My Name Is Earl: Season 3, Episode 22

Camdenites: Part 2 (15 May 2008)

TV Episode  |  TV-PG  |   |  Comedy
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Title: Camdenites: Part 2 (15 May 2008)

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Episode credited cast:
Nescobar-A-Lop-Lop (as Abdoulaye N'Gom)
TV's Tim Stack (as Tim Stack)
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Release Date:

15 May 2008 (USA)  »

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Billie tells Earl that she's carrying an ax because all Camdenite women do so for protection when they leave the farm. However, there are several flashback scenes showing Camdenite women leaving the farm and none of them are carrying an ax. See more »

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Season 3: Same old fun with prison freshening it but the second half dips really badly
11 September 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Season two of My Name is Earl was showing signs of strain, giving that it was essentially a rerun of the first season but did have some really good specific episodes. So when the second season had managed to get Earl into jail, the third at least managed to feel fresh by rerunning the same ideas but inside the jail. This works pretty well and the first half of the season is pretty enjoyable and funny, even if it is similar to everything that has gone before. I know plenty of people do dislike it but for me the first half of the season was the usual plots with liberal scatterings of great lines, asides and narrative developments; OK never as fresh and gleefully trailer trash as the best of the episodes but still pretty funny. Indeed being in jail meant that the show had plenty of other clichés and stereotypes to play with other than just being poor and Southern and this did contribute to the season starting with life.

Sadly though, the second half of the season is a real nose dive. There are several things that threatened in the first half that come through in the second but the biggest problem is the idea of Earl in a coma. It isn't that it isn't funny, because it does still have its moments, but just that the entire side of it with Earl suddenly becomes painfully unfunny – which is a problem when you actively want LESS of your title character over a period of 5-10 episodes! Specifically I am talking about the 1950's-sitcom-style world that Earl retreats into, a nice idea in essence and perhaps even funny as a sketch aside or maybe a single episode. However for as long as it stays it becomes less and less funny and is just an irritation. Within these episodes fortunately we do still have good lines and characters in the real world but sadly the plots are suddenly a lot weaker at the same time. The two sections that bookend the coma are also pretty thin because they seem to think that we watch Earl for the plots and character development as opposed to the laughs, the imagination and the characters – which is wrong. So, respectively, we get Earl in moral-conflict and, later, Earl in relationship challenges. Neither section stands on its own and feels half-done, which is to be expected considering they were written as forward motion for the show rather than good ideas in their own rights.

To me it did suggest that season 4 will be just as bad, because the writers seem to be struggling to capture the fresh feel they first had – where each episode stood on its own and was generally driven by the laughs rather than the specific plot. It is indeed a bad sign where the show is notable for the "odd good laugh" rather than just being "funny". The problems are not with the cast though, who pretty much all play the same characters as always but show no signs of tiring and are putting effort into making the material work. Lee has the hardest job as he has to lead the plot even at the expense of him having funny material at times – that he cannot always make it work is not his fault as he works hard. Suplee's Randy has some similar problems later on as he becomes "Earl" in some regards and has to drive the narrative. Velazquez has less to do but is amusing while both Pressly and Steeples are protected from the narrative by never being at the very core and instead can keep doing their fun characters without having to get serious or drive a plot. The guest stars here are mixed and range from repeat solid turns from Ribisi, Bridges and Rappaport (for example) through to a terrible and embarrassing appearance by Paris Hilton (and I cannot stress how badly that stunk). Milano is my favourite member of Charmed and she is good when the material is there for her and not so good when it isn't – problem is that she has to direct the narrative and her character is more about setting up plots more than anything else; plus, like everyone else she can do nothing about the thrown-back 1950's segments.

My Name is Earl was never brilliant but it did have a wonderful red-neck charm and humour and for the first half of season 3 it is pretty good fun, only to really badly run out of steam and ideas as it goes into the second half. Season 4 will show whether the idea has run its course or not but on the strength of this, the dip may be too severe to be able to pull back from. Earl is still funny enough for me to keep coming back but if it continues in this vein.

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