It’s hail, hail, the chain gang’s all here
It’s difficult to feel anything but warmth for the brothers dumb
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.
Stars behind bars: Earl ( Jason Lee) continues his karmic quest for redemption