Paul Brownfield has been filing online dispatches from the Television Critics Assn. meetings in Beverly Hills. Here's the latest from Sunday:
Greetings from the (former) House of Merv. In a show of solidarity with the other TV press, I'm wearing my name tag. It's Day One, NBC. It's also 9 in the morning. So this better be good.
Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly tells the TV press that he feels "a thirst for creativity" at NBC. That's because they're in fourth place. What's he gonna say? There's a thirst to be even less creative? In terms of what's next, he has four words for us: "My Name Is Earl." It tested better than "Friends!!!"
"Earl" stars Jason Lee as Earl, a lovable loser-petty criminal who wins the lottery and then, through a series of events, decides to seek out all the people he's wronged over the years.
The pilot has a hangdog, "Raising Arizona" charm; my one caveat would be that it at times feels dangerously close to looking and feeling like "Ed," that NBC show about a guy named Ed who worked cute as a bowling alley lawyer. That whole show was so cute it was like how your teeth hurt after eating too much Cap'n Crunch.
And then I see, ominously, in my NBC notebook that one of the executive producers in fact has "Ed" on his resume.
On the "Earl" panel at 11, the "Earl" cast looks like a blue-collared-up "Friends," although no one's denying the power of Jason Lee with a thick mustache and Jaime Pressly's blondeness. "How important is that, to have the critics behind you?" series creator Greg Garcia is asked.
"It's a lot more important that I have the audience behind me," Garcia says.
I want to ask a follow-up ("To clarify," Mr. Garcia, "does that mean you're saying none of us have to be here? Because I missed my power sculpt class this morning....") But now someone's asking Pressly (white blouse and black choker, jeans, heels, for those scoring at home) what it was like to model at 14.
For Brownfield's notebook, go to calendarlive.com/tca.