Here are a few gems from the Paley Television Festival’s tribute to “My Name is Earl,” held tonight at the Directors Guild of America and sponsored by the Museum of TV and Radio:
“Worst Actor Ever:” That’s Jaime Pressly (who plays Earl’s ex-wife Joy) on one of her own colleagues, Jason Lee’s stand-in. “He’ll have to do some lines, and I think, ‘Oh, my God, where is Jason?’” (If the poor guy was there that night, he didn’t admit it.)
“I feel like an @$$#*!&:” Ethan Suplee (Earl’s dim-witted brother Randy) after one of his many responses delivered monosyllabically (except, of course, for that last word).
And, after screening a very funny flashback episode (which has yet to air) that sort of revealed the origins of the group’s dynamic — they believe the Y2K bug destroyed mankind, so they begin living in a superstore and fumble about creating a new civlization — series creator Greg Garcia explained, “We thought it would be funny if the one thing they planned for was Y2K and it didn’t happen. And that they would be better people only if everyone else on the planet died.”
It was generous of Garcia to allow his fans to get sneak previews of upcoming episodes. (The Y2K one was really inspired.) And the discussion was better than a lot of these Paley Festival things tend to be — a nice blend of joking around and actually explaining what they do and just a smidgen of the self-serving blather that characterizes a lot of these tributes.
Invariably, these tributes go a little too far. The moderator declared that “Earl” “revolutionized the form” of the sitcom, and the program notes include this gem: “Unbound from a studio setting, it eschews the canned laughter and latte-sipping antics of Must See TV predecessors to explore, with an irreverent wink, a milieu typically depicted with buck-toothed exoticism.” Why not just say it’s really funny and leave it at that?
NBC actually quibbled with Garcia and Lee over Earl’s mustache, a flop of facial growth that is funny — well, it just is. Initially, Lee grew a Fu Manchu; the network wasn’t sure it liked any facial hair, but, as Lee explained, in the end “We just lost the -chu.”
NBC also initially rejected an episode that had Earl shooting a girl in the throat with a BB gun, which was based on one of the show’s writer’s real-life experiences. Garcia retooled it so that Earl shoots her in her butt, explaining to the writer that he “softened” the scene. The writer’s response: “You’re telling me that I’m worse than Earl?”
On the first day of shooting, Suplee stood slack-jawed, gazing at the sky. Garcia asked him why, and, he says, Suplee explained, “Randy has a deviated septum and he’s always looking for aliens.” Which wasn’t anywhere to be found in the script, but Garcia was more than happy to go with it.
And a local vexed by the production’s location work in Van Nuys queried, “How do you get all those permits to close Woodley Avenue?”