It's very rare for me to actually laugh out loud at a television comedy--but My Name Is Earl makes me laugh a lot. Week in and week out, this remains the funniest show of the year, surpassing even my old fave, Scrubs. It's not that Scrubs got worse--it's just that Earl managed to punch all the right buttons for me.
Jason Lee's performance at Earl, a ne'er-do-well searching for karmic balance after coming to a moment of semi-cosmic awareness, is absolutely brilliant. Making viewers like such an inherently unlikeable character is a challenge, but Lee pulls it off remarkably well. Ethan Suplee's portrayal of Earl's slow-witted brother Randy is equally good; Suplee plays Randy as a small-town Lenny type, likeable and dim-witted and not truly bright enough to be evil. Eddie Steeples gives Darnell, aka Crab-Man, a charming goodness that seems surprising when you consider that he's the man who stole Earl's former wife. And that former wife, Joy, is played to perfection by Jaime Pressley, who chews the scenery with such comic abandon that she steals almost every scene in which she appears. She's greedy, manipulative, amoral, and absolutely self-centered--but even with such negative qualities, she still has a perversely endearing charm.
I never imagined that My Name Is Earl would hold my attention for a single episode--but I didn't allow for the superb writing that makes a quartet of should-be-repugnant characters come across as likeable souls on a winding path to betterment. There's nothing else like Earl on television--and I hope that no one tries to imitate it. It's too quirky and distinctive to serve as a model for derivation.