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Unemployed Earl Loses to Office Jerks

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I did not watch very much TV last season, so I cannot really comment on 95% of the Emmy winners from last night. However, I did watch The Office. I must admit I am upset My Name is Earl did not take any big awards. It did get best direction and writing for its pilot episode, but I think it deserved best comedy as well.

I think Earl show is brilliant in its originality. The Office is just another British sitcom import, reworked for an American audience. It is bad enough most scary movies are coming from Japan, but must we import our sitcoms as well?

My Name is Earl stars Jason Lee as Earl Hickey, a man who has never done anything honest in his entire life. He has brought nothing but pain to anyone unlucky enough to cross paths with him – be it stealing his father’s car at age twelve to drag racing the neighborhood bully or stealing the wallet of a man using the facilities at a gas station bathroom.

Earl is just a bad guy – until the day he steals a lottery ticket worth $100,000 and gets hit by car, losing the ticket as well. After waking up in the hospital, he realizes his life sucks because he has never done anything good.

He learns of Karma and realizes he owes Karma for a lifetime of evil and makes a list of every single bad thing he's ever done. Crossing off the first bad thing from his list returns his lottery ticket to him and he becomes obsessed with fixing every bad deed and making amends to the person wronged.

The plot of the show is but one of the original aspects of this overlooked masterpiece. It dances the line between surreal, satire, and realism beautifully. It creates the most absurd characters, but gives them realistic emotions and reactions. Add in just a little satire of the “poor white-trash” criminal, the illegal immigrant hotel maid, and every other ethnic stereotype you can think of, and you have perfection.

The beauty of the show is in its positive message. The show does show many bad acts committed by Earl over the years, but it shows him paying for those actions. It never glamorizes the things he did, but rather shows them as the stupid things they were. By having Karma play a constant role in every episode, the “treat others how you want to be treated” message comes through very clear and the show always ends with Earl crossing something off his list because he made it right.

The cast of the show is more than just the one man. Each and every actor, from Ethan Suplee as Earl’s brother and Jaime Pressly as his trailer-trash ex-wife to the guest stars ranging from Giovanni Ribisi to Beau Bridges, gives their all to their roles. Each character is given a full and rich back story as well. Even the guest stars play real characters in the story and not just well placed cameos.

While The Office is certainly a funny show, it does not strike me as a better show than Earl. The Office is yet another workplace comedy, only with improvisation based on situation. The cast is perfect and the directing captures the documentary feel they are going for, but there is little original or unique in this show. Besides, we can always watch the original on DVD, so why bother with a remake? Earl was robbed and given token prizes.

Like I said, I really do not watch very much television. The Simpsons, Family Guy, 24, and random documentaries are about it. My TiVO’s schedule is filled with Modern Marvels, History's Mysteries, and things like that, but I never miss an episode of Earl.

It really is refreshing to see a moral show that knows how to be bad and a show about bad people, which teaches morals. It is a show parents can watch with their kids and it is expected for them to not approve of what Earl did. That is the point of the whole show. He is atoning for his bad deeds.

Earl shows even a bad person can mend their ways. It deserved “Best Comedy Series” infinitely more than yet another show about workplace personality clichéd conflicts.

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About Brad Schader

  • Baronius

    I don’t watch Earl; I can’t judge whether it’s better than The Office. But The Office is brilliant. It was a British import, and it wasn’t very good in the first season. But it’s shed its foreign accent and developed into a really good show.

    It’s not “yet another” office sitcom. The pseudo-documentary style doesn’t permit the actors to phone it in, as happens so often on comedies. The characters are well developed, even some of the minor ones. I could go on, but the most remarkable thing is that arguments can be made for multiple NBC sitcoms winning Emmys. A lot has changed in two years.

  • I will agree with your post 100%. I think I am bitter that Earl was not even in the running for best comedy.