The series stars Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, Jaime Pressly, Eddie Steeples, and Nadine Velazquez. Lee stars in the title role as Earl J. Hickey, a petty crook with occasional run-ins with the law, whose newly won $100,000 lottery ticket is lost when he is hit by a car. While lying in his hospital bed after the accident, he develops a belief in the concept of karma when he hears about it during an episode of Last Call with Carson Daly. He decides he wants to turn his life around and makes a list of all the bad things he's ever done. After doing his first good deed, he finds his $100,000 lottery ticket. He sees this as a sign and, with his new lucky money, he proceeds to cross items off that list, one-by-one, by doing good deeds to atone for them.
Critics have claimed that the series has a Scientologist basis, with actors Jason Lee and Ethan Suplee being Scientologists. There is a common misconception that series creator Greg Garcia is a Scientologist. He is in fact Roman Catholic.The show was cancelled on May 16, 2009. There have been talks of a My Name Is Earl movie to be created, as well as rumours that the show will be picked up by TBS and will air a season 5.
The opening titles feature Earl breaking into a car and stealing some things from it whilst narrating the following monologue. As the dialogue continues he finds his lotto ticket, is run down by a car, and begins to write The List.
- You know the kind of guy who does nothing but bad things then wonders why his life sucks? Well, 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 all the bad things I've done and, one by one, I'm going to make up for all my mistakes. I'm just trying to be a better person; my name is Earl.
Throughout most of Season 1 and select episodes of Season 2 the full monologue was shown. In cases of Season 1 where the episode was running too long, simply "My name is Earl" was said. This shortened title was used through most of Season 2, and all of Season 3. It was used throughout Season 4 until Bullies, when for the first time in years the full title sequence was used.
There have been variations of the My Name is Earl title sequence, most notably in the episode Buried Treasure, where each of the main characters (minus Catalina) have their own monologue which ends with a similarly styled shot of that character in the parking lot of the Motel, as in the original shot of Earl.
During Season 1 petty criminal Earl Hickey learns about the concept of karma and makes a list of all the bad things he has done in his life. He begins to cross them off in the hopes of becoming a better person. He is assisted by his brother Randy Hickey.
Earl wins the lottery which drives him to the idea of karma, which fuels his ex-wife Joy Turner to try to kill him as she feels that she deserves half of his winnings, despite leaving him while he was heavily sedated in the hospital and marrying Darnell, a friend of Earl's ("Pilot").
Earl continues in a similar quest during Season 2, and throughout the first half of the season he is successful in crossing off more and more people from his list. However he mistakenly gets Catalina deported back to Mexico ("Born a Gamblin' Man"), and so he and Randy travel south to help get her back ("South of the Border, Part Uno").
As the season progressed the law learns harder and harder on Joy, who is on trial for locking up a man in a truck ("Very Bad Things"). After Earl spends time becoming an adult ("GED") ("Get a Real Job"), he decides to take the fall for Joy and is imprisoned himself instead of her so she can stay with her family ("The Trial").
Season 3 follows Earl's exploits in prison. He does favours for the Warden in an effort to get an early release, but the Warden tries to go back on his agreement. As a result, Earl breaks out with the help of all of his friends ("Early Release"). Earl soon realizes that nothing good has happened to him since he began to List and doubts the power of karma. He decides to give up being good, which results in him being run down and put into a coma ("Bad Earl") ("I Won't Die with a Little Help from My Friends (Part 1)").
After he comes out of the coma, Earl has a rushed wedding with Billie Cunningham who greatly appreciates his idea of karma ("Love Octagon"). However the marriage clearly was not right, which leads to Billie leaving him and joining the Camdenites, a group of women secluded from the rest of society ("Camdenites (Part 2)").
During Season 4 the show returns to its roots of Earl crossing people off his list. His exploits are interfered with, however, when Darnell's cover with the Witness Protection Programme is blown, which leads to the whole family having to move away ("Darnell Outed (Part 1)"). Earl realizes how much he cares for the family and how sad he will be when they leave, supposedly never seeing them again ("Darnell Outed (Part 2)"). However, the family returned and after Darnell did one last mission for the spy company he formed worked for (along with his father) ("My Name is Alias").
Earl is successful in crossing a few more items from his list ("Chaz Dalton's Space Academy") ("Witch Lady") ("Pinky") ("Bullies") ("Gospel") before finally learning what happened to the myseriously vanished Crab Shack owned Ernie Belcher in an investigation by a television detective team ("Inside Probe (Part 2)"). He is shocked to discover that he is, in fact, the paternal father of Dodge and that Darnell is surprisingly not the father of Earl Jr. as had always been suspected ("Dodge's Dad").
Earl is not notable for having a large amount of online media or other forms of the show besides the television series, but has had appearances for charitable causes and mentions on other popular shows.
- The cast of Earl appeared on the July 8, 2008 episode of Celebrity Family Feud, with one team being "The Hickey family" (consisting of Earl, Randy, Joy, Darnell and Catalina), and the others being the "Camdenites" (consisting of Kenny James, Nescobar-A-Lop-Lop, Tim Stack, Wilfred Dierkes (Tim's agent), and Patty). The "Camdenites" won, but lost to the cast of "The Office" in the final.
- My Name Is Earl was mentioned on the season six premier of Entourage entitled "Drive". Ari Gold's T.V. agent and longtime friend Andrew Kline signs Greg Garcia to the Miller Gold Agency, the shows fictional agency, proving his worth to the company and "that in this horrific economy he has secured himself a future by signing someone who can syndicate a god damned show."
- Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, and Greg Garcia appear in a season five two-part American Chopper episode, participating in hi-jinks while the Earl Bike is made to Garcia's specifications. Paul Sr. is dissatisfied with the color scheme and makes it well known, but when Garcia mentions that the bike is for an auction to support the Make A Wish foundation and there was a 99.9% chance he would be the high bidder on the bike, he understood and would "build him a bike with the crappy paint job, no problems". Paul Sr. later admitted to liking the matte brown frame, the flannel king & queen seat, the faux wood paneling, and "the list" on the gas tank referring to things Earl had done to the Orange County Choppers crew.
- Several DVD special features show the characters in a different light. For example The Web Cam feature shows the characters performing for people on the internet.
On May 16, 2009, NBC announced that they would not be renewing My Name is Earl for another season. Other networks, including FOX and TBS showed interest in renewing the series, however all negotiations fell through as "we simply could not make the economics work without seriously undermining the artistic integrity of the series", a spokesperson at Twentieth Century Fox commented.
Most unusually, the show ended with a Cliffhanger, expecting to get renewed again. The ramifications of such a cancellation is that Earl's full List can never be revealed, and that all items will not be crossed off. Various websites are saying that "My Name Is Earl" might air a season 5 on TBS.
Awards and nominations
- Nominated for 2006 Golden Globe for Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy.
- Jason Lee nominated for 2006 Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy.
- Jason Lee nominated for 2005/06 Screen Actors Guild award for best actor in a comedy series.
- Cast nominated for 2005/06 Screen Actors Guild award for best ensemble in a comedy series.
- Jaime Pressly nominated for a 2005/06 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
- Marc Buckland won the 2005/06 Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series (episode: "Pilot").
- Gregory Thomas Garcia won the 2005/06 Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (episode: "Pilot").
- Jason Lee nominated for 2007 Kid's Choice Award for Best Actor.
- Nominated for 2007 BAFTA TV Awards for International Programme of the Year.
- Jaime Pressly won the 2007 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
- Nominated for the 2008 People's Choice Award for "Favorite TV Comedy".
- Nominated for 2008 BAFTA TV Awards for International Programme of the Year
- Part of the show's ad campaign before the series aired included billboard ads with Earl's picture and one of the items from his list printed on the billboard (i.e. "Cheated my way through the seventh grade...twice", "Stole a car from a one-legged girl", "Faked my death to break up with a girl" etc.), with the tag line "...I'm sorry".
- Garcia first pitched the show to Fox, which passed on it. About eighteen months later, people at NBC got interested after reading the pilot script that Garcia had sent to several networks.
- In 2013, Garcia reaveled in a AMA on Reddit.com, that he had always had a ending for My Name Is Earl, and reaveled that Earl was never going to finish his list, stating that instead Earl discovers that his list has inspired other people to make lists of their own, to right their own wrong doings (one of which as Earl as a list item) and Earl realizes that he has finally put more good into the world than bad and doesn't have to finish the list. At that point Earl was going to tear up his list and live his life freely as a good man with good karma.