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September 26, 2006 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-26

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8 -The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

'Earl': Anything
but sitcom trash

Feresten fails as
late-night frontman

By Michael Passman
Daily Arts Writer
White-trash comedy is sup-
posed to be bad. Whether it's
attempting to make fun of the
NASCAR-
loving, pick- SHOW:
up-truck * ***
driving, Bud-
drinking SPECIAL FEATURES:
culture (see ****
"Talladega
Nights") or My Name
just a bunch is Earl: The
of secretly Complete
rich morons First Season
yelling "GIT- NBC
R-DONE"
(see "Blue
Collar Comedy Tour"), the
results usually end up making
everyone involved dumber. But
for the first time, a TV show (of
all things) seems to have given
life to this failed genre - and
it's all thanks to Earl.
"My Name Is Earl" seam-
lessly blends trailer-park trash
with subtle humor in a package
unlike anything else on network
TV. The first season DVD set
contains all 24 episodes with a
dense offering of extra features
in one of the better collection
releases in recent memory.
Not surprisingly, the show
follows Earl Hickey (Jason Lee,
"Almost Famous"), a small time

crook who decides to turn his
life around after losing his win-
ning scratch-off ticket when
he's hit by a car. Earl learns the
finer points of karma in his hos-
pital bed from the oh-so-wise
Carson Daly and decides that if
he's going to improve his life -
or land a daytime music video
countdown show - he's got
to compile a list of all the bad
things he's done in his life and
fix them one by one. After get-
ting out of the hospital and tell-
ing his brother/sidekick Randy
(Ethan Suplee, Frankie Stechino
from "Boy Meets World") about
his plan, Earl finds his lost lotto
ticket and finally has the funds
to hack away at his list.
From there, the show devel-
ops a fairly formulaic approach:
Earl trying to cross a new item
off his ever-expanding list each
week. Fortunately for the view-
er, the one-dimensional prem-
ise doesn't bore. With the high
profile guest stars the show is
able to land - ranging from
Jon Favreau to Christine Tay-
lor - and the variety of loca-
tions enabled by its film-like
two-camera approach, the show
manages to stay fresh and viable
with each episode.
The one logical problem with
the show is that even though Earl
is trying to repay his debts to
society, he initially does it only

"Yeah, that's right, one star for Feresten."

because he thinks it will improve
his life. But over time, Earl
begins to realize the importance
of being a positive contributor to
society and makes his mission
more than a means to achieve his
own personal happiness. It's rare
that a character in a TV comedy
exhibits any kind of growth, but
Earl genuinely does.
The executive producers
seem to have put a lot of thought
and time into the special fea-
tures on the DVD set, as they're
numerous and worthy of the
source material. There's a fairly
lengthy feature on the making
of "Earl" that spans from ini-
tial network pitches to the final
shoot of the first season. There's

also a strange twist
episode where Ea
vengeance instead
in the hospital and
"Kill Bill"-esque li
who've wronged hir
episode commentar
reels, deleted scene
deleted scene comm
also included.
In the "making
creator Greg Garciac
trouble that "Earl" h
network to give it a sI
a testament to NBC f
beyond the post-"Fri
garbage they usually
with season two air(
in, fans of the show
they did.

By Ted Chen
Daily Arts Writer
In "Talkshow With Spike
Feresten" - a speedy half-hourshow
with blunt
humor and on-
the-street gags
- Fox sets Talkshow
another ship on with Spike
a grand voyage Feresten
doomed from
the start. Saturday at
Spike Midnight
Feresten may Fox
be an Emmy-
nominated
Courtesy of NBC writer with shows like "The Late
Show With David Letterman;'
on the pilot "Seinfeld" and "The Simpsons" in
rl discovers his back pocket, but can he host a
of karma talk show penned by his very own
compiles a hand? Cue the boos and you have
ist of those your answer.
n. The usual You couldn't ask for worse open-
ies, blooper ing on premiere night when Spike
es and even Feresten starts off with a crash
entaries are course on the history of Fox's talk
show failures. That's no promise of
of" feature, longevity. The opening only creates
discusses the doubt in the viewers' mind, rather
ad finding a than the sympathy Fox seeks.
hot. It's truly The tagline boasts "witty humor
or expanding and spicy skits," but the action hardly
ends" sitcom matches the words. Each joke lands
go for, and straight in your face with no intellec-
eady a week tual processing required. The dirty
are thankful puns spark some laughter, naturally,
but when has sexual humor been a

challenge?
One of the many farcical seg-
ments is "Electric Lincoln" - a
man in a beard blabbering out
political comments in rhyme,
against a backdrop of neon lights
and hypnotic spinning circles.
Another one, "Lot Cops" is des-
perate to kill time by interviewing
the studio's own secretary guards.
These segments change each week,
but the show will self-destruct if it
continues with this sort of lineup.
Severely lacking charm, Feresten
should stick to writing and stay away
from the hosting chair. Brimming
with that nerdy smile, he begins to
look more and more like the loner
who's trying way too hard to be
accepted. His nervousness shows
when he chuckles blankly at the
camera, tapping his pen repeatedly
on the table.
The only innovative part (sadly)
of Feresten's script is his grand plan
to let guest stars have a say over how
things are run. Andy Richterhis first
guest, wanted to play host and switch
places with Feresten. Richter inci-
dentally put Feresten to shame with
a master class of how hosting should
be done, likely a resultof his co-host-
ing stint on "Conan O'Brien."
Too short, too maniacal and too
self-destructive. As Feresten says:
"If you're watching (this) at home,
you're either chronically unemployed
or recently dumped." At least he gets
one thing right.

1

'Six Degrees' of mellow mediocrity

By Bernie Nguyen
Managing Arts Editor
When a trailer kicks off with the
strains of a Goo Goo Dolls single,
you know
the show's
gotta be great
melo-camp. Six
And when a Degrees
curvy Erika
Christensen Thursdays
("Swimfan") at 10 p.m.
strips off her ABC
top in the open
air during the first three minutes, it
all goes to hell.

"Six Degrees," ABC's latest
attempt at tickle-your-fancy drama,
might just catch on. But the odds
aren't working in its favor. With
a pilot burdened by complicated
sketches into the lives of the show's
six main characters (six degrees -
get it?) and heavy-handed attempts
at inserting backstory, viewers get
confused just trying to remember
who's who, not to mention who's
connected to who. Single mom
Laura (Hope Davis, "American
Splendor"), photographer Steven
(Campbell Scott, "The Exorcism
of Emily Rose"), ad exec Whitney
(Bridget Moynahan,"The Recruit"),

gambling man Damien (Dorian
Missick, "Lucky Number Slevin"),
mysterious Mae (Christensen) and
clean-cut policeman Carlos (Jay
Hernandez, "World Trade Center").
Just looking at the list makes your
eyes swim.
Besides the difficulty the viewer
will have keeping all the people
straight, small details trip the pilot
up. Overly cheesy dialogue, an over-
load of face-capturing, soul-baring
camera angles and a multitude of
poorly acted sequences make it all
too easy to walk away. There's no
hook here, no draw alluring enough
to keep us watching beyond the silly

voiceover that attempts to connect
the seemingly casual shots of each
character to an overarching mono-
logue of why everyone in the world
is connected. There's a little whoosh-
ing sound every time someone walks
by another character that soon gets
old. And does everyone in New York
have this kind of bone structure?
Beyond these trivialities, which
are considerable, the show's emo-
tionally brimming looks into each
character's individual problems
overwhelm the viewer and prevent
them from really caring about any
of his dilemmas. Sure, our hackles
rise when we find out that Whitney's

I

A good jaw and tustled hair is all you need (and a British acc

boyfriend might be cheating on her.
Yes, we're intrigued by Mae's mys-
terious midnight phone call. But we
never see any of the characters for

long enough to know whether or not
they're worth devoting our emotions
- and more importantly, our time
- to watching on a weekly basis.

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