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My Name Is Earl: Season 3 - Review

My Name Is Earl: Season 3

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE third season of My Name Is Earl experimented with the format and almost didn’t get away with it.

Not content with merely churning out another 22 episodes in which reformed rogue Earl Hickey (Jason Lee) gets to tick off his list and remain on the good side of karma, the writers opted to push Earl to the limit of his endurance… and ours.

Hence, as the season kicks off Earl finds himself in prison after taking the fall for Joy (Jaime Pressly) during her trial for robbery and assault, leaving witless brother Randy (Ethan Suplee) to try and fend for himself on the outside.

Most of the time, this scenario led to some very funny encounters – particularly once Randy had decided to bridge the gap between himself and his brother by taking a job as a prison guard.

But it also ran things pretty close to the good taste/bad taste barrier… and occasionally over-stepped the mark.

Later on in the series, though, the misses threatened to outweigh the hits. A double episode of Cops, for instance, wasn’t as funny as the first time they attempted it (in season 2), while a protracted scenario that placed Earl in a coma and trapped inside his own fantasy sitcom contained many moments that were every bit as painful to watch as Ricky Gervais’ David Brent in The Office.

That said, you have to admire the creative team for taking some risks in a bid to prevent the show becoming stale… but they didn’t always need to sacrifice the sweet charm of the first two series, and travel so near the mark on countless occasions.

However, of the episodes worth catching in this box set, Midnight Bun – in which prison in-mate Frank (Michael Rappaport) escapes while Randy is taking him out for ice-cream – is very funny, as is Creative Writing, in which Earl struggles to participate properly in a class of creative writing (but prompts everyone else to do so and enter their own fantasy worlds in the meantime).

We were also fans of The Gangs of Camden County, in which Earl resolves a prison dispute between two gangs with a surprising outcome, and No Heads And A Duffel Bag, in which Randy has to make amends for ruining his parents’ Christmas.

The two-part season finale Camdenites was also a nice way of bringing the series to a close and tying up a lot of the loose ends.

So, as hit and miss as Season 3 of this sit-com undoubtedly remains, it’s still worth checking to see how Earl’s continuing rehab pans out – if only because, in central duo Lee and Suplee, the show has two genuinely appealing characters to continue rooting for (not to mention Joy’s acerbic wit).

Certificate: 12A
Episodes: 22
UK DVD Release Date: October 20, 2008