“Earl” didn’t have to end this way.
As the 2008-09 TV season wound down, “My Name Is Earl” creator/exec producer Gregory Thomas Garcia urged NBC brass “to just give me a sign” as to whether or not he should creatively wind down his modestly rated show and tie things up, or keep everything open for a season five.
“I asked them, if we’re getting cancelled, let us know, so we can end this the way it needs to end,” says Garcia, who was vacationing in his home state of Virginia with his three kids, as well as starting creative work on a new series, when Fancast caught up with him Thursday.“I told them I was going to end ‘Earl’ on a cliffhanger, and they said, ‘Great!’” he adds. “(NBC) made an offer to pick up the show at a certain price, the studio (Fox) accepted, and (NBC) didn’t honor that initial offer.
”Working in the sitcom business for more than a decade – he previously created and ran “Yes, Dear” for CBS – Garcia understands how the business works.
While they weren’t incendiary, “Earl’s” ratings last year hardly sucked. But the show was produced by a studio outside the NBC corporate family, so it ended up getting displaced on the new NBC Thursday night schedule that will include inhouse productions “Parks and Recreation” and “Community” in the fall – even though
“Earl’s” viewership was the same or better than “Parks and Rec” on most nights.
“I understand, that’s part of the business – we weren’t owned by NBC,” he says. “But at the same time, you expect your business partner to take care of you. They just totally turned their back on us. When you turn the lights on, you can see the cockroaches. That’s pretty upsetting.”
Indeed, the burn of not getting picked up for season five is accentuated by the fact that having a fifth season’s worth of episodes would have really helped Fox sell “Earl” repeats to cable channels and syndicators. When it comes to selling repeats, the more episodes the better, and season five is usually critical mass as far as that’s concerned.
Of course, TBS already has repeat rights to “Earl”, and there was buzz several weeks ago that the channel might work out a deal with Fox to keep the series going.
According to Garcia, there were talks about doing 10 new episodes of the show for TBS, but they never got too serious because the production money available on cable just wouldn’t be enough to make the show look the same.
“We would have had to do so much of a lesser version of the show than we were doing in the past,” Garica explains. “It didn’t feel worth it to do 10 episodes of what would have been subpar work after doing four seasons of what we were really proud of.”
So what would have happened to Jason Lee’s “Earl” title character in season five? Would karma finally allow the rehabilitated nerdowell to enjoy the American Dream?
For his part, Garcia is holding out hope for an “Earl” feature film one day, and wants to keep those details to himself.
“It would be a lot of fun to finish up those storylines, and tie things up for the fans,” he notes.
Luckily for Garcia, he’s a bit too busy these days for too much rumination. Based on a short pitch for a family comedy he put together recently, the Fox network gave him a pilot deal.
It won’t be just another version of “Earl,” he says, but it will contain Garcia’s unique voice, which sympathetically and hysterically portrays working-class America, warts and all.
And it is possible that “Earl” cast members could find their way into the new show.
“I enjoyed very much working with our main cast, in addition to all the side characters we created,” Garica says. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see some familiar faces in this thing.”