My Name is Earl ended with a cliffhanger of sorts. After making a magnanimous sacrifice to save his ex-wife, Earl was sentenced to prison time. Series creator Greg Garcia promised that the beginning of the season will deal with prison, though they'll still be able to work the Earl format within that.
Greg Garcia Takes Us to Prison with My Name is Earl
"He'll be in prison for a while," said Garcia. "We didn't want to come back in season three and just go, 'Oh, he's out of prison. There was a technicality.' When we decided to do it, we knew we were going to do it. We're very fortunate that Earl has a past where he knows a lot of people in prison. So there are people on his list that are in prison. It's actually fortunate for him to be there for a little while."
If the drab setting worked for Prison Break, spending a few half hours in the joint should not be too bad. Don't worry, there are plenty of ways for Earl to change the scenery without jumping the shark. "We tell stories in a way that we have a lot of flashback episodes so that it's easy for us to get out of prison for a while just the way we tell stories. We're doing another Cops episode this year, an hour long Cops episode. So we have a lot of ways to get out of there."
Breaking up the pattern of list items was always Garcia's plan for seasons two and beyond. "I could say we wanted more flexibility. In the first season we really felt that we had a premise that we wanted to set up and really stick to the list, and we tried to find as many ways to tell that story differently as we could. We felt like we did a good job of going to season two. So that's the first one we decided, 'Okay, we're going to really tell some stories that take place over the whole season.' I think it's like wanting to keep it fresh every year. That's why we put him in prison at the end of the year and that's why he's going to be in prison this year. We're always going to have the list. We're always going to have that to go to. We're always just doing stories that just have to do with a list but it's fun to have other things to go with."
It is also a way of allowing Earl to grow, but not too fast. "We were always worried about him changing too fast, the character, and so we tried to spoon it out a little at a time. But knowing where we were going to end last season with him going to prison, we weren't afraid to go ahead and start giving him a lot of things that he wanted in life, and we did a little arc of three or four at the end where he actually started getting his life together. The whole time, we knew we were going to take it all away from him and send him to prison, so that was kind of by design."