Picks and Pans Review: My Name Is Earl

updated 10/03/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/03/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

NBC (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)


Earl, a scruffy lowlife, decides to reform after winning $100,000 in the lottery. Taking as his new credo the idea that good comes of doing good—he hears Carson Daly talking about karma on Last Call—Earl compiles a list of 259 rotten things he's done and sets out to make up for the past, deed by dirty deed.

This is a sitcom about a holy fool, which also means it's a sitcom with a central piece of miscasting. Jason Lee (Almost Famous) is a good comic actor, a performer who gives off both a vibe of lazy humor and an aura of relaxed cool. Any network would be crazy not to want to build a sitcom around him and then promote the thing with similar craziness. But Lee may lack the essential sweetness, or pathos, to make Earl ever seem like more than a cute variation on those lovable, loquacious losers who tumble, beer can spurting, through Coen brothers movies. Earl's quest, which starts in the premiere with a visit to a shy gay man he tormented in grade school, isn't authentically uplifting or funny, just perversely willful. If it'd been Oprah instead of Carson Daly on the TV, Earl would have come up with some more productive form of philanthropy.


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