In this fifth instalment of my “Why I Want” series, I thought I’d take a look at another subject that hasn’t received any attention on this little site of mine: Television. The world of film and television is one I hold dear to my heart, and just as in film, television has the capability to knock my back and surprise. The world is overstuffed with high-budget drama series since the overwhelming success of the likes of The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. This has left the humble comedy in the lurch to some extent. People are more willing to sit down and watch a show like Game of Thrones than they are Parks and Recreation. And that’s a crying shame.
I’m not arguing that the high-budget drama shows are a waste of time, far from it, you’ll often find me watching The Walking Dead and I’m a big fan of the likes of Breaking Bad. It’s just that there has been a shift in what’s popular. Before the big-budget dramas were in, I’d argue that comedy was a bigger deal. Channel 4 were releasing new comedies every month (the quality was all over the place). Comedy was enjoying its time in the sun. During this period, comedy was big in the USA too. Shows like The Big Bang Theory were just beginning and Scrubs was going strong. My favourite of the lot though? Greg Garcia’s slightly off-beat, but incredible series about a low-life aiming to change his life: My Name is Earl.
Most episodes would open with this monologue as the show’s theme tune: “You know the kind of guy who does nothing but bad things and 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 that I had to change, so I made a list of everything bad I’ve ever done and one by one I’m gonna make up for all my mistakes. I’m just trying to be a better person. My name is Earl.” This set the viewer up for something slightly different. Something altogether reassuring. We would spend the next 20+ minutes watching an ex criminal attempting to undo his wrongdoings, that he wrote down on a list, alongside his slow brother, Randy. The results were usually hilarious and often touching.
This was a show about a guy trying to turn his life around. Joy, Darnell (or Crabman, to me and you), Randy and a whole bunch of side characters made up the supporting cast. Jason Lee’s Earl was the star of the show. The mustachioed hero would struggle his way through making up for his past life mistakes, one by one. Of course things went wrong. Earl was likable throughout, even when things went wrong for him. He lost his temper more than once, but his circumstances were believable, despite how ridiculous the situations he found himself in were. My Name is Earl was a fantastic character study throughout its four-season run.
The whole cast of characters was exceedingly well-developed, even those who only appeared once. We got a great feel for the people living in Camden. My Name is Earl felt like the best of the Simpsons and King of the Hill smushed together into a live-action sitcom. It was a very clever, exceedingly funny show. It was all going so well. We saw Earl go to jail in order to save his ex-wife Joy. We saw him go through everything like become friends with his parents again. He atoned for his sins one by one and it was a hell of a ride. Then Fox cancelled it. unannounced to the creators and writers of the show, Fox pulled the plug as soon as season four ended. Season four ended on a cliffhanger. Still to this day My Name is Earl is hanging onto its cliff for dear life, eight years after it got cancelled.
We never learnt who Earl Jr’s real dad is, and we never got to see if Earl finished his list. It was devastating. Camden’s quirky residents would never be seen again. An unforgivable move by Fox. Our short time with Earl and the gang was sweet, but it’s a travesty that we have never been given a conclusion to his story. It would have been fine if Fox told My Name is Earl’s staff about the cancellation before they wrote season 4, but they decided to wait until after the cliffhanger ended. Along with Half-Life 3, My Name is Earl season 5 is the greatest missing piece to the entertainment industry’s puzzle.
I’d love to see My Name is Earl return one last time. It doesn’t matter if this is for a one-off special or another season. The likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime Video could resurrect it. Fans of the show have been clamouring for it to come back ever since it was cancelled, and a quirky, slightly off-beat comedy could work wonders for the likes of Netflix or Amazon Video, services stuffed to the gills with serious dramas. Now, if you don’t mind me, I’m going to go watch every episode of My Name is Earl and have a big cry.