Tonight, Earl Hickey claims that which is rightly his: a berth on NBC's Must-See TV slate, as the freshman hit My Name Is Earl relocates from Tuesday to Thursday at 9 pm/ET, where it will be followed by the equally worthy tagalong The Office. The shake-up also shuffles Will & Grace to the 8 o'clock slot, begging the question and TVGuide.com wasn't afraid to ask it of whether Earl will be adding "aided and abetted the bumping of Joey from NBC's lineup" to his famous list of wrongdoings.
Fair enough. After all, all the folks from Camden are beside themselves to be deemed deserving of the new destination. "It's exciting that the network feels we're strong enough and the show is quality enough to be put in a slot that has housed a lot of great comedy," says Garcia. "[But] as far as affecting our work, I wake up every morning and go to bed every night absolutely terrified that I won't do a good episode of TV, and I'm going to feel that way whether we're on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Sundays at 10 am. It doesn't matter."
Getting back to the subject of the List, we asked Garcia to preview what make-goods are on tap as Earl settles into its cushy new home. For one, he says, "Earl stole a laptop from a professor and has to return it to the university, which is an odd place for Earl to be. He falls into a bit of a romantic story while he's there." Also, having once stolen a guy's wallet, "Earl has to work at a fast-food place, where he comes into contact with somebody who feels he isn't being punished by karma. That makes Earl curious about the whole concept." Garcia's last tease finds Earl and his ex-con pal Ralph (played by returning guest-star Giovanni Ribisi) "going undercover in the corporate world to try to pay back the people who paid them to once steal a hot-dog vendor's cart."
Although the show wouldn't dare risk going to Will & Grace-type stunt-casting extremes, Earl does have a few other "names" besides Ribisi's to trot out this season, including Swingers' Jon Favreau and Zoolander's Christine Taylor. (But thus far, no planned visit from Lee's big-screen bud, Kevin Smith, who seems to be guesting on every other dang show these days.) "Right now, our cast size of five regulars [Lee, Jaime Pressly, Ethan Suplee, Nadine Velazquez and Eddie Steeples] seems to be ideal," Garcia notes. "What's been exciting is to find characters like Giovanni's, who we're able to use four to five times a season. We want to make it feel like a small town, so we want to keep revisiting those characters."
And revisiting Earl's litany of wrongdoings 200-plus crimes and misdemeanors that, in theory, should last the show's duration, no matter how popular and long-lived it may be. "Knock on wood, we'll do enough episodes to get through that list," Garcia says. "But the other thing that happens on our show is Earl adds things. Just because he's trying to be a better person doesn't make him perfect."
Indeed, many of Earl Hickey's olive branches wind up sprouting thorns, as not every reconciliation reaps outright redemption. "That keeps Earl on his toes," observes Lee. "If he were able to easily cross everything off, he would start to get a little cocky, I'm sure, and start to rush it a bit. Instead, he stills gets tossed around in the process, and that, to me, is an indication that he's still got a long way to go."