazy girlfriend, etc.) they were just going to have him help the people on his list. And on the surface, that's a great plan. But the problem that's plagued the last half dozen episodes or so, aside from the lack of jokes, is that I haven't had much of an emotional connection to the folks Earl has helped. I'm not saying it's easy, but Earl used to nail these kinds of stories all the time. Hell, the reason why Camden is filled with so many unique and memorable auxiliary characters is because Earl helped them in past episodes and I enjoy seeing them again and again. This season, the characters have been oddballs and nutjobs, but that doesn't make them memorable or interesting.
The show's funniest joke came at the beginning when Earl and Randy first met Raynard, the focus of Earl's help in this episode. Along with Randy and Earl, Raynard was sentenced to Camden County's "Humiliate to Rehabilitate" community service program. The workers were forced to wear pink t-shirts with the name of their crime boldly printed on the front. Randy's read, "Flasher," Earl's read, "Pulled Brother's Pants Down," and Raynard's read, "Set Police Horse Free." The punchline came when a meek little Indian man was falsely labeled "Terrorist." Unfortunately, after those funny sight gags, it was all downhill from there.
The plot involved the Hickey brothers and Raynard tricking local women into believing they were part of a rock band. The guys stole the "Bookmobile," a big purple bus that served as the Camden library, and said it was their tourbus. After partying, they abandoned the bus in the woods, only to retrieve it years later when it needed to be crossed off Earl's list. When Earl and Randy returned, they discovered Raynard had been living inside it, and had turned into a crazy feral natureman, like Tarzan, (or "Trazan", as the cheap knock-off version was called in the Bookmobile.) Years earlier, Earl had refused to let Raynard crash in his trailer when he was homeless, so Earl felt responsible for Raynard's current state. Thus, Earl's karmic duties in this episode were two-fold: return the Bookmobile and rehabilitate Raynard so he could become accustomed to living in the real world. But as it turns out, Raynard wasn't meant to live a 9 to 5 lifestyle, so after trying to capture a wild animal, Earl learned to set him free once again.
The old adage says, "Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it." Judging from the show's return to the basic formula this season, it seems like that's what the fans (including myself) wanted after last season's break from tradition. Well, I got what I wanted, and it isn't good. The characters are stagnant and the show has lost the magic it once had. The stories aren't emotionally compelling, nor are they entertaining from a comedy standpoint. Maybe they'll introduce a multi-episode story arc soon, just so these characters can have a purpose once again. And maybe I should stop wishing for things.