Friday, May 01, 2009

"Earl" is so much deeper than it appears

I'm tryin', Lord, I'm tryin'. I'm tryin' not to watch a lot of TV, but it ain't easy. Not if they're gonna wrap good writing and interesting themes in a tasty sitcom coating. 

"My Name is Earl" is a show about karma; explicitly so: the main character is obsessed with tracking down everyone whom he's ever harmed and making it up to him. And since it's a comedy, he's got good reason: in his life, karma acts immediately. We'd all be better people if we perceived the smack of karma as instant gratification.

For this reason, it has some of the Seinfeld mojo for me: circular plots that come round and surprise and delight. 

The other nicety is a Simpsons quality: even the worst characters usually have some redeeming quality. 

And the writers are not too bound by their formula. The classic Earl show is about Earl bumping into someone whom he hurt, and trying to make it up to them. But there were several episodes in season 3 where Earl was in prison. Sending him to prison and keeping him there for more than one episode ran against type, and was a lot of fun, especially with Craig T. Nelson playing the corrupt and incompetent warden. 

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