Friday, May 11, 2007

"Something about her accent really turned me on.": My Name Is Earl

My Name Is Earl ended its weird, wacky second season with an honest-to-goodness cliffhanger. Granted, it was the exact same cliffhanger 24 ended on last year (OK, minus the Chinese), but it was the sort of thing you wouldn't expect to see on this show, which has spent most of its second season doing exactly the sorts of things you wouldn't expect to see within its confines and torquing off quite a few of the people who first made the show a hit (the critical reviews of the season as a whole have ranged from scathing to slightly miffed, but it's hard to find many raves). The show has so abandoned the simple formula that brought it to prominence that it's easy to see why some are just not sure this is the show they signed on for. Me, though? I've enjoyed this weird, weird, formula-busting season. The wackier it got, the better. And the season finale was plenty wacky.

Let's start with Earl falling in love with Joy's deaf lawyer. At first, it seemed like a stretch until you realized that, yes, Marlee Matlin is still a foxy lady, and, yes, she and Earl didn't meet all season long. Jason Lee and Matlin have surprisingly good chemistry, and the scenes on their date were quite amusing. Also, so long as Matlin is on the show, Byron from Andy Richter Controls the Universe is guaranteed a job, which is nice because he's a funny actor (but when do we get our DVD set of that brilliant show?).

The bulk of the episode was about Joy's trial and how a situation where everything went wrong turned into a near acquittal for Joy before everything went wrong again. The procession of various translators (sign language into Mandarin, Mandarin into English) was good, as was the constant checking of the status of the jury. I wasn't so sure that Earl would perjure himself, what with his attempts to turn his life around and be good, but his eventual confession to the crime that was going to lead to Joy's imprisonment was built to well, and the final twist that he would be in jail for two years was handled nicely as well. Now does he actually spend the two years in jail and the show jumps forward 24 style? That might be an interesting gambit.

Some other random things I liked in the episode included Randy and Earl's walkie talkies, Joy getting caught by Dog the Bounty Hunter and Darnell's increasing state of distress at being forced to stay alone with the kids (the live crab served up to his restaurant patrons being the best example). I also liked the long string of. . .something. . .Catalina said in Spanish. I couldn't catch all of it, but it sounded like she was thanking the viewers for watching or something, which the show has done before.

I originally said I wasn't sure I liked Earl having newfound respectability, but I actually don't mind the jail twist so long as it's handled well. It could be botched and that would be irritating, but Earl's self sacrifice to save his ex-wife's family is perhaps the nicest thing he's done since becoming a better person. And if the show wants to go back to the old, bad Earl, now, they'll have more than an ample excuse to do so.

So what did you think of the finale and the more experimental second season as a whole? And who's your favorite secondary character who turns up every once in a while (mine's Tim Stack)?


Edward Copeland said...

I'm surprised that Earl's reviews have been lukewarm because I think the show has really grown and have been amazed at its ability to change and surprise within what I feared would be a rather limited presence. The cliffhanger was the best example yet of the creators' willigness to change up the game. I loved it more this year than last -- and give Jaime Pressly the damn Emmy already!

Andy Scott said...

Earl was more cutesy and charming in season 1 but I have fully enjoyed the changes made in season 2. I'm with you in that the wackier it gets, the better. Like the Cops episode? LOL.

I just hope that whatever happens, Jason Lee gets nominated for an Emmy. I'll be sad if he gets snubbed again because he deserved to win last year.