Among Ken Tucker's entertainment picks for the week: Amy Sedaris on TV, the comic ''The Boys,'' and new music from Ben Kweller

By Ken Tucker
Updated October 09, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: My Name is Earl: Paul Drinkwater
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Ken Tucker on why ”Earl” is a must-see this week

1. Amy Sedaris guest stars on My Name Is Earl
(NBC, Thursday, 8-8:30 p.m.)
The wily Sedaris is naturally bawdy, so she’ll fit right in with Jason Lee and his crew, who this season have become the most raucous ensemble cast on TV. Sedaris, with her egoless avidity for low-down humor, is scheduled to play a cat fancier, so you know the writers probably plan to do perfectly awful things to felines. That’s one reason to love Earl — there’s no vulgarity it can’t make witty, no poor taste it can’t make savory. Having Sedaris along can only add one more fetid mind to Earl‘s brainy dimwittedness.

2. Honeycut’s ”Shadows”
From The Day I Turned to Glass (Quannum Project)
Singer Bart Davenport spends most of this Bay Area trio’s debut album playing a blue-eyed soul man, making his tenor reach for the ghosts of Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. He never reaches them, of course, but on ”Shadows,” he comes spookily close. ”Shadows of the night keep me company,” he asserts in a lonely wail — that makes sense. Then: ”Shadows of daytime, too,” he adds, and you realize he’s sitting in limbo, like Jimmy Cliff, another vocal influence. Meanwhile, layered keyboards build to crescendos courtesy of ”RV Salters” (French programming wonder Herve Salters). The song is at once epic and intensely personal, the grand passion of one guy singing in the dark.

3. The nature of love in Anthony Powell’s The Acceptance World
On a long plane ride, anxious and exhausted, I found invigorating solace once again in a randomly chosen entry in Powell’s 12-volume novel A Dance to the Music of Time. The Acceptance World is the third in the sequence, which describes roughly half a century of British life among a group of friends from their university years to adulthood and beyond. Powell’s great gift is an ability to describe shadings of emotion, and here, the book’s narrator, Nick Jenkins, has been reunited at a social gathering with Jean Templer, a woman he has loved and lost and loves again. Discretion, as always, prevails, but so do roiling feelings:

”For a moment Jean and I were left alone together. I slipped my hand under her arm. She pressed down upon it, giving me a sense of being infinitely near to her; an assurance that all would be well. There is always a real and imaginary person you are in love with; sometimes you love one best, sometimes the other. At that moment it was the real one I loved.”

4. The Boys
(Wildstorm/DC comic)
The Irish comic-book writer Garth Ennis has been coasting for a while on cheap violence, but this new series, now on its third issue, is a leap forward. The main character is Butcher, a brutal thug who knows that the only people who can be worse than him are superheroes — in Ennis’ world, they have become arrogant and untouchable (in the name of justice, they maim and kill with impunity). It is Butcher’s notion to form a gang — The Boys — like himself, folks who have no superpowers but by natural strength and guile start taking superheroes down a peg or two. The Boys is the flipside of fanboy geeky: Instead of idolizing caped crusaders, you unmask them as tyrants.

5. Ben Kweller’s ”I Gotta Move”
From Ben Kweller (ATO)
At 25, Kweller sounds like the seasoned, ever-so-slightly-jaded pop-rocker he is, having survived early-career hype from a New Yorker profile that pegged him as a Next Big Thing, without results. Except his talent for achingly pretty melodies, sung with his surging moan of a voice, makes nearly every song here a power-pop dream. ”I Gotta Move,” a road song by way of Jan & Dean, Andy Fairweather-Low, and Lindsey Buckingham, is all restless rhythm and an unsuppressed ardor that seems almost courtly were it also not so bouncy. Or, as he says on another tune on this album, ”If you can’t get behind your own life/ Get behind the wheel.”

My Name Is Earl

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