Friday, May 04, 2007

"Well. That certainly is a lot of punch. Is someone at the trailer park getting baptized?": My Name Is Earl

Ah, so sneaky, My Name Is Earl, to embed an elaborate Rudy homage within your episode about Earl finding a job -- so elaborate, indeed, that I didn't even notice it until after the episode was over and I was looking up the career of Charles S. Dutton. "Hey," I said. "He was in that movie too!" Certainly having Sean Astin there should have tipped me off, but I didn't catch on for a while for some reason. Maybe it was because I was so distracted by scratching and sniffing my card, included in the latest issue of TV Guide and full of scents ranging from deodorant to cinnamon buns (as gimmicks go, this was pretty useless, but it did make for some fun in, for example, worrying that we would have to smell a dead horse, and it did lead to at least one completely smell-dependent joke).

Now, I'm a big fan of gimmick episodes. I bought a 12-pack of Barqs Root Beer in the mid-90s so I could watch the Third Rock from the Sun 3-D episode in the glorious three dimensions it was meant to be seen in. I was disappointed then, but Earl's scratch-n-sniff gimmick was just weird enough that I was rather undisappointed by it. I went in expecting it to be completely gratuitous and tacked on, and I came out rather impressed that they found a way to actually integrate the scratching and the sniffing into the episode proper. I don't recommend that every other show on television integrate this gimmick into episodes, but as a one-time stunt, it wasn't bad.

The plot of the episode, involving Earl getting a job in the back of a home appliance store and yearning to be out front with the salesman, was an amusing enough little ditty, especially in that it gave work to Dutton and Ray's weird cousin from Everybody Loves Raymond (who was on Veronica Mars -- best week for character actors ever, I guess). Earl and Randy fit well into this milieu, but he also worked well with the salesmen up front. Now, it would seem that this job is going to be a major setting of season three, and while I'm glad Earl didn't buy a bar or something equally TV-tastic, I'm not sure that being an appliance salesman is going to drive enough storylines to really justify the big change to the show's premise. I'll be cautiously optimistic, though, for the sake of the show.

Meanwhile, Joy's trial was rapidly approaching, and she looked for a way to avoid leaving Darnell and her kids in uncertainty. Now, this all ended with Joy running to Mexico to avoid having to go to jail (since her deaf lawyer's interpreter -- Byron from Andy Richter Controls the Universe, who was also on Ugly Betty, weirdly -- said that her case could really go either way), which probably wasn't the greatest long-term legal strategy, but it nicely set up next week's finale, which will feature the trial proper.

I'm still mixed on this "Earl gets a life" plotline, and I don't see how they get out of having Joy skip the country to avoid going to jail (and isn't her doing so causing just as much uncertainty for. . .you know what? logic's not worth it), but this was another solid entry in a solid season. Earl has largely been unspectacular this year, but it was always kind of a quiet little show you watched every week and gained some wry chuckles from. This episode, at least, had some bigger laughs, and that's a start.

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