It’s one thing to sit down with a season-long serial drama such as 24 and plow through the episodes as though it were one long movie. It’s more rare to settle in with every episode of a sitcom and keep on watching ’em without having the show’s premise or its laughs become repetitive. But the My Name Is Earl: The Complete First Season DVD set is that rarity — only Arrested Development has proved as consistently funny, and Earl‘s wit is rarer still in a big, fat, mass-appeal hit.
You know the concept: Jason Lee’s Earl — working-class screwup, funky mustache — perceives the concept of karma while watching Carson Daly, makes a list of bad things he’s done in his life, and makes amends one by one. Creator Greg Garcia’s notion gives unusual depth and elasticity to the story lines, and Lee’s wonderfully loose performance is complemented by Ethan Suplee’s inspired denseness as brother Randy and Jaime Pressly’s hardest-working bimbo in TV. Even the guest stars, ranging from Giovanni Ribisi to Brett Butler, never rely on star shtick — they really commit to their furiously wacky characters.
The commentaries, especially those with Garcia and Suplee, are terrific, and one extra — an alterna-pilot episode, ”Bad Karma: An Earl Misadventure,” in which Earl is inspired not by Daly but by Family Guy‘s Stewie to seek cruel vengeance upon humanity — is almost breathtaking in its meticulous maliciousness.