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My Name is Earl was more popular than The Office, Parks and Rec and 30 Rock -- so why has it been forgotten?

  • "Since its debut in the spring of 2005, The Office has become the defining sitcom of the 21st century. But in the fall of that same year, another NBC comedy debuted: My Name Is Earl, a show that, despite being more popular than The Office, 30 Rock and Parks and Rec, has been entirely erased from the cultural consciousness in little more than a decade," says Blake Harper. The sitcom starring Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee and Jaime Pressly premiered months after The Office in fall 2005. "During their four years on the air together, Earl wasn’t just as popular as The Office; it was way more popular," he says. While The Office struggled to find its footing in its shaky six-episode first season, Earl was an immediate hit when it premiered, drawing in 14.9 million viewers, more than any installment of The Office other than 'Stress Relief,' the Season Five episode that aired after the Super Bowl. Throughout its first season, Earl averaged 10.9 million viewers an episode. To put that in perspective, the beloved 30 Rock debuted the next year and never surpassed 10 million viewers in any of its 138 episodes. Earl did experience a drop in viewers over the years, but even by its fourth and final season, it was still being viewed by 6 million people per episode, a number that Parks and Rec only crossed once in 126 episodes. Basically, Earl was the most-watched of any of the NBC sitcoms of the post-Will & Grace era...And yet, when is the last time you heard someone mention My Name Is Earl in conversation?" Harper adds: "It all begs the question: Why did Earl fail to make the same lasting cultural impact as so many of its contemporaries?" Perhaps Earl's abrupt cliffhanger ending and its lack of critical acclaim doomed it to the dustbin of history. "Was it the episodic nature of the show?" he asks. "Had we burned out on Jason Lee? Or does it have to do with the fact that Earl is stuck on Hulu instead of Netflix, which has helped develop new (and continual) audiences for The Office, Parks and Rec and The Good Place? Did Earl just barely miss the era of internet TV culture that maybe would have earned it a solid, dedicated fanbase?"

    TOPICS: My Name is Earl, NBC, 30 Rock, The Office (US), Parks and Recreation, Ethan Suplee, Jaime Pressly, Jason Lee, Retro TV