So sang the brave and generous Timothy Stack on last night’s rebound episode, “Our Other Cops Is On!” And the score really has been orange to none this season, with Earl and the storyline stuck in prison with a bunch of other people in incarceration-mandated jumpsuits (in all fairness, the miscreants in Earl’s prison tend to wear denim shirts instead, but you get the drift). The formal experiment to remove Earl from both his Camden surroundings and his list of wrongs to correct is a daring one, and some kind of shake-up is probably necessary in a show tied to such a strong formula. Admiring the pluck it took to try that experiment, unfortunately, hasn’t translated into loving the season so far.
Last night’s episode shows what we’ve been missing. While still incorporating the increasingly dirty jokes they’ve gotten away with in Season 3 (really, Joy and Darnell’s assignation as viewed through heat-detecting night-vision cameras? At 8pm, 7 Central and Mountain? Wow.), Earl got back to two of the basics that make it a great show. Camden County’s Fourth of July celebration seems like the perfect setting for Earl‘s social satire that, perhaps more than any other show, takes on issues of class in America (of course Camden cops can torture Earl in “a 9/12 world”). More than that, however, the nature of the episode allows the camera to weave through the lives of Earl’s friends, bad people who are trying, as best they know how, to be good (and then came Joy). For honk’s sake, these are folks who were featured on Cops not once but twice. We need Earl out of prison and back among his people.
In other words–Free Earl! <–link to clever music video redacted until the WGA has a contract that would pay writers for Internet-delivered content such as this.