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My Name Is Earl: Season 4 - Review

My Name Is Earl, Season 4

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE fourth season of well-meaning comedy My Name Is Earl ultimately proved to be the show’s last.

Its cancellation came about as much as a result of the economic climate, and the various programmers need to cut down at all costs, rather than any serious dip in ratings. For, if the clamour to save it was anything to go by, Earl’s followers remained loyal and true to the end.

Sadly, their efforts weren’t enough and the various adventures of Earl Hickey (Jason Lee) and his dim-witted but amiable brother Randy (Ethan Suplee) will now be consigned to (fond) memory.

Admittedly, the show had suffered a dip in form since the glory days of its first and second runs as its creators attempted to mix up the format. Season 3, for instance, took an interesting side-step into prison, as Earl stepped up and went behind bars to protect Joy (Jaime Pressly), but his escape and subsequent coma episodes were poor.

Season 4 suffered from a similarly hit-and-miss run of form. When funny, it was really, really amusing. When misfiring, watching could be excruciating. But that’s what you get from a show that thrived on cringe-inducing situation comedy.

And the decision to refocus attention on Earl’s list, as well as giving many of its supporting characters proper time to breathe, proved a wise one.

Among the season’s many highlights was an episode entitled Pinky, in which Earl helps Randy find his first love, Pinky – the kicker being that Pinky turned out to be Joy.

Randy’s attempts to get back the sweet innocent of their pre-pubescent relationship were highly amusing and unexpectedly poignant – providing a welcome reminder of Earl’s ability to work on a dumb but emotionally rewarding level.

A multi-episode story arc involving Darnell – aka Crabman’s – real identity also proved highly engaging, particularly when Darnell and Joy were forced to be [repeatedly] relocated to the witness protection programme.

The resolution of that arc, My Name Is Alias, in which Darnell’s father tracks down his son and is proven to be the main reason for Darnell’s secret identity, was also one of the best – and provided a fun guest slot for Danny Glover (riffing effectively on his Lethal Weapon persona).

Further highlights came from Quit Your Snitchin’, which recounted Earl’s attempts to get Randy a birthday car, Joy in a Bubble, which followed a hot tub incident from Earl’s past, and Bullies, in which both Earl and Randy have to confront ghosts from their past.

Unfortuntately, the final episodes in what would prove its final season didn’t really do the season any favours. A two-episode arc based around Inside Probe didn’t work at all, and seemed a waste of the talent involved.

While the final episode didn’t perhaps provide Earl and company the high-flying farewell they warranted. But there’s enough strong episodes in this fourth and final season to make it a worthy addition (and completion) to the Earl Hickey story.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 761mins
UK DVD Release: October 5, 2009