Farewell to Camden County
So years ago I was a faithful viewer of the comedy series “My Name Is Earl,” the story of a not terribly bright petty criminal who became convinced that because of all of the awful things he’d done in his life, he was destined to try to make up for them or karma was going to keep punishing him. So he made a list of all the bad things he’d done, and with the assistance of his brother, Randy, and Randy’s sometimes girlfriend Catalina set out to make amends. Earl and Randy are also frequently both helped and hindered in their quest by Earl’s ex-wife, Joy. Everyone is frequently helped and oddly rescued from various situations by Joy’s current husband, Darnell aka “the Crabman.”
The series was a silly look at life in the fictitious Camden County, which was inhabited by a strange assortment of characters. It wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, though I was always amused by the fact that the one person I knew who most disliked it said he hated it because it was completely unbelievable, yet he himself is always telling stories about his ridiculous in-laws and the unbelievably stupid problems they got themselves into. Which made me decide that either a) he had a really big blind spot, or b) all those stories he liked to regale people with of his supposed true family misadventures might have been more than slightly exaggerated.
Regardless, I really enjoyed the not-cynical way that “My Name Is Earl” demonstrated in its storylines again and again that most humans are muddling along as best as they can, seldom realizing just how much our lives are interconnected, and how much we contribute (in both good and bad ways) to the lives of others.
Then one spring we learned that it wasn’t going to be renewed for a fifth season…
The creator of the show and the cast put out a warning that the finale was filmed after being assured by the network that they would be renewed, but before finding out they weren’t, so they were trying to find a way to make a follow up TV movie or special, perhaps on another network, to wrap up the cliffhanger of the finale.
Then the last episode aired, and my TiVo recorded it as usual. “My Name Is Earl” was one of the shows that I usually watched the day after it broadcast, since the night it was on was one of my more crowded nights, show-wise. So there was the complete episode on my TiVo waiting for me, and I knew it was the finale, and I decided that night that I wasn’t quite ready to say good-bye to Earl, Randy, Crabman, and the rest, yet, so I put off watching it until later. It was May, a lot of shows were doing their season or series finales, and then there would usually be a week or so of not much to watch before all the summer shows started up, so I figured I would watch it then. I went into settings on the recording and told TiVo to never delete that particular show until I told it to.
A few weeks later, I looked at the episode in the list. I probably even clicked on it, read the description again, and for a moment or two hovered over “Play.” I still wasn’t quite ready to say good-bye, so I decided to watch something else, promising myself I’d watch it later in the month.
Except I didn’t. It stayed there on the list for quite some time.
A few years ago, when the old TiVo was starting to act a little flaky, I got a newer model, and thought I would finally have to watch the last episode, except there was a method to connect them over the network and transfer saved recordings! So I transferred it. I watched a short snippet (some commercials at the beginning) to confirm that the recording was still watchable, set the recording to never delete, and continued to not watch it.
At random intervals over the years since, while scrolling through the list of recordings, I’d see that big green dot at the bottom next to the words “My Name Is Earl” and feel a twinge of guilt that I was still holding onto the old episode, but also a bit of sadness that there was only one unwatched “My Name Is Earl” episode left, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it.
A few months ago we replaced Comcast with CenturyLink. Which meant that our TV is provided through Prism, which is an IP-streaming sort of pseudo-cable. The TiVo can’t interface with the Prism signal. But both of my TiVos are over four years old and both have been showing signs that they would need to be replaced soon, anyway. The new service comes with a single DVR built into the “cable box” that has a bigger hard disk than the two TiVos combined, and will record just as many channels simultaneously as it took two TiVos to cover. So it was clearly time to cancel the TiVo subscriptions and get rid of them.
Which meant that I needed to finally watch that last episode.
I’ve put it off for about two months. I might have gone a lot longer, though it’s more than slightly silly having those two devices plugged in, taking up space in the entertainment center, but otherwise doing nothing. I was reading about which shows currently airing that have cancelled or renewed, and one of the articles made a reference to “My Name Is Earl” and the years it was on the air (2005-2009), and I realized that recording has been waiting for me for seven years.
So I watched it Sunday evening. And it was funny. Yeah, it ends on a cliffhanger, but it’s been enough years now and the deals that Greg Garcia, the creator of the show, was trying to make to continue and finish the series in some form have fallen through, so he has revealed to fans the plan he had all along on how the series would end, so I know what the ending of Earl’s story is. I can finally bid farewell to Earl, Randy, Catalina, Joy, Crabman, Dodge, Earl, Jr, and Kenny, Ralph, Patty, Deputy Bobbie and all the rest.
I had a few other recordings on the two TiVos that I was hanging onto for various reasons, either because I have wanted to show something to a friend or just was thinking of watching something. But while none of the rest of them have been hanging about for seven years, a few are more than a year or two old. I had to admit that my inner packrat will keep finding excuses not to erase the discs and pull those two TiVos out if I don’t just bite the bullet and do it.
So I finally went through the sequence of commands on each to make them erase everything and reset themselves. I still need to finish undoing all the cables, and figure out how I might want to rearrange the remaining components, and whether to make any further changes. But the main mental block was those recordings, and now that they’re all erased I’ll have little trouble finishing the job.
Good bye, Earl. I hope somewhere in some universe you’ve walked off into the sunset, having finally learned that you have put more good into the world than bad.