It’s hail, hail, the chain gang’s all here

It’s dif­fi­cult to feel any­thing but warmth for the brothers dumb

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

My Name is Earl 8pm, Seven

‘‘ I WAS at this press con­fer­ence and this re­ally tricky re­porter tricked me with his tricky trick­i­ness.’’ Dumb Earl? Even dumber Randy? Nah, this is War­den Jerry Hazel­wood ( Craig T. Nelson), who is so dumb he re­lies on Earl to solve most of his prob­lems.

In case it’s been a while since you’ve popped into the self- con­tained uni­verse in which the folks from My Name is Earl live, the third sea­son is set inside the A. J. John­son prison.

Randy ( Ethan Su­plee) is pos­si­bly the dumb­est guard to walk the hard floors of any prison, any­where, while Earl, still pay­ing off his karmic list, is an in­mate. But don’t worry if you’re a fan of Joy ( Jaime Pressly) or Dar­nell ( Ed­die Steeples), there’s al­ways a way to keep them in the story.

But let’s not get ahead of our­selves. Af­ter the war­den is tricked by the tricky re­porter into set­ting up a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion pro­gram, he of­fers Earl six months off his sen­tence if he can man­age it for him. So Earl has to find a pris­oner to rec­on­cile. His choice is in­spired: John Clevinger, a sen­si­tive, artis­tic type in prison for burn­ing down his par­ents’ house when his meth lab caught fire.

‘‘ That fire was an ac­ci­dent,’’ John tells Earl when he and Randy approach him. ‘‘ Clearly,’’ Earl says. ‘‘ No one makes meth with any­thing but the best in­ten­tions.’’

So Earl dis­patches those masters of in­ter­per­sonal diplo­macy, Joy and Dar­nell, to sweet- talk the burn vic­tim par­ents into the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Well, I’m not go­ing to tell you what hap­pens there or at the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion meet­ing, other than to share with you War­den Hazel­wood’s word in Earl’s ear: ‘‘ If I wanted an un­com­fort­able si­lence I would have made a lunch date with my wife.’’

Yes, it’s all very silly. No­body here is an in­tel­lec­tual. But, for all the dumb and dumber out­pour­ings, there is a ter­rific comic intelligence at work, one that blends ironic so­cial com­men­tary with an­ar­chic phys­i­cal com­edy.

Stu­pid­ity can be a nasty busi­ness, but it’s dif­fi­cult to feel any­thing but warmth for the brothers dumb as they go about their pe­cu­liarly in­ter­de­pen­dent re­la­tion­ship.

A cou­ple of weeks ago, for ex­am­ple, some of the pris­on­ers wrote ‘‘ APE’’ on Randy’s fore­head when he fell asleep in the prison yard. ‘‘ Did they re­ally write ‘ world’s best guard’ on my head, Earl?’’ he asked, as his brother wiped off the mark­ings like a mother with a saliva- dipped tis­sue.

Even that fast- talk­ing, trailer- trash vixen Joy, also not the sharpest tool in the box, con­niv­ing as the day is short, and dressed like a Bar­bie doll, makes me feel all warm and gooey inside.

Ian Cuth­bert­son

Stars be­hind bars: Earl ( Ja­son Lee) con­tin­ues his karmic quest for re­demp­tion

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