Monday, April 23, 2007

"I was enjoying the filthy Cub Scout.": My Name Is Earl and Ugly Betty

So there were a handful of things that weren't covered in my long absence (made longer by an unfortunate airport adventure), and I'll try to cover two of them in this post. I'll even try to make weird connections between the shows! Expect Everybody Hates Chris and Sopranos posts before I'm off to bed as well (though I may not get to 24). I have much to do, readers, but I love you too much to abandon you now.

So, Ugly Betty and My Name Is Earl don't seem to have a lot in common despite sharing a time slot, but they really sort of do. They're both quirky, for one thing, with broad humor and broad characters deploying that humor. And they've both created big communities full of vibrant personalities -- Betty lives in a romanticized version of New York City, and Earl's Camden County is like some weird distillation of Camden County and every quirky small town in TV history. Both shows also use guest stars well, resurrecting stars who've hit career lulls (Betty has done great work with Judith Light, and Earl brought in Norm Macdonald this week as the son of Burt Reynold's Big Chubby).

I'm not going to pretend that the shows have a ton in common (Betty is, after all, more like a bizarre twist on a soap, while Earl is closer to a more traditional sitcom), but the two aren't as dissimilar as they might initially seem (both take aim at a broad, family audience as well).

A few thoughts on last week's episodes:

Earl turned in what looks to be the last standalone episode before an arc of episodes about Earl getting a job and apartment (for some reason) closes out the season. It was another episode that dealt with the show's formula of having Earl help out someone he once wronged, but Macdonald was a good foil for Jason Lee, and his jerkiness made for some amusing scenes, as did his generosity and gradual re-descent into being a jerk after his testosterone returned. It's always nice to see some testicle-related jokes, and there were a plethora of them in this episode.

Also, Randy did a pole dance, and that was well worth the entire episode, especially when he ended the sequence by thanking his viewers while taking the bills from them one by one.

I did think there would be a bigger payoff for the Aborigine kid, but maybe the very random nature of the joke was the whole point. I like that the show feels free to not explain every one of its quirks, but this one was limited to one sequence and felt like an idea that didn't quite work as well as it might have.

Betty, meanwhile, dealt with the season-long undercurrent of Betty saving Daniel at the last moment by having him tell her off and let her know that she needed to keep her work life separate from her personal life, just as he was about to need her help most of all (after he accidentally slept with a 16-year-old of all things). The episode was, really, a fairly poor one, but at least it jettisoned the annoying plot where Constance tried to get Ignacio to fall in love with her (culminating in her attempts to get him to marry her for his green card) and helped bring a little stability to the Meade family dynamic (as they -- eventually -- all united to keep a pestering biography writer out).

I did like Betty dancing with the guy and then getting him to lift her to follow the writer as he left the club. I also liked Betty's impromptu fashion show. Basically, I just like anything America Ferrara does. Beyond that, the rest of the episode had its hit-and-miss moments.

It's good to be back, particularly after my airport nightmare, which I may tell you about on some far-off day when there's no new TV to watch.

Open question: Anybody else excited for the Bingo show?


Libby said...

Maybe we were all too busy pining for you in your absence to do anything as insignificant as watch tv ...

No, really, we're just lazy.

Libby said...

And also ...