“You know the kind of guy who does nothing but bad things and then wonders why his life sucks? That was me. Every time something good happened to me, something bad was always waiting around the corner. Karma. That’s when I realized I had to change. So, I made a list of everything bad I’ve ever done and one by one I’m gonna make up for all my mistakes. I’m just trying to be a better person. My name is Earl.”

So goes the intro for My Name is Earl. The premise is simple: Earl’s (marvelously portrayed by Jason Lee) life was full of mistakes and poor choices, the kind of self-made bad drama that fuels many of our lives. A man just this side of naive, yet impossible to dislike, one day wins a small lottery, but then is promptly hit by a car. While recuperating in the hospital, he has an epiphany. There is a sort of balance to the universe, a cosmic justice that demands a payment, or retribution, for the wrongs one may have committed.

One wouldn’t think this would be the fodder for one of the funniest sitcoms on the air, which points to the sharpness of the writing and the supporting cast. Playing a string of trailer park misfits, we have Earl’s brother Randy (Ethan Suplee), their illegal immigrant friend (and oblivious romantic interest of Randy) Catalina (Nadina Velazquez), Earl’s harridan of an ex-wife Joy (Jaime Pressly), and her other baby’s daddy Darnell (Eddie Steeples). A passel of engaging characters rarely seen on network television. The comedy usually arises from Earl’s grand schemes to make right going horribly, horribly awry.

“Karma has a plan for me.” –Earl

We too have this sense of right and wrong written onto our hearts, wired into our very being. Though we may believe we’re all basically good people, we also have a sense that our lives are on some sort of scale and if the good we’ve done outweighs the bad, we’ll be fine – in the eternal consequences sort of way.

Karma becomes Earl’s religion and he becomes its prophet. This Karmic idea of God is an incomplete picture of Him, often leading to the image, especially as practically lived out in the reality of our spiritual journeys, of God hiding behind bushes waiting to smite us when we screw up.

“I like thinking about the journey it must have taken to get here.” –Randy

Earl leads what could be described as a purpose driven life. Despite being poor and uneducated, Earl comes up with a rather sophisticated self-salvation scheme. He seeks atonement and true to his understanding of atonement, he seeks out opportunities to repent. Not just to apologize, but to do something about it – an act of penitence – in order to truly change his life. He wants a better life for himself, wants to be a better man, and knows that this isn’t the end of his journey. He’s fully aware that he has a long way to go, but he clings to his hope that “ne day we will be seen as the perfect people we were on that one perfect day.”

For all of its morality tale trappings, My Name is Earl is the best kind of comedy. It radiates heart and warmth while not skimping on the laughs. Paired with The Office, My Name is Earl makes for a grand hour. Methinks the laments of the death of the sitcom might be a bit premature.

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