After three seasons, the novelty of My Name Is Earl has begun to wear off and its once endearing premise has become a something of a hindrance. The fourth-season premiere (airing Thursday at 8/7c on NBC; followed by another new episode at 8:30/7:30c) takes a small step in the right direction–that is, if you can ignore guest star Seth Green.
Green plays Buddy Zaks, yet another former victim of Earl’s (Jason Lee) cruelty. As a deathly ill child, Buddy’s dream was to ride a pony during Camden’s Make-a-Wish parade, a dream that went unfulfilled when Earl drunkenly stole his pony.
Cut to present day, when Earl and Randy (Ethan Suplee) embark on their usual make-things-right adventure. Since they expect Buddy to have died long ago because of his childhood illness, they seek out his mom, only to learn that Buddy is still alive and seemingly well.
After Earl gives Buddy the whole karma spiel, Buddy reveals his new wish to Earl: to make a movie about giant squids. Earl promises, albeit reluctanctly, to make it happen.
Naturally, the Camden locals–Joy (Jaime Pressly), Catalina (Nadine Velasquez), Patty (Dale Dickey), Kenny (Greg Binkley), et al.–round out the on- and off-set “talent,” and for Randy, who co-stars, the movie is a showcase for his unforeseen acting abilities. Earl, meanwhile, serves as the producer, and Buddy does double duty as star and director.
The episode itself is vintage Earl: light, brisk and funny, with a few laugh-out-loud lines in particular–the best of which belongs to Joy, who warns Buddy, “I only do tongue kissin’ if it’s Brad Pitt or Eric Roberts.”
But Green is a nuisance in the episode. For example, every time his character thinks something is awesome, he must express it via finger gestures, which haven’t been funny since Clueless in 1995. Annoying character tics aside, Green gives Buddy, who by all accounts has spent his whole life in Camden, a Southern California accent–or a non-accent.
They’re somewhat minor gripes, though, about a show that’s still an integral part of NBC’s funniest night of TV and a show that’s still better than the average sitcom. Let’s just hope that at some point this season, Greg Garcia and Co. throw us a major curveball that’ll punish us for expecting another 22-minute, self-contained episode about redemption.