My Name Is Earl Season 3 DVD Review

Opening with Earl in prison for GTA, series 3 of the hit comedy messes with the formula. But has it damaged its karma?

When I first heard that Jason Lee was going to be the star of a sitcom, especially one without a laugh track, I was excited. And when I heard that Ethan Suplee would be joining him from the school of Kevin Smith, I almost peed my pants. I watched season one in delight, becoming one of my favourite comedies on TV, but season two gave me doubts that it could stay there. Season two got away from the point, and wasted a lot of time, so I was sceptical about what season three could bring me to change my mind.

What it did bring me is hope. Not in the strangely sappy sense you might get from some of the nicer episodes of Earl, but hope that the show could become one of the greats, and deserve it.

For those of you who don’t know, here are the basics. Jason Lee plays Earl Hickey, a “trailer trash” criminal who robs from anybody and keeps it for himself. Still, his life isn’t great, and he’s not sure why. When he wins $100,000 on a scratchcard, and is immediately run over by a car, loosing the card in the wind, he gets very confused and starts to soul search. He starts thinking about how everyone else has a better life than him, and how no matter how much he steals, his life never really gets any better. Just then, Carson Daly comes on TV and introduces Earl to Karma by saying, “Do good things, and good things happen”. And with this, Earl writes a list of all the bad things he’s ever done, with a plan to put all his wrongs right. His kid-like brother Randy (Ethan Suplee) is there to help, and his ex-wife Joy (Jaime Pressly) is there to hinder. There are many colourful characters of the fictional Camden County who all play some part in Earl’s life and list, and much like the Simpsons, they play a great role in the humour.

In seasons one and two the main focus of most episodes was Earl crossing something off his list, but due to the court case in which Earl was found guilty of Grand Theft Auto, Earl gets locked up for two years in Camden prison, and season three takes an entirely different approach. Earl has wronged a lot of people, and some have even ended up in prison, but not 22 episodes worth of people, it turns out. What does the rest of the season focus on? Getting out of prison legally and back to the list, and even when that happens, it’s not exactly a bed of roses.

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It turns out that season three doesn’t have many episodes which focus on the people on the list. In fact there are only six that focus on it, which should be a reason for me to call this terrible and slate it until the cows come home, but I can’t. In truth, the episodes that focused on the list in season two seemed a little like we had seen them before, but still, I was hoping for the list episodes to get better, not diminish. Surely, it could only mean that I didn’t like it, but I did. Season three proves that My Name Is Earl is anything but formulaic, and it’s great.

Starting with being imprisoned and moving swiftly onto being in a coma, Earl is entirely different from the two seasons that passed, bringing new challenges and the show a new lease of life. It truly is a breath of fresh air to see that this show has come back swinging against its critics, and it has surely won me over yet again.

How could it not, with episodes like ‘Creative Writing’ showing the writing cast at their most imaginative, giving Earl, Randy, Joy, Catalina (Nadine Velazquez) and Darnell (Eddie Steeples) a chance to create fictional stories in which they are the lead character. ‘Girl Earl’ gives the perfect opportunity for brilliant writing to flourish, (even if it’s only in the brilliant one-liners about ‘bagging’) and ‘Midnight Bun’ sees the close of a great two-parter with Earl getting to see the outside world, even if only for a short time.

While some of the best moments in Earl’s 3 years can be found in this DVD collection, some of the episodes are fillers. For instance, the intrepid ‘Our Other Cops Is on’ would have been alright, had they not spread it across two episodes. Also, ‘Love Octagon’, the episode in which Earl, Frank and Catalina all try to win the heart of Billie, Earl’s supposed one true love, feels a little forced, and could have been played out a little better.

Still, he does cross about ten things off the list, meaning that the season is not wasted in any way. Add that to the fact that by the end of the season, he’s been reset back to normal, leaving season four to happen just as the series originally intended, which is nothing short of a good thing.

As for extras, if you like deleted scenes, you are in for a treat, as there are thousands, spread across the 4-disk set. If you like the more specially produced stuff, you’ll have to take what you get. A ten-minute chat with the cast and crew about the characters of Camden is slightly insightful, but pretty much pointless. And when you add the useless 20-minute snoozefest that is a Mr Turtle ‘best of’ with commentary it feels a lot like filler. Of course, a handy gag reel is on hand to help mop up the rest of the rest of the space.

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Conclusion? Season three is an excellent return to greatness, albeit in a slightly altered form from before, but still, a fantastic addition to a series with as much warmth as a burning building.

Series:

4 stars
Extras:
2 stars

My Name Is Earl Season 3 is out on the 20th of October.

 

Rating:

3 out of 5