There is no need to slog through the 432 pages of The Purpose-Driven Life; instead, point your remote to NBC on Tuesday nights. My Name Is Earl, leading into The Office, is half of the most reliably funny, and — yeah, we’re going there — morally engaging hour in prime time.
In an inspired bit of casting, Earl stars Jason Lee as a thief who wins 100 grand in the lottery, then gets hit by a car. While in the hospital, he has an epiphany from an unlikely messenger, Carson Daly: What goes around comes around. In other words, karma. Before you can say ”nondenominational prophet,” Earl’s making a list of everyone he’s done dirty and checking it twice (it’s a long list). Earl doesn’t know Buddhism from Budweiser, and therefore ends up doing right by doing wrong. In an upcoming episode, Earl’s teaching English to foreigners ends up with one saying ”Seacrest out!” That’s better than the alternative, though, as his first language is Hillbilly.
Since good needs evil, Earl has a she-wolf of an ex-wife, Joy (Jaime Pressly, showing more comedic talent than her résumé — one highlight: host of E!’s 50 Steamiest Southern Stars — begins to suggest). Her schemes to snatch Earl’s money are inventive, going so far as getting her baby’s daddy, Darnell (Eddie Steeples), to attempt a Class A felony. ”She got me delivering poison,” he sheepishly tells Earl, delivering the tainted cookies. ”It just don’t seem right.” But Joy never wins; Earl’s half-cocked attempts at atonement usually work. Why? The man is on the karmic path and luckily for NBC, the Lord (and Nielsen ratings) works in mysterious ways.