The Husband:

As the fall season goes into full effect, we, the Children of Saint Clare, cannot possibly do write-ups on every show that we watch. There are just far too many to handle, and it is our policy that new shows get first priority, followed by the bigger pre-existing shows that we feel important to this site (i.e. ANTM, Gossip Girl, etc.). For the sake of readership – and our bleeding fingers – we will start to bundle up both Thursday night’s NBC comedy lineup as well as Fox’s Sunday Animation Domination, doing quick write-ups in small chunks in a new format with letter grades, since I’ll have less to say as far as critique goes.

First up is Thursday’s two-hour comedy block, which included the two 30-minute episodes of My Name Is Earl and the hour-long premiere of The Office.

My Name is Earl 4.1: “The Magic Hour”

Grade: B

I’m fairly alone in this, but I really liked the last season of Earl, which followed his stint in prison after confessing to Joy’s crimes, and then his subsequent coma. Viewers complained that the show had lost its purpose of Earl taking care of his karma list, but I’ve always felt the show’s strongest suit was its ensemble, so for example when Randy decided to take over the list during Earl’s coma, with each task finished bringing Earl closer to life, I felt the show had never been better.

But people didn’t want Earl in a predicament. I guess they wanted everything just like it was in s1 and s2, a less serialized form with less character repercussions. It’s called conflict, people. It was supposed to be off-putting. Jail and coma provided new challenges for a show that I felt was too comfortable with a week-in-week-out rhythm. I guess I just like serialized shows more. (Actually, I don’t guess. I definitely like serialized shows more.)

Much to my chagrin, it seems that the showrunners heard the public cry, and upon the start of this new season, absolutely nothing was mentioned about s3. Not one bit. Not jail. Not the coma. Not Earl’s marriage to Alyssa Milano. Not Randy’s Amish-like Camdenite girlfriend who I thought was going to be a regular. (I just so happen to have three degrees of separation from the actress who played said Camdenite, so it’s definitely something I cared about.) None of it. It’s as if it never happened, and that’s a big deficit in my book. What show do they think this is? Prison Break?

Basically, s4 just picked up with Earl going to his list again. This item: stole a pony from a Make-A-Wish recipient, thus denying him his wish before death. But when Earl looks into the case, he finds that ten years later the young boy isn’t actually dead. He’s just Seth Green now. Instead of accepting a new pony, though, Green asks Earl and Randy to help him make a movie. Just like Be Kind Rewind – which I coincidentally had just watched the morning before watching this episode – Earl and Randy use the entire town of Camden as cast and crew. Green does a good job at hiring people, such as the nervous Kenny as the Nervous Scientist, exotic Catalina as a terrorist, and Randy – the sole good actor in the entire town – as the President.

“And here’s my Secretary of Cute!” – Randy, followed by reaching into his jacket pocket and pulling out a kitten

Green’s film, apparently the first movie shot in Camden since “the documentary about the chemical spill,” is a James Bond-esque spy thriller with over-the-top stunts, lots of posing and kissing, and all culminating in a squid attack on the White House. Unfortunately, Camden can’t really come together as a crew, and after a few key sequences are shot, they quit.

“I’m sorry. This is Camden. Everyone quits. That’s why the freeway ends in a field.” – Earl

Turns out, Green really was dying, but having completed most of his vision for the film, he was able to die happy and fulfilled. The town comes together to watch their accomplishment, and everything works out fine.

Like I said, the sudden thrust into s4 was far too jarring for my tastes, and I saw the twist coming a mile away, but I’m happy to have the show back.

That is, until the second half-hour episode.

My Name is Earl 4.2: “If You Vote for This I Will Do Something Crazy at the Emmys”

Grade: C

Mad props must be given to the writer that created the title for the episode. It’s the funniest thing about the episode without question. Unfortunately, I doubt Emmy voters would nominate such a mediocre episode. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I almost never like the episodes of Earl that center on Earl and Randy’s parents, Carl and Kay Hickey. I like Beau Bridges as Carl just fine, but it always puts everything else on the show on hold, and for such a large cast of characters – Camden is almost as populated by interesting characters as Springfield on The Simpsons – that always irks me. (Actually, that’s why I don’t like the parent-centered episodes. Right there.)

Earl’s list item: Drove his neighbors out of the area. It seems that when he was a child, Earl tormented his neighbors the Clarks when he saw the patriarch (name? Clark Clark) him cry, trying to reignite the man’s tears with such pranks as pretending to kill baby chickens and creating a fake newspaper whose headline is about the rising rate of baby suicides.

“Why are babies killing themselves?!” – Clark Clark (David Paymer)

When Earl finds the Clarks one town over, he learns a devastating secret. The Clarks didn’t move because of Earl’s mischief; they moved because one night years ago when Kay Hickey and Clark Clark were drunk on cheap wine coolers during a basement game of Go Fish, they hooked up. Clark Clark, embarrassed, couldn’t live with the guilt.

When Carl Hickey gets wind of this past digression, he splits up with Kay and lives with Earl. It’s here where things get very unfunny as Carl tries several times to call upon former flirtations with local women and turn them into sexual adventures, only to be rejected. And the only time he comes close, it turns out to be Patty the resident hooker, which Earl quickly puts an end to.

“Word-of-mouth is very important in my line of work. It’s right up there with eye contact and concealer.” – Patty The Hooker

Carl ends up forgiving Kay and all turns out okay. That’s pretty much it. We’re right back to where we started. Clark Clark really gets to cross his respective item off the list, since he technically shouldn’t have been there in the first place. I guess his wife savagely beating Carl at the Clark house was enough to end that part of the story. Yawn.

I did get one big laugh, though, when it is mentioned that a local Camden restaurant is named Casa De Maison. Now that’s funny.

The Office 5.1: “Weight Loss”

Grade: A-

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m no fan of cringe comedy, so when the American version of The Office gets a little too mean and depressing, I tend to shut off my emotion receptors and am just left with improve actors goofing around. This doesn’t happen too often, but sometimes it seems that this greatly hailed and, let’s face it, incredibly funny show just can suffer at the hand of its own reliance of real-life problems.

So I’m glad to say that the fifth season is a near-perfect blend of comedy and pathos, giving each member of the ensemble something to do – something the show forgets to do during its darkest days – and effortlessly bringing us up to date on several storylines.

Dunder Mifflin auditions for The Biggest Loser.

Dunder Mifflin auditions for The Biggest Loser.

Dunder Mifflin is in the throes of a seven-week weight loss competition with other branches in order to be rewarded a few extra vacation days, but just like everything on this show, something seemingly normal will always turn wacky and depressing at the hands of Michael Scott and Dwight Scrute. Because of their over-competitive nature and their complete disregarding for actual human behavior and emotion, they both try everything they can to lower the employees weight.

  • Dwight replaces everything in the vending machine with fruits and vegetables – often having to slam such larger items into place with a hammer – and leave them there so long that they gather flies.
  • Dwight does a “random selection” of people to demand undergoing liposuction, then picking the three biggest people (Stanley, Phyllis and Kevin)
  • Dwight drives Phyllis to an empty warehouse and abandons her, thus forcing her to walk five miles back to the office for the exercise.
  • Michael, having gotten in trouble with HR for Dwight’s warehouse stunt, dons a fat suit and tries to shame his employees into the lesson that fat people always die.
  • As a last-ditch effort, they turn the office into a sweat lodge.

“Wait a minute. One more bite of éclair each. Hold it on your mouth if you can’t swallow.” – Dwight before the first company weigh-in, followed by the requisite Jim reaction shot

We caught up with other characters, such as the now cocaine-free Ryan (who has temporarily returned to the branch he abandoned at the end of s3), the starving-herself-to-unconsciousness-to-fit-into-bikinis Kelly, and the new head of party planning, Phyllis. (You best watch out for Angela, biznatch.) Angela and Dwight are still carrying on their illicit affair while Angela realizes that her engagement to Andy is simply not working. New HR rep Holly (Oscar-nominee Amy Ryan) realizes that Kevin is not, in fact, mentally challenged, and also continues to be ignorant of Michael’s undying love for her.

“I once went 28 years without having sex. Then another seven years.” – Michael

If you’ve seen the episode, though, you know that the BIG THING that happened was that Jim finally proposed to Pam. I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder, because Pam is now taking art classes in New York while Jim is still stuck in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Jim realizes that if he doesn’t pop the question now, he may never. The proposal itself – at a rain-soaked gas station somewhere between Scranton and NYC – was absolutely perfect for this kind of show, and its sudden occurrence only highlights the low-key nature of this show. Wonderful.