The whole concept of karma and the idea that “what goes around, comes around” is something some people take very seriously. In current TV, there’s no one who believes in karma more than Earl Hickey. This was not always the case, however. Once upon a time, Earl wasn’t a very good man. In fact, most of his life was spent being selfish and occasionally committing criminal acts. All of that changed at the beginning of the first season of My Name Is Earl and in the second season, Earl continues to make amends for his misdeeds.
In the first season of My Name Is Earl, the title character (played by Jason Lee, who also narrates the episodes) wins $100,000 on a scratch off lotto ticket. Just when he thought he’d finally hit the jackpot, a car hits him, causing him to lose the ticket. While recovering from the accident, he learns about karma from a TV show and vows to turn his life around. Earl makes a list of all of the bad things he’s done and sets off to pay back everyone he’s every wronged.
Call it fate or a freak-coincidence but somehow, Earl finds the lotto ticket (or it finds him) and he decides to use the money to help him with his list. The list is pretty extensive and includes things like “Accidentally started a forest fire” and “Broke Joy’s fancy figurine.” Most of the episodes focus on something from his list, so we usually get a back-story, accompanied by a flashback, which explains the misdeed and also serves to show us what kind of man Earl used to be. While Earl has crossed off many of the items on his list, he’s still got a long way to go.
Earl isn’t alone on his mission to right his list of wrongs. His brother Randy (Suplee) is almost always at his side. He’s a big, dopey guy with a huge heart and a simple mind. Randy is in love with Catalina (Velazquez), the maid at the motel where he and Earl live. Catalina is a kind-hearted illegal immigrant who almost always sounds upbeat; even when she’s talking about the horrific things she experienced growing up in her village in Mexico.
Earl’s ex-wife Joy (Pressley) and her husband Darnell (Steeples) are around a lot. There doesn’t seem to be any bad blood between Earl and Joy, despite the fact that she cheated on him and got knocked up with Darnell’s baby when she was still married to Earl. Darnell (a.k.a. Crabman, a.k.a. Harry Monroe) seems like a simple guy, but every now and then he spouts some really intellectual stuff that seems to indicate that he’s much more educated than he normally lets on. Unlike her husband, Joy is loud, crass and usually extremely selfish. She is pretty much the female version of what Earl was like before he discovered karma.
Like the first season, season 2 focuses a lot on Earl continuing to work on his list. Among the people he reunites with is a French guy named Pierre, whom Earl taunted relentlessly when they were back in grade school. Earl invites Pierre back to America in the hopes of showing him that this country isn’t as bad as he made it seem when they were kids. In another episode, Earl seeks out a stoner-turned-environmentalist played by guest-star Christian Slater, whom he and Randy robbed years ago.
Slater isn't the only guest star this season. In the episode titled, “Made a Lady Think I was God,” Roseanne Barr plays Millie, the woman Earl tricks into thinking he’s God by using a walkie-talkie that he learns can transmit through her hearing aid. In another episode, Amy Sedaris guest stars as a cat-lady whom Randy develops a crush on. Among the other guest stars are Jenny McCarthy, Judy Greer and John Leguizamo.
As usual, the bulk of the season focuses on Earl’s list but there are a couple of other story arcs going on that flutter in and out throughout the season. Catalina gets deported after the cops pull her over for speeding. Since Earl is partially to blame for this due to a temporary addiction to gambling, he and Randy head to Mexico to bring her back and protect her from the dangers of her village.
The major arc in season two involves Joy stealing a truck and facing jail time because this crime is her third strike. Throughout the season, she works with her deaf lawyer, Ruby (played by Marlee Matlin) to try and avoid conviction for her crime. Ruby puts up with Joy constantly laughing at her “deaf accent.” Earl, Randy and even Catalina (who doesn’t like Joy) do what they can to help Joy but at the end of the season, it appears karma has caught up with her and the final verdict relies almost entirely on Earl’s testimony. The season ends with a cliffhanger that will surely be addressed when the new season picks up this month.
Earl is a great show because while it does mercilessly poke fun at lower class trailer park dwelling rednecks, the level of heart within the series, which is often displayed by Earl and some of the other characters really adds a nice balance to the series. Earl, himself is a likable guy, as are the other characters, despite their flaws. Though there are a few times when Earl messes up and reverts back into the man he was before “the list,” he does seem to be growing as a character. The same applies to Joy, Randy, Catalina and Darnell. They’re not perfect, but they’re good people who usually mean well.
The My Name Is Earl Season 2 DVD set consists of four discs, containing all 23 episodes from the season as well a very satisfying amount of special features. Scattered throughout the discs are eight commentaries and numerous deleted scenes. In addition to that, the fourth disc contains a blooper reel, a featurette on the “Stoner” episode, a hilarious set of web cam clips and a brief video of what Earl would look like if it were a telenovela.
The menu for each disc is the same with an image a hand holding a scratch-off lotto ticket. Each “scratch area” contains a shrunken down video clip from various episodes and below that is where you’ll find the menu options. The score from the show plays in the background. It’s a simple menu, but I like simple menus. Flashy DVD menus are nice the first time around but I much prefer getting right down to business.
I’m also really picky about commentaries. For me, they have to be extremely entertaining or extremely interesting and informative in order for me to waste my time listening to them. Otherwise I’d much rather just watch the episode without someone talking over it the entire time. Fortunately, the commentaries on Earl are pretty entertaining and as interesting as a commentary could get for a comedy series.
All of the commentaries feature numerous voices. The participants vary over the eight commentaries on the set. Among the various commentaries, you’ll hear actors Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, Amy Sedaris, Giovanni Ribisi, Jaime Pressley, Eddie Steeples and Beau Bridges. Series creator Greg Garcia and some of the writers, directors and producers are also in attendance. Personally, I think Jason Lee is the most entertaining but pretty much all of the participants have interesting things to say during the episodes. They talk a lot about the making of the episode, relevant guest stars and behind-the-scenes jokes. There’s a lot of general chit-chat too but even with that, there’s a flow to it that makes each commentary worth listening to.
Of the bonus features, the bloopers are pretty funny and the deleted scenes are entertaining but what I enjoyed most was watching the web cam clips. On the fourth disc, there’s a clip of each character talking to the computer that Joy took from Josh (the guy who was found dead in the “Kept a Guy Locked in a Truck” episode). Each of the main characters uses Josh’s web cam to record a message for the internet. If I had to choose a favorite among these clips, it would either be Darnell’s or Randy’s clip. Darnell, who wears a silly glasses-and-nose mask to protect his secret identity, uses the web cam to communicate with the guys from his old rap group. Randy uses the web cam to ask the internet questions and to request that the President change the order of the keys on computer keyboards to make them alphabetical. Guys who enjoy watching a hot girl dancing will definitely appreciate Catalina’s clip.
What I like most about the My Name Is Earl Season 2 DVD set is the fact that the bonus features really cater to the fans of the show. From the bloopers and deleted scenes to the commentaries and web cam clips, everything included is just as fun to watch as the episodes are. Even the featurette about the making of the “Stoner” episode (the one with the Claymation scenes) is presented in a way that’s interesting but also easy to understand. This is not to say that its dumbed down for us simple-minded Earl fans. Just that they managed to do the “this is how we did it” portion of the featurette simple and visually easy to follow.