In 2020, I decided to revisit My Name is Earl, a show I really enjoyed when it came out, but didn’t watch past the first season. I found myself laughing and enjoying the lighthearted surreal comedy until season three when things slowed down. I still watch an episode here and there, but my attention was diverted to Raising Hope, a show that I would argue is superior to My Name is Earl, that also exists in this unique reality that is not too unlike our own.
Greg Garcia, creator of both shows, has a knack for telling stories about down on their luck individuals, who may not be the smartest. Unlike some lesser writers, he’s never mean, and he manages to find the good in these flawed people. He tells little morality lessons the way sitcoms used to do, while exploring kooky characters in small town America.
I appreciate My Name is Earl and Raising Hope way more as an older adult. Mr. Garcia’s writing and sense of humor just hits right with me. I’m consistently laughing out loud at the jokes and one the show is over; I feel a little better about the world. I’m not kidding when I say Raising Hope brought me out of a severe funk several months back. The love the characters have for one another, despite their less than desirable situations, makes life a bit more tolerable for me.
I preface all of this because researching My Name is Earl enlightened me about Greg Garcia. Which then led me to Raising Hope and Yes, Dear, which thankfully is available on YouTube. I have plans on checking out The Guest Book, but the show I want to chat a bit about today is Sprung, the latest show by Greg Garcia airing on Freevee.
Sprung was announced last year and I’ve been anxiously awaiting it’s air date. Garrett Dillahunt (Deadwood, 12 Years a Slave) and Martha Plimpton (The Goonies, Parenthood) reunite in Sprung after playing husband and wife in Raising Hope. They are very different characters in this series, which focuses on a group of convicts who are released from prison due to COVID. Martha Plimpton portrays Barb, the mother of a prisoner Rooster (portrayed by Phillip Garcia) who agrees to take in Garrett Dillahunt’s character Jack and his prison toilet girlfriend Goria (Shakira Barrera). Once they find themselves under Barb’s roof, Barb insists they earn their keep by finding targets to rob, and that’s when things get interesting.
Jack spent twenty-six years in prison for selling weed. He has no interest in going back, so when he objects, he’s thrown out of the house and into a world he doesn’t know amid a global pandemic. It’s a scary, strange place, and eventually, he finds himself back at Barb’s agreeing to commit the crimes if they are against bad people.
Alright, I’m going to admit it, the premise was not exactly my cup of tea and the idea of revisiting the beginning days of COVID did not sound like fun. Surprisingly, the show works, and it works well. COVID isn’t the star and the few jokes around it are actually funny. They poke at the confusion and chaos that existed those first few months without getting into the all the politics and fear. I shouldn’t have doubted Mr. Garcia, he’s the man who makes being poor or living in a hotel look like fun, of course, he’d find a way to make a pandemic funny.
Sprung’s strength is the same as his previous shows: the characters. You don’t mind seeing these characters in terrible situations because beneath it all there is something good about them. They may make terrible choices and might be too dumb to realize how bad their choices may be, but they aren’t horrible people. They are lovable idiots that you find yourself wanting to hang out with, which is what good comedy TV is all about. Finding a group of people you’d like to visit and hang out with for thirty minutes a week.
A bit more about the cast:
Garrett Dillahunt (Jack) is a superstar in everything I’ve ever seen him in. In fact, he’s so darn good he played two different characters in Deadwood that were total opposites of one another. He ended up stealing the show in almost every episode of Raising Hope so making him the main protagonist and the one with the best intentions was a wise choice.
Martha Plimpton (Barb) is a total opposite of her character in Raising Hope and it’s almost hard to tell it’s the same actress. She’s like that dirty, chain-smoking aunt, who is over protective of your dirtbag cousin. She doesn’t flinch at allowing two convicts she doesn’t know to move in with her which is hysterical. Martha Plimpton’s subdued comedic presence is a joy to watch.
Shakira Barrera (Gloria) I first saw on GLOW and her character in Sprung is spot on two episodes in. She plays the smart thief who falls in love with a man who talked to her through a magazine stuck in a toilet. She’s bitter when she realizes Jack isn’t in his twenties and doesn’t look like The Rock, but there’s a glimmer in her eye that she still has feelings for him and I’m excited to see how it plays out.
Phillip Garcia (Rooster) is an actor I was unfamiliar with, but he’s already made a mark. Innocent and a bit stupid, Rooster is a lot of fun and I can see him creating some great chaos for the other characters to deal with.
If I had to describe Sprung to someone, I’d say it was a Greg Garcia show on steroids. No longer limited to network standards, Mr. Garcia is free to drop a few bad words and take everything up a notch. And while I would say I do like my comedy subdued, I’m okay with this. There aren’t many sitcoms on the air these days and nothing as wild and fun as Sprung. In a world where comedy and feel-good stories have taken a back seat to the news and true crime documentaries, Sprung is a place for the rest of us who just want to relax and be entertained.
Of course, I’m writing this after only seeing two episodes, but I have a good feeling about this show. It’s already exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to see what the gang gets up to next.
Sprung can be found for free on Amazon’s FreeVee app or on Amazon Prime.