Fox // 2009 // 520 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // October 7th, 2009
"You know the kind of guy who does nothing but bad things, and then wonders why his life sucks? Well...that was me. So, I made a list of everything bad I've ever done and, one by one I'm going to make up for all my mistakes. I'm just trying to be a better person. My name is Earl."
After NBC cancelled My Name Is Earl in May 2009, the series' producers were unable to come to an agreement with any other network to continue the series without compromising its creative integrity. The end result? Fortunately, fans were treated with a solid season and some of the best writing to date, but they were also left with a cliffhanger that would never be resolved and a whole in their hearts where Earl Hickey and his fellow bumpkins would live no more.
Earl Hickey (Jason Lee, The Incredibles) and his brother Randy (Ethan Suplee, Fanboys), Earl's ex-wife Joy (Jaime Pressley, Horton Hears a Who!) and her current husband Darnell 'Crabman' Turner (Eddie Steeples, Akeelah and the Bee) and their friend stripper/maid Catalina Aruca (Nadine Velasquez, War) have a unique outlook on life, shaped by blue-collar living, marginal ethics and a little thing they like to call "Karma."
My Name Is Earl: Season Four includes all 27 (!) episodes of the show's fourth and ultimately final season, spread over four discs:
* "The Magic Hour"
* "Monkeys Take a Bath"
* "Joy in a Bubble"
* "Stole an RV"
* "Sweet Johnny"
* "we've Got Spirit"
* "Quit Your Snitchin'"
* "Little Bad Voodoo Brother"
* "Sold a Guy a Lemon Car"
* "Earl and Joy's Anniversary"
* "Nature's Game Show"
* "Reading is a Fundamental Case"
* "Orphan Earl"
* "Got the Babysitter Pregnant"
* "Darnell Outed, Part 1"
* "Darnell Outed, Part 2"
* "Randy's List Item"
* "Friends With Benefits"
* "My Name Is Alias"
* "Chaz Dalton's Space Academy"
* "Witch Lady"
* "Inside Probe, Part 1"
* "Inside Probe, Part 2"
* "Dodge's Dad"
What is it about My Name Is Earl that makes the show so appealing? It's partly the slapstick comedy and over-the-top situations, partly the unique characters who are more than just stereotypical trailer trash, and partly the genuine moments of emotion that the writers manage to sneak in every so often. But the show is also more than just the sum of the individual parts, it's a series that danced along the knife edge of inappropriateness, but never fully degenerated into South Park or Family Guy territory. Sure, it's cringingly inappropriate at times, but the writers have spent more of their time over the last four years creating genuine laughs than trying to make censors blush.
It's interesting to me that Supernatural and My Name Is Earl have been two of my favorite shows since they first aired. While very different overall, the two series have a prominent feature in common...classic rock. Both shows feature legendary rock tunes during each episode, almost acting like additional characters as they add their unique appeal to the mix. Over the course of four years and 96 episodes, viewers were treated to such diverse classics as Nena's "99 Luftballons," Supertramp's "Give a Little Bit," "Jump" by House of Pain and "Don't Bring Me Down" by ELO. Two hundred and 88 songs in total, averaging three songs an episode...that's one mother of an impressive series soundtrack! Another unique feature of the series was the varied guest star appearances that included such stars as Jane Seymour, Burt Reynolds, Norm MacDonald, Christian Slater, Seth Green, Jerry Van Dyke, Jenna Elfman, Jason Priestly, Erik Estrada, Danny Glover, Paris Hilton (as herself) and Michael Rapaport, just to name a handful. More than just walk-on roles, the celebrities were generally given fleshed-out characters that offered them a chance to play in Earl's trailer trash world.
After a Season Three departure from its tried-and-true formula of Earl's quest to cross items off his list, the writers returned to the old familiar formula for Season Four. Like a trailer park Equalizer armed with his trusty dog-eared loose leaf page, Earl was back to the task of righting wrongs and helping his friends and family make their lives better. What I've always enjoyed most about the show is how, despite the wacky situations and often in-bred characters, you'll often find the odd moral or lesson woven into most of the episodes. Whether it's Earl bettering himself by undoing the bad deeds from his past, or one of the other characters learning something new about themselves, there has always been a little bit more to this show than just cheap laughs. Another special feature of My Name Is Earl has been Earl's running narrations throughout each episode. While certainly not unique to this series, the narration often adds to the humor and provides additional set-up and back story for the plot of each episode.
Perhaps the biggest tragedy about the show's cancellation was that it was canned right when Season Four ended with a cliffhanger. Who knows what might happen down the road, but at this point it doesn't seem all that likely that Earl and the gang will be brought back for some big screen closure à la Arrested Development. That said, I'm sure Earl fans around the world would be more than up to a little letter-writing campaign (hint, hint).
My Name Is Earl: Season Four is a bit of a mixed bag on Blu-ray. While there are some scenes in this 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation that exhibit impressive clarity, others seem a bit on the soft side, so it's hard to give this release full marks on that front. The color palette is vibrant and contrast is sharp throughout all the episodes for the most part, but many daylight exterior scenes come off a bit too hot for my liking. With music and dialogue as the dominant elements of the audio mix, the DTS-HD Master Audio track does its job nicely, if not being somewhat underutilized by the source material. While not having an SD version for comparison, this release likely provides a better overall A/V presentation, but for most home viewing, the standard DVD version would likely do just fine and save a few bucks in the bargain.
I have to wonder if, had the show's creators known that Season Four would be their last, they would have gone to greater lengths to serve up a better assortment of extra features? First of all, everything you'll find here has been ported over from the SD release, you won't find anything additional, or even in HD for that matter. The most interesting inclusion here is the somewhat inspired "Earl's Fan Mail." Hosted by Jason Lee, actors and production staff read out actual questions submitted by fans which are then answered by other folks associated with the show. Twenty-odd minutes of deleted scenes provide the odd chuckle and the "Gag Reel" shows viewers how genuinely funny the cast of this series was, especially in impromptu moments. Finally, a mock trailer for the film "2 The Max" that appeared in the episode "The Magic Hour" delivers a few more laughs and a nice "trailer voice" by Mr. Lee himself. Given the excitement and creativity you see in the cast and crew throughout the series and in the "Fan Mail" segment, why are there no episode commentaries? That's a good question indeed!
No sooner did My Name Is Earl really hit its stride, that NBC decided to cancel the series. Most heartbreaking of all, the producers weren't able to find a new home for the show. There's not much to say, besides the fact that this was the best season of a great series that will be hard to replace in the hearts of its fans.
Review content copyright © 2009 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 520 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site