My Name Is Earl: Season Four (Blu-ray)
Directed by Greg Garcia et al
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 553 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 59.99
Release Date: September 15, 2009
Review Date: September 17, 2009
One of the more curious events of the 2008-2009 television season was NBC’s decision to cancel one of its best comedy shows My Name Is Earl at the end of its fourth season. Though audience levels may not have been at the peak they were during the show’s first two years, the quality of the writing and performing had, if anything, only gotten better, especially from a slightly less than brilliant season three. With its whimsical premise and fall down funny lines, gags, and performers, My Name Is Earl may not have won any longevity prizes, but most certainly it went out in style with one of the strongest seasons in its history.
Having finally been released from the somewhat annoying season three plotline that found reformed thief Earl Hickey (Jason Lee) in prison and simpleton brother Randy (Ethan Suplee) as a prison guard, Earl and Randy were back in the motel dutifully checking off items on Earl’s list, a project Earl undertook when he won the lottery but believed he was only allowed to collect the winnings by karma’s smiling on him for making good on the bad things he had done earlier in his life. Though every episode didn’t feature items on the list that Earl and Randy worked on (a fairly lengthy story arc involves Earl’s ex-wife Joy (Jaime Pressly) and her current husband Darnel aka “Crab Man” (Eddie Steeples) under witness protection being pulled from one location to another until his problems can be straightened out and they can return to the charming squalor of their trailer park), the best episodes certainly find Earl and Randy on the rocky, riotous road to redemption.
Having not seen the show since season three, I was excited to come to find out again how truly funny these lovable rednecks are with Earl’s honest efforts to be good, Randy’s innocent stupidity, Joy’s meanness tempered with occasional warmth, and Darnell’s quiet wisdom all working together to make each episode joyously funny, often touching, and always entertaining. And I was also quite surprised to note the generous sampling of guest stars that the series utilizes, almost matching the star-happy levels of Will & Grace during its marathon run. Among the more famous faces glimpsed this season are Seth Green, Beau Bridges, John Amos, Jerry Van Dyke, David Arquette, Jane Seymour, Jenna Elfman, Jason Priestley, Erik Estrada, Morgan Fairchild, Joan Van Ark, Andrea Parker, Danny Glover, Betty White, Bernie Kopell, Geraldo Rivera, Michael Waltrip, and Burt Reynolds. In every case, the stars are used so intelligently and do such marvelous jobs fitting into this wacky world of local yokels that they’re entirely believable entities of this hick universe (I found David Arquette and Betty White particularly appealing this season). And for good measure, the writers often wittily but unselfconsciously riff on popular or cult programs and films: Sex & the City, ’24,’ Lethal Weapon, Shaft, to name just a few.
Here are the episodes from season four contained on the set’s four discs:
1 - The Magic Hour/Monkeys Take a Bath
2 - Joy in a Bubble
3 - Stole an RV
4 - Sweet Johnny
5 - We've Got Spirit
6 - Quit Your Snitchin'
7 - Little Bad Voodoo Brother
8 - Sold a Guy a Lemon Car
9 - Earl and Joy's Anniversary
10 - Nature's Game Show
11 - Reading Is a Fundamental Case
12 - Orphan Earl
13 - Got the Babysitter Pregnant
14 - Darnell Outed: Part 1
15 - Darnell Outed: Part 2
16 - Randy's List Item
17 - Friends with Benefits
18 - My Name is Alias
19 - Chaz Dalton's Space Academy
20 - Witch Lady
21 – Pinky
22 – Bullies
23 – Gospel
24 - Inside Probe: Part 1
25 - Inside Probe: Part 2
26 - Dodge's Dad (episode contains a never-to-be-resolved cliffhanger)
The series is presented on network television in 1080i with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and these 1080p transfers (AVC codec) are superior to anything ever presented on broadcast television. Sharpness is really outstanding with details on faces, with hair, clothing, and the surroundings that really stand out. Color richness is impressive, and flesh tones couldn’t be more realistic. If there is any weakness at all, it’s that there are infrequent thin edge halos around high contrast objects, but that’s the only negative in image quality that is otherwise as outstanding as it’s possible for a television series not titled Lost to look. Each episode has been divided into 5 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is surprisingly active for a filmed situation comedy. Of course, since the show involves so much dialog, it’s important that it be well recorded and faithfully delivered to the center channel, and there are no absolutely no complaints there. But with a rich selection of music standards (typical example: "Secret Agent Man") filling the surrounds as well as some effective ambient sounds used wonderfully if sparsely (dripping water in a basement where the gang has been kidnapped, for instance), you won’t be disappointed at all with this fun soundtrack.
Each disc contains deleted scenes for some of the episodes on that particular disc. They may be chosen separately or watched together as one group. Disc one contains four scenes which together run 4 ¾ minutes. Disc two’s five scenes last 7 minutes if viewed together. Disc three offers up five brief scenes that together run 3 ¼ minutes. Disc four’s four scenes last a total of 5 minutes. All are in 480p.
A lengthy gag reel runs for 8 minutes in 480p.
The complete 2 the Max trailer, which refers to a poverty row film produced by Earl in the season premiere, plays in 1 ¼ minutes in 480p.
“Earl’s Fan Mail” is the most substantial extra on the disc, 33 minutes of viewer questions read by various members of the Earl crew and answered by cast and crew where appropriate. From the responses, it’s obvious that NBC’s decision to cancel the show had not yet been made when these answers were filmed since many of the cast and crew members talk about things they’d like to see happen in future seasons of the show. It’s in 480p.
The first disc contains 1080p trailers for Family Guy, I Love You, Beth Cooper, and The Marine II.
4/5 (not an average)
NBC may have made a stupid decision canceling one of its best shows (not a surprising turn of events for the network during the last few years), but at least we have My Name Is Earl’s last season looking and sounding like the gem it is on Blu-ray. Highly recommended!