This week's My Name Is Earl (Thursdays at 8 pm/ET, on NBC) — the second in a three-episode arc of the season finale — is where Earl (Jason Lee) gets a job. What's different about this episode is that it features Laugh 'N Sniff cards.
I've always been a fan of John Waters and his movie Polyester, featuring "Odorama." When he guest-starred on My Name Is Earl [in "Kept a Guy Locked in a Trunk," Jan. 18], I asked him if he minded if I stole his idea. He said it wasn't his idea, so go ahead. Because of the planning and cost of creating the cards, we needed to get a sponsor for the promotion, so TV Guide and Oreo got involved. We also knew that it had to air on May 3.
We were told we could do six scents and we, the writers, were given this list of about 30 different ones we could choose from, integrating them into the episode's story line. (Because of the cost, we had only the 30 choices. We weren't going to hire a chemist to create a special scent for us.) When John Waters did it, he used disgusting smells, but we didn't go for that.
The list gave us the parameters, and we couldn't have gone crazy with any random smell. We wrote around what we had. For example, we used the new-car smell for the sex doll that Joy (Jaime Pressly) buys for Crab Man (Eddie Steeples). The smells are pretty accurate, and it's a fun thing to go with the show.
I also absolutely love the  movie Rudy — I thought it was great, it makes me giggle. So this episode ended up having a really cool element in addition to the smell thing: We pay homage to Rudy. We even have original cast members in it, Charles S. Dutton, Sean Astin and Chelcie Ross.
There are three places where we get to mimic Rudy, so it was great to get these actors together to recreate scenes from the film. In one instance, Earl has decided that in order to grow up he needs to get a job. His first job is working for an appliance store in the loading dock. While he's working back there, he looks inside and sees that the salesmen are all up front in the store, with their short-sleeved shirts and ties and he decides, "That's what I want." So his coworkers tell him, "You could never work up there, you've got a GED and those are junior college guys." So Earl has a dream, much like Rudy. They keep telling him he's unrealistic. Dutton plays the head of the loading dock; Ross plays the owner of the appliance store; and Astin plays one of the envied salespeople. (Plus, I got a poster signed by them, and that was good.)
If audiences have seen Rudy, and they like and remember it, it will really add to the special nature of the show. But you can still enjoy the episode without having seen the film.
Shooting it was pretty easy, although we always run long and have to cut things out. And since the whole promotion was tied around the smell things, we couldn't cut those scenes! I don't really have a tease for the episode, except to warn you that one of the scents may not match what it's actually called....
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Coming up this week in Interviews & Features: Q&As with Earl's Jaime Pressly and Ethan Suplee.