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See Earl, with Stewie on his shoulder

What if the angry baby of `Family Guy' was the do-gooder's guide? A DVD feature imagines.

September 19, 2006|Maria Elena Fernandez | Times Staff Writer

Ever wonder what do-gooder Earl Hickey of "My Name Is Earl" would be like if he wasn't so obsessed with karma, if he had never been inspired by TV host Carson Daly to repair all the damage he'd done to others in his lifetime?

To shake things up a little, Emmy-winning show creator Greg Garcia turned the series on its ear for its first-season DVD collection being released today. The set includes "Bad Karma," a 13-minute bonus "lost episode" in which Earl is guided by a different guru: homicidal baby Stewie Griffin of the animated "Family Guy."

And just what is Stewie's secret of life? "If someone dares to hurt you, you hunt them down and beat them like a dog. Sweet, sweet vengeance!"

Parts of the show's pilot were reshot with this as a guiding philosophy; as a result, Earl makes a very different kind of list -- it's payback time.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday September 22, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 55 words Type of Material: Correction
'My Name Is Earl': An article in Tuesday's Calendar section about the DVD release of the first season of "My Name Is Earl" said the NBC comedy had been nominated for an Emmy for outstanding comedy program. It was not nominated in that category. It received nominations for writing, casting, directing, supporting actress and editing.

"Stewie is a great character," said the show's star, Jason Lee. "It was fun to play it like that because I get to be bad Earl sometimes when we have flashbacks that tell earlier stories. But I just got to be flat-out mean [for the DVD], which was really fun."

The idea for the alternate pilot struck Garcia when he was asked by 20th Century Fox Television to create original material for the DVD set as a gift to the show's fans. "Earl" was the No. 1 new comedy among 18- to 49-year-olds last season and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Emmy for best comedy series.

"At first, we were like, who can Earl get bad advice from? And then it just hit me: Oh my God, Stewie, it would be fantastic. Stewie was not hard for me to get because I worked on that show for a year and I was familiar with everybody over there and they were so nice about it."

Over three days, the cast shot many of the scenes from the pilot with different dialogue and different voice-overs, but Garcia also included unused footage from the original production. In this new version, for example, Earl is the one victimized by his gay classmate, Kenny James, and he terrorizes Kenny's parents by destroying their ceramic bird figurines because item No. 57 on his list is "Birds always crap on my head."

"It was really an inspired idea that Greg came up with so we decided to go ahead and do it," even though 20th Century Fox Television wound up paying for it because there wasn't enough time to find a sponsor, co-President Gary Newman said.

"Greg is, I think, one of the most creative, original comic minds in our business. From the pilot with the dancing gay guy in the bar -- where he himself was the one dancing -- to this lost episode and some of the crazy characters they've come up with, like the one-legged lady, Greg and his staff just come up with many things that are very memorable," Newman said.

Indeed, the bonus episode contains a surprising alternative to the Daytime Hooker scene, which will surely make fans do a double take. (We'll say no more for fear the Stewie-inspired Earl will come after us). "I just couldn't deal with [the scene]," Garcia said. "I had to walk away from the set. It's pretty disturbing, but fun."

Perhaps inspired himself by Stewie, Garcia (who is now famous for his Emmy telecast "people I don't want to thank" speech), included a mention of actor Matthew McConaughey in the lost episode because, he says, the actor was rude to him backstage at the People's Choice Awards. "It's just a random little dig that makes me smile."

Does that mean Stewie Earl is here to stay? Is the Season Two Earl giving up on karma? (The show premieres Thursday.)

"I kinda like the Carson Daly Earl," Newman said. "I like the idea that he's trying to be good. Having to deal with Joy driving him in the wrong direction all the time, I get a kick out of that. But every once in a while, it's good to see Stewie on his other shoulder, whispering in his ear."

maria.elena.fernandez@latimes .com

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