I complain when it’s warranted, but let it not be said that I don’t say good things about a shown when that’s warranted, too. For instance, I’m very happy to tell you that last season My Name is Earl completely lost its way, that no one needed to see Earl in jail for a half a season, that no one needed to see him in a coma for an extended period of time, and that no one really liked Alyssa Milano’s character (not her fault, I’m sure she’s a lovely person). I’m also very happy to tell you that this season My Name is Earl still seems to be on the right track. Sure, no one is watching the show anymore, and a lot of that is probably due to the disastrous previous season, but last night’s episode was truly funny.
The skeptics out there will tell me that the reason last night’s episode worked so well is that it was just a play on two of the funniest episodes Earl has done (one of which, if I recall correctly, did actually air last year) — the Cops episodes. Obviously they couldn’t go back and do a third episode of Cops returning to Camden, so they instead had another show, Inside Probe, come to Camden to investigate a crime.
In this case, the show is there to discover what exactly happened to Ernie Belcher, the owner of the Crab Shack. Apparently, Ernie disappeared many a year a go and Geraldo Rivera — the substitute host of Inside Probe — is on the case! It really is just the Cops episodes again, but they worked well, so why not try to do something similar?
The basic concept behind it is successful because watching the folks from Camden we get to see over and over again just how… well… stupid they are. Having people from outside Camden come in and reveal to the rest of the world the foolishness of the Camdenites adds a note of reality to the series — we get to see that it’s not the entire world of Earl that lacks intelligence, it’s just Camden.