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My Name Is Earl's Jason Lee Shares How Often Fans Still Ask About (And Blame Him For) The Show's Cancellation

Jason Lee as Earl Hickey on My Name Is Earl
(Image credit: NBC)

NBC has always offered a strong lineup of comedy gold in its primetime block. Following the debuts of absolutely iconic comedies like Seinfeld, Frasier, Mad About You and Friends, lightning continued to strike for the network in 2005, but not just with Steve Carell’s The Office. That same year also saw the premiere of My Name is Earl, a show about a small-town thief using his lottery ticket winnings to right his wrongs ,while trying to be a better person in the process. Jason Lee’s sympathetic Earl, along with a great supporting cast of characters, endeared themselves to viewers — so much so that even 13 years later the actor still gets asked about it.

Not only does he get asked about My Name Is Earl’s abrupt cancellation after four seasons, he still gets the blame from many fans for the show ending on a cliffhanger. Not only did viewers not get to see our mustachioed TV hero finish making amends with everyone on his list, but there were some paternity questions that arose regarding the fathers of Joy’s sons. Speaking on The Nine Club podcast, Jason Lee discussed how often he’s still approached regarding the NBC hit:

There's probably not four days that goes by without somebody messaging me on Instagram, like, 'What happened to Earl?' Or some people thinking it's my fault, like, 'Dude, you left us stranded. What the hell?' Like, I'm not NBC. I didn't cancel the show, man.’ It was out of my hands.

Not only was the abrupt cancellation something that should embarrass NBC, not Jason Lee, but the actor said the situation was “really devastating.” Lee, who is well-known for appearing in Kevin Smith movies including Mallrats, Dogma, Clerks II and Jersey Girl, has gone on to a number of projects since he last portrayed Earl in 2009. His most recent TV jobs include voice work in The Harper House and We Bare Bears. But the sting left by the series finale of My Name Is Earl will likely never completely disappear for the fans. Lee recalled the day it all ended:

But Greg Garcia, the creator of the show, he’s still my friend. What he did with that show is incredible. He showed up on set one day and said, 'Hey, I have bad news, guys. It looks like we're getting canceled.' So like, 'Clean out your lockers' kind of vibe, and we're out of here.

It’s crazy (and crazy scary) to think that something so successful and seemingly stable can be gone just like that! So what would have happened with Earl and his list if the show had continued for Season 5? Greg Garcia apparently tried to give fans some closure when his next project Raising Hope premiered in 2010. A news broadcast playing during the pilot featured the anchor saying that a small-time crook who was making amends had finally finished his list, before the TV was turned off. 

However, that’s not quite how the creator had planned to end the series. According to an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit a few years later, Greg Garcia revealed his plan for My Name Is Earl’s ending would actually have seen the title character coming to terms with never being able to finish the list when he learned about the chain reaction of good things said list had started. Why would you rob us of that, Jason Lee? (Just kidding.)

If you want to relive the good old days of Earl, Randy, Joy and Darnell, all four seasons of My Name Is Earl are available for streaming with a Hulu subscription. Also be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what shows are premiering soon.

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.