The Case For: is a series here at The Nerds Templar where we make a case for, well, anything. Maybe we want to right a wrong or try to convince you that GoldenEye 007 is the best Nintendo 64 game of all time. Whatever it is, we can argue a case for it.
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I recently finished a full series rewatch of My Name is Earl and immediately needed more. Well at least some closure. If you’ve seen the show you understand what I’m talking about. If you aren’t familiar with the show, shame on you, but seriously it’s a sitcom created by Greg Garcia that aired on NBC from September 20, 2005, to May 14, 2009. It starred Jason Lee as Earl Hickey, the title character, Ethan Suplee as his brother Randy, Jaime Pressly as his ex-wife Joy, Nadine Velazquez as their friend Catalina who’s a maid and dancer from Guadalatucky, and Eddie Steeples as Darnell aka Crabman who is married to Joy. Earl and Joy got married while she was pregnant and he was drunk and she was cheating on him with Darnell through most of the marriage before eventually marrying Darnell. Joy has two kids, one white, one black, but I’ll get to them shortly.
The premise of the show was that Earl had a crappy life because he did crappy things, but one day he wins some money on a scratcher and then is immediately hit by a car. While in the hospital he learns about karma from Carson Daly on TV and decides to make a list of bad things he’s done to people and make amends. As he starts doing good things karma rewards him with his lottery ticket and each episode is about him trying to cross something off his list. In Earl’s own words: “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.”
I absolutely adored the show when it first aired and I watched it religiously every week. I’ve been a huge Jason Lee fan since the 1990s and first saw him in Kevin Smith’s View Askew films like Mallrats and Chasing Amy. The show also shot around my neighborhood which was really cool in my book. I had moved to Southern California a year or so prior and it was filmed around the San Fernando Valley where I was living. But don’t think I’m its only fan. No, the show pulled in great ratings and won 5 Primetime Emmy Awards.
During my rewatch I was reminded just how funny the show was. Every episode has laugh out loud jokes and characters and also a ton of heart. If you are a fan you remember things like every picture of Earl has his eyes closed, Randy’s fear of birds, Patty the Daytime Hooker, the characters of the show are in episodes of Cops and so much more. The rewatch reminded me of my time in Los Angeles, the good and the bad. I live back in Boston now, but seeing episodes at the bowling alley I went to and restaurants and neighborhoods I lived near was a good trip down memory lane. The fantastic Y2K episode takes place in a store called Bargain Bag which was the Big Lots I shopped at and you could see props there sometimes. The store was in many episodes especially some great ones with comedian Josh Wolf.
So the show deserves a revival because it was funny and I have personal ties to it right? Yes, but also no. If you’ve seen the show you know the last episode ends on a major cliffhanger. The show was not expected to be cancelled, but NBC cancelled it leaving us fans with questions. Episode 27 of Season 4, the 96th and final episode is called Dodge’s Dad. As previously stated Joy has two sons, Earl Jr. and Dodge. Dodge is white and Earl Jr. is black. Everyone in the show assumes Earl Jr. is Darnell’s son, but they know Dodge isn’t Earl’s. In the episode, DNA testing throws everyone for a loop. Joy says Dodge’s father is Little Chubby, a local businessman/not so great guy played by Norm MacDonald, but the DNA test says otherwise. Earl might have been Dodge’s father all along after he and Joy realize they hooked up at a Halloween party. It also says Darnell might not be the father of Earl Jr. too. Just as we’re about to get some answers the episode ends with “To Be Continued”. But the show was cancelled and it didn’t continue and we’ve been stuck not knowing the truth for 12 years now. The show’s creator Greg Garcia has hinted at things over the years on Reddit and what not, but that’s not closure. His follow up show Raising Hope has a little Easter egg in it about My Name is Earl, but again that’s not real closure. I want closure. I want to know who Dodge and Earl Jr.’s fathers are. Has Dodge been Earl’s son the entire time? If Crabman isn’t Earl Jr.’s dad, who is?
TV show revivals are a thing nowadays and Earl deserves its own revival. You have The Conners (Roseanne), Fuller House, Girl Meets World even iCarly all have been revived or rebooted with shared continuity. Friends just pulled in big numbers for their reunion and if the past year plus has taught us anything, people like nostalgia and watching things that remind them of better times. Sure the child actors playing the boys would need to be recast, but you could easily open the revival with a flashback to the final episode then time jump it to current day. Earl, Joy and Darnell are the only people in the final scene so going back to that scene with the DNA results would be easy. You could give the truth and have the three characters swear the results to secrecy. Jump to today and Dodge or Earl Jr. are getting married and want their father to be part of the wedding which then opens a conversation about who their real fathers are. Do four to six episodes and us fans get the closure we deserve.
Plus it would be be fantastic trying to explain how Randy went from lovable, chubby goofball to absolutely shredded. Ethan Suplee, the actor who played Randy, had always been the heavy guy in shows and movies like Earl, American History X, Remember the Titans and Boy Meets World, but now he’s an absolute beast. He’s dropped well over 200 pounds and he looks fantastic. Either give it a funny explanation like Randy did some medical experiment that made him lose weight or act like it didn’t happen and none of the characters respond to it. It would be classic Randy.
My Name is Earl was a show with a diverse cast in all sorts of ways. Earl was a white guy, but Randy was overweight, Darnell was a highly intelligent African-American man with a secret past, Catalina was Hispanic and it had a slew of other characters. The first thing Earl crosses off his list in the pilot episode is making amends to Kenny, a character still very much in the closet. By the end of the series Kenny (played by Gregg Binkley) is in a gay relationship with Mike O’Malley’s former cop character Stuart. There is the episode Earl learns to accept the sideshow freaks. He helps teach English to foreigners like Nescobar-A-Lop-Lop because he always made fun of their accents. Marlee Matlin helps Joy and Earl to understand deaf people. Joy finds out she has a black half sister who she surrogates a child for. Long before representation was being pushed, the show did it well with characters who brought something to the table every week. Along with answers we never got, I’d simply like to know what these characters have been up to over the past decade. I know it’ll never happen, but as a fan of the show since the beginning, it would certainly be nice to get the closure we deserve. If somehow it does happen, well, I’ll save you a spot on the couch and we can watch it together.