Starring: Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, Jaime Pressly, Nadine Valazquez, Eddie Steeples,
Created By: Gregory Thomas Garcia
The karma and moralistic motivated, My Name is Earl, taking place in a small simple town in Camden county, manages to seem even funnier and fresher in its sophomore season. A few of the episodes here show uniqueness and an ironic heart with the offbeat tone. There really is no other show like My Name is Earl, which is extremely refreshing when nearly every other sitcom on TV is comparable, something that is true for even the best ones. What other show could you expect to see a man visiting a bearded lady in a town of ‘circus freaks’ desperate to make up his wrongs to her and to take a step in their shoes? This is only the beginning of the charm of the show and the second season manages to capture this and brings the characters to their full potential.
The biggest conflict dealt with in this season is with Joy (Pressly), Earl’s ex-wife. She bought an entertainment system that doesn’t fit in her house. Joy tried to return it, but wasn’t able to since she spit her gum in the receipt and the store won’t accept it. So determined to get her money back one way or the other. Joy steals one of the companies trucks sitting in the parking lot. She attempts to sell it, but Earl (Lee) helps her realize that she didn’t just steal a truck, but she also abducted the worker in the back of it. They are desperate to find some way to get him out without seeing them and to sell the truck so this crime won’t be on their hands.
Unfortunately, things get too carried away and Earl realizes that the cost is going to be much more than what Joy’s entertainment system was. Soon after, the company that she stole the truck from is charging Joy with theft and kidnapping. Issues with her anger are revealed when she is given a deaf lawyer. Joy has to go to anger management to learn how to deal with her anger since it will surely be provoked in court. Since this is her 3rd strike there is a very good chance that she could go to jail for life if she is found guilty, leaving her husband, Darnell (Steeples) and her two sons by themselves. Not to mention she recently got pregnant with her illegitimate half-sister, Liberty’s child in hopes that it would make her more sympathetic to a jury.
It may seem like this season is much more about Joy than Earl, but Earl is there with her every step of her trial trying to make things better for her. He tries to stop the situation, but once it gets too late he focuses on just trying to get her a character witness, someone the jury may be able to respect and listen to their thoughts on the good qualities of Joy. With Earl’s list of trying to do right by everyone, he is the one chosen and tries to give Joy the best case possible.
While trying to help a friend with his gambling problem, Earl gains one of his own. Because of this he ends up letting his friend, Catalina drive without a license or even U.S. citizenship and she gets deported back to Mexico (Valazquez). Not only is this his fault and he is losing a friend, but his brother, Randy (Suplee), is heartbroken by it as she is his dream girl. When Earl and Randy get to Mexico Catalina marrying one of them seems to be the only solution. Randy is thrilled by that, but has to fight for this and eventually isn’t given this same love back from Catalina.
Meanwhile, Darnell struggles with the secrets of his true identity that the witness protection program is forcing him to hide. Earl is helping people on his list throughout all this as he comes to his birthday and the one year anniversary of his list of righting his wrongs. Following this, he finds accomplishments in himself and attempts to be more ambitious and looks for a place of his own, a complete education, and a job that he can make in to a career.
The cast hits every note perfectly and is able to give truth to these characters in a very natural and simplistic way. Jason Lee has done very well in countless films in the past, but Earl is easily his best likeable character. Lee fits Earl to an exact science. His character is given great thought and although he was once flawed, he is a far better person than the majority of people. How many people would really think of every little thing they did wrong in their whole life, track down the people that they were done too even if they were strangers and makes up for them, putting all of this before money, a home, a job, or any type of security and surely comfort? Hardly anyone would. For Earl it is a no brainer, based on his own realization of life that he came to by himself that went against the way he thought for nearly all of his life. Jason Lee brings out a lot of comedy in the character while making him very caring and sensitive.
One of the best parts about the show is Ethan Suplee as Randy. He is very innocent, naïve, and at times completely oblivious to the world he is living in. Randy still remains to be fiercely loyal to his brother and shows just how much Earl means to him time and time again. Randy is really like a big kid and Suplee is able to bring out this in the smallest details. This is Suplee’s best role and he has made this surely one of the outrageously funniest TV characters today.
Jaime Pressly is another one who brings her character to life and shines so brightly. She gives her best performance of her career every week on Earl as she has become the small town, morally gray (at best) and very ill-tempered and bossy, Joy perfectly. Based on this description, this doesn’t seem like a character that we would like or at least not feel for. Yet she manages to make us love her despite all of her flaws and in her case, sometimes ignorance is bliss. One of her highlights this season was her very off, but strangely enthusiastic Faith Hill impersonation, which she has revealed is her genuine belief that she could have been the next Faith Hill.
One of the greatest things about Darnell’s character is how Eddie Steeples makes him to be such a calm and casual guy, which really shows that in his and Joy’s case opposites attract. I was happy to see Nadine Valazquez having a bigger role this season as Catalina. She is still a maid at the motel as well as a stripper and an even closer friend to Randy and Earl. She offers a lot of comedy and between all of the supporting cast there is a lot of diversity through the humor.
There were a few great guest roles like Christian Slater as a stoner turned environment lover who ends up living in a commune and speaks to Earl about the effects of global warming. Another great one is Norm MacDonald as Little Chubby, the manager of the strip club and an all-around jerk. MacDonald brings his Burt Reynolds character to surface in this performance that he perfected so well on Saturday Night Live, which is very fitting considering Burt Reynolds played the father of his character, Chubby.
In the first season there was an episode turning the premise of the show around, where Earl came to the conclusion that he wasn’t being mean or greedy enough and needed to take what he wanted. There was a similar switching of roles episode this season where we hear one story of valuable stolen silverware from the point of view of Earl, Randy, Joy, Darnell, and even a librarian named Dotty. How different they all were and the unique touch they all used showcased the separate ideals and characteristics that they bring to the show. This season Earl gives love another try and finds interest in Joy’s lawyer, but the bad things in his past come back to haunt him again. This season of My Name is Earl is very concentrated on his list and doing right by everyone, but it switches directions and starts to be more about him and the person he wants to be in the future and the life he wants to have. The show is funny, entertaining, full of life, and always doing something new every step of the way.