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Series / My Name Is Earl

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Karma's a funny thing...note 

Earl: Do good things and good things happen to you. Do bad things, they'll come back to haunt you.
Randy: That's deep, Earl, so why don't you stop hogging those Vicodins they gave you and we can all chat about that for a while?

An NBC sitcom created by Greg Garcia and starring Jason Lee as Earl Hickey, a petty criminal, drunken vandal and all-around piece of obnoxious white trash.

The show's story begins after Earl has a revelation one fateful day. He wins $100,000 from a Scratch 'n' Win lottery ticket only to get hit by a car during his celebration dance, losing the ticket to the wind and putting him in traction. While he's high on painkillers, his promiscuous wife Joy hands over divorce papers so she can run off with Earl Jr.'s real daddy, Darnell. While watching TV, he sees Carson Daly explain the concept of karma.

It occurs to Earl that the reason his life sucks is because he's done nothing but bad things to a lot of people, and that maybe he would have better luck if he made up for them. To that end, he prepares a list of all of the bad things he can remember doing, and starts finding a way to make up for them, one by one. Starting on his first item of picking up litter (because he used to litter a lot), he walks to the trash and comes across his missing lotto ticket. This is evidence to him that karma really does work, and he sets out to scratch every item off the list. The Lotto money allows him to focus all his attention on his list.

Most episodes show how Earl deals with one entry on his list, helped (and sometimes hindered) by his friends, most often his simple brother Randy, a new friend Catalina and sometimes even Joy and Darnell. Any given item on his list is likely to be more complicated than a simple "stole 10 dollars" where it causes additional problems for the person involved and Earl goes to extremes to repair the damage he caused. He initially starts out of karmic fear, but he finds that dedicating himself to the list and doing good things changes him. It causes a similar ripple effect through Camden.

The show falls well down the ideal side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism; the concepts of karma and inherent goodness are integral to the premise, and indeed, to most of the episode plots. Despite this, it does not shy away from many ideas and topics that other shows on that end do. It also adheres more strictly to the concept of karma than straight idealism, meaning it's a little more realistic and/or cynical than the usual idealistic fare. Many bad things happen to the characters, but they almost always provide character development, and serve an ultimately good purpose.

The show ran from 2005 to 2009 before it was cancelled after four seasons. Several rival networks expressed interest in picking up the show after its cancellation, though this would have resulted in near-universal pay cuts, and so the show ended with no real resolution and several unresolved plot devices.

This show provides examples of:

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  • Abusive Parents: Philo, the man Earl helps in "Something To Live For."
    Earl: That's an interesting mark on the back of your neck.
    Philo: My mom hit me with a curling iron. I spilled cereal on the carpet. There wasn't even milk in it.
  • Accidental Pervert: Earl ends up being known as a trailer park peeping Tom when he starts checking out trailers to steal.
  • Acquainted in Real Life: In the second season the witness in Joy's case is killed in a bizarre accident. They hold a funeral for him and are saddened when nobody shows up, not even his neighbor. They later do some investigating and discover he had a strong presence on the internet. One of the people he knew online was a fellow player in an online game...the aforementioned neighbor.
  • Acrofatic: Randy gets a couple moments of this, such as doing a perfect backflip off of the back of Earl's El Camino.
  • Adam Westing:
    • Geraldo Rivera in the Inside Probe episodes portrays a slightly Large Ham-ier version of himself.
    • Actor Tim Stack (who is also a writer and consultant for the show) often plays a bitter, drunken version of himself.
  • Alcohol Hic: In Stole A Motorcycle, a flashback shows how Earl and Randy, in a drunken stupor, steal a motorcycle and try to hide as the cops investigate. As it turns out, Earl gets the hiccups when he's drunk and nervous, and nearly blows their cover. Randy almost kills him in an attempt to smother the hiccups.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: The pre-reformed Earl had a lot of acts of this in his past.
  • The Alleged Car: Earl's "perfectly good 1973 El Camino with a 1977 door and a 1987 Camaro transmission." It won't go over 40 miles per hour ever since Randy put gum in the gas tank. Also, the driver has to keep one foot over a hole in the floor in order to prevent the car from filling with exhaust. This turns out to be a particularly useful anti-theft device on at least one occasion.
  • Amicably Divorced: After a rocky first half of the first season, Earl and Joy eventually became rather good friends, and in the fourth season Earl (after two brief marriages in between) fondly admitted that she was his favorite wife. They ended up starting a tradition of still celebrating their anniversary (at the least with Joy giving Earl a corn dog).
  • An Aesop: Every episode of the show ever devised concludes with Earl dropping an Aesop on the viewer's head in a voiceover.
  • Analogy Backfire: Earl wanted his post-marriage relationship with Joy to be more civil, "like Bruce and Demi," so he decided to give Joy the best marriage to Darnell she could ask for. With all that good energy floating between them again they slept together in a moment of weakness. Joy accused Earl of "seducing her" but he explained the Bruce and Demi analogy. Joy replied with "Please, don't you think Bruce and Demi have a quickie once in a while..."
  • "Anger Is Healthy" Aesop:
    • One season involved Joy going to trial because she stole a semi-truck. At one point, she's put on medication for her anger issues. Unfortunately, this happens when she and Darnell's neighbors move their trailer next to theirs. Because Joy has mellowed out and Darnell hates confrontation, neither of them complains. This changes when one of the neighbors hurts one of Joy's sons. She proceeds to inform them that she will stop taking her medication and will return after it wears off if they don't move their trailer.
    • In "O Karma, Where Art Thou?", Earl decides to help Jeff Muskin have some time off work to go on his honeymoon because Earl stole his wallet and inadvertently stopped them from going on that honeymoon in the first place. Earl does this by filling in for Jeff at work while Jeff is away and he quickly learns that Jeff's boss, Mr. Patrick, is a horrible man who doesn't deserve any of the good things in his life and decides to restrain his anger out of fear of costing Jeff his job. After being humiliated too many times, Earl hospitalized Mr. Patrick by punching him out of anger, which resulted in his affair being exposed, his now ex-wife, Charmaine, finding the money Mr. Patrick stole from the business, and Mr. Patrick going to prison. Immediately feeling guilty for indirectly ruining his life, Earl nearly puts him on the list but Randy (in his own poor phrasing) assures Earl that he has nothing to apologize for because karma may have just used Earl as an agent to punish Mr. Patrick and balance everyone's karma. Mr. Patrick was finally punished for all his wrongdoings, Charmaine took ownership of the restaurant, and Jeff was promoted to a manager position which allowed him to give everyone a raise and provide health insurance to the other employees.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: After Earl provoked him for his cowardice, Randy storms out to Catalina and blurts out a touching confession.
  • Animal Motifs: Wally Panzer is associated with butterflies. Wally was one of Earl's many victims in his youth due to his love of butterflies, Wally was emasculated and bullied until Earl was expelled. Wally's sensitive side began to erode when he accidentally crushed a butterfly when Earl pushed him. As an adult Wally is obsessed with manliness and refuses to compete in Mr Camden because it required him to shave off his body hair, oil his body, tan and wear small underwear which he deemed as unmanly. When Wally finally makes his peace with Earl after Earl is trapped in a net. He competes in the contest and releases a Kaleidoscope of butterflies into the audience. Signifying the return of his sensitive side, something that Earl comments on in his final monologue.
    Earl: Like a butterfly, Wally finally came out of his cocoon and became the person he was meant to be
  • Arc Symbol / Call-Back: Of a sort. In "The Magic Hour," Earl first comes across a toy xylophone when a little boy is playing with it. He mentions that he used to want to play xylophone, and he regrets giving it up. Later on, an annoyed Joy grabs the xylophone away from the child and hurls it up onto a roof. The episode ends with Earl sitting on the roof, playing that same xylophone while internally monologuing about not giving up on dreams (like his dream of getting good at the xylophone).
    • In Season 4, one of the items on Earl's list is to get Joy a hottub, because he accidentally cost her a hottub she would have gotten as a reward for tradeshow modeling. Back in season 1, Joy requested that Earl buy her a hottub, but he refused because it would be too expensive.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Joy is upset that the trailer park's infamous voyeur watches everyone but her, assuming the reason is she was pregnant with either Dodge or Earl Jr. at the time. The reason he never watched her was because Earl had inadvertently become the voyeur while trying to check out trailers to steal from.
  • Ash Face: Occurs when Earl decides to light a cigarette while Joy is using lots of hairspray.
    Earl: (gleefully) Randy, get in here! We look like cartoons!
  • Art Shift: When Earl tries saving everyone from pollution and melts down from the realization there's too much for him to do alone, Randy starts seeing every human character in claymation after ingesting some powerful herbal ointment after being explicitly warned not to in the same episode. This lasts until Earl's done with the meltdown mentioned above.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Darnell accidentally gets stuck with a needle full of Pitocin (oxytocin) after Liberty suplexed the doctor that was going to give it to Joy. This causes Darnell to go into "labor." In actuality, while it does induce labor in pregnant women, in men it just increases feelings of relaxation and to some extent attachment...and also sleepiness. (This is why men tend to conk out after sex.)
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • When Earl falsely confesses to Joy's crime. First of all, the fact that Joy's prints are mentioned as being also on the truck would mean she at the very least would be an accessory to the crime, the fact that she jumped bail and escaped to Mexico is also a major felony and her star witness deciding to suddenly confess at the very least would require a retrial to rule out Earl making a false confession. All-in-all, Joy still would have done some jail-time for her either being part of the crime or the felonies she committed while attempting to resist arrest.
    • Ruby would have been pretty much required to not do anything about her crush on Earl, because he's the ex-husband of her client, creating a conflict of interests.
    • Earl and Joy's marriage could have easily been annulled, because Earl was extremely drunk when it happened, too drunk to give proper consent to marriage (or anything else). For that matter, the officiant could (and in real life probably would) have used those grounds to refuse to perform the marriage in the first place.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: In the above-mentioned scene where Darnell gets stuck with a needle full of Pitocin, the nurse was going to give that to Joy as a direct injection. In Real Life, Pitocin is given via an IV bag.
  • Ascended Meme: Taken to ultra-meta levels. Creator Greg Garcia started up an account on Television Without Pity under the name of whojackie, and began writing all these little bits and pieces on the My Name Is Earl forum that eventually coalesced into an actual episode of the series where whojackie is revealed to be a (very) minor character on the show. When TWoP users saw the episode they looked up Jackey's post history and saw that many of the things he posted on there foreshadowed the events of that episode, including being worried about his Murphy's (wall) Bed. After the episode aired they even had "Joy" post on the site under Jackey's name mirroring the events of the episode. All of the details are discussed in the DVD Commentary of that episode.
  • The Atoner:
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Chubby Sr. is a Crazy Witch Lady with a Hair-Trigger Temper.
    • Not to mention Betty White's character, "Crazy Witch Lady".
    • Donnie, before he went to jail (while taking the rap for Earl's robbery because of his cold) where he had a religious epiphany.
    • Ralph Mariano
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: While much of the time they are at each others throats Earl and Joy have admitted that despite their drunk Vegas wedding neither of them really regretted their time together. When those moments occur it is sentimental.
  • Backwards-Firing Gun: Happens to Kenny, only with mace, while trying to spray Earl with it. Earl helps take the sting out of his eyes afterwards.
    Earl: When you steal a lot of purses, you learn a thing or two about mace.
  • Becoming the Mask: Earl genuinely has become a better person, originally he was just wanting bad stuff to stop happening.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Randy. They've shown on various occasions that he is unconventionally strong and in the fourth season (hyped up on Shark Adrenaline) he goes toe to toe and actually takes down the freakishly big guy who spent all his time working out and refusing to be a "pansy" (he was a list item for Earl).
  • Birthday Episode: During the Birthday Episode, Earl had a birthday party and all anyone can talk about is how much bad stuff he used to do, rather than all the good stuff he's doing now. It turns out it's all a big Practical Joke, and as birthday presents everyone crosses something off of Earl's list that he had done to them, so he doesn't have to make it up to them.
  • Bilingual Backfire: When Joy asks Catalina how to say something in "Mexican", Catalina obliges by giving her a very wrong translation that would only get Joy into troublenote . Joy immediately knows Catalina is trying to pull a fast one, because the Spanish word for "bitch" was used, and Joy has been called a bitch in every language on Earth.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Catalina's supposed insults to Joy in Spanish are actually comments to her fans, breaking the Fourth Wall
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: "Inside Probe, Part 1"
    Randy: Network executives, they sure take the cake
    Joy: Plus, they don't let people cuss anymore on TV until a certain time at night. [Looks at her watch] Douchebags.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: When Earl becomes an antihero to help people then he follows into the gray area morality whereas the villains he goes up against are far worse than he is.
  • Black Comedy Rape/Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: When Earl is in a coma, a truck driver captures him as her love slave. It's mostly Played for Laughs, but the implications are still pretty Squicky. Randy, Joy, Darnell, and Catalina rescue him, though, so it turns out all right.
  • Bland-Name Product: Earl refers to a NyQuil Expy as "Generic Brand Nighttime Sniffling, Sneezing, Aching, Coughing, Best Sleep You Ever Got With A Cold Medicine".
  • Book Dumb: Except for Darnell (a child genius) and Patty (who has a master's degree), everyone in Camden.
  • Boring, but Practical: Part of the Good Feels Good element is all the mundane ways it is rewarding to be a good person. Earl himself is back on good terms with his parents and has a lot more friends than he's ever had that he can rely on. One episode has him teach karma to a bunch of rich women, who feel rewarded by the fact they can finally sleep at night.
  • Bottle Episode: The crew admitted that the COPS and Inside Probe episodes were to trim the budget for the normally expensive episodes. Because they were aiming for a documentary-look, filming consisted mostly of the cast just reading through their lines for an entire scene and then moving on to the next scene.
  • Bounty Hunter: Jesse. And Dog the Bounty Hunter.
  • Broken Aesop: The Aesop of Witch Lady; having Earl put away his list for a day so people will stop calling him 'Karma Guy' in an episode about not letting labels define you.
  • Broken Pedestal: Earl's hero was astronaut Chaz Dalton who ran a space camp Earl went to as a kid. Years later, he found out the man who ran the camp wasn't really Chaz Dalton. Things get even Worse when he finds out that the real Chaz is a Jaded Washout and a Fake Ultimate Hero who only got to be an astronaut because his dad was funding NASA. He never even went into space.
    • Rebuilt Pedestal: Eventually he realizes that the fake Chaz (Wayne) really does want to teach kids and his fake legacy inspires the real Chaz, they start running the camp together with Wayne as the public face and Chaz providing the equipment.
  • Broken Record: "Inside Probe, Part 1" had Randy's "confession" to the Camden police. "We killed Ernie."
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Playing for laughs in one of the episodes of the first season, when the father tells Joy that he forbade her to meet with one of the boys, because he was her half-brother from his mistress. One of the many brothers...
  • Call-Back: The people Earl helps often come back to help him out. This happens as early as the third episode, when Kenny James comes back to make a fake birth certificate so that Randy can return to high-school.
  • The Cameo: Josh from "Very Bad Things" and "Kept A Guy Locked in a Truck" appears in Earl's sitcom coma dream in part 2 of "I Won't Die with a Little Help from My Friends" as the chauffeur arriving to "take Earl away".
  • Camp Gay: Kenny toes the line on this. He is certainly effeminate, but not quite "fabulous." His co-worker in the fourth episode is a more pure example.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Because karma will get you.
  • Catchphrase: Earl and Darnell's "Hey Earl - Hey Crabman" routine and Joy's "Oh snap!" In the Christmas episode "Don't you judge me" is said so many times by Joy's mother Connie that it becomes her catchphrase.
    • Joy's "Great googly moogly," as well, and her frequent use of the word "dummy" when addressing anyone.
    • Both Earl and Randy vary the morning greeting "Wakey wakey hands off snakey" throughout the series.
  • Celebrity Star: John Waters, Jenna Elfman, Burt Reynolds, Betty White, just to name a few
  • Celebrity Paradox: Earl and Randy are fans of Smokey and the Bandit and Burt Reynolds plays a local respected and feared businessman.
  • Censorship by Spelling: When Earl sleeps with Joy, Joy and Earl have this conversation in front of Earl Jr.
    Earl: I have to tell [Darnell].
    Joy: Like H-E-double-L you do.
    Earl: I can't live like this Joy, he needs to know we... H-A-D sex together.
    Joy: That is B-U-double-L hockey!
  • Chain of Deals: Earl uses one of these to right a wrong in a prison episode.
  • Character Development: Earl in particular, due to working on his list he has become a genuinely good person even if it doesn't involve his list. But Joy has also been shown to not be quite as mean and selfish as spill-over from Earl's good attitude.
  • Characterization Marches On: Revisiting the first season it is interesting to see what was different in the beginning. Not quite to the degree Flanderization, but Earl was the only one to escape this trope as he had a sharp degree of character development. Randy was simple-minded but not all that stupid, Joy looked more like a streetwalker than a trailer park mom (her signature hair bands aren't in the early episodes), there is no hint of Darnell being a super-intelligent ex-spy and Catalina was a bit less feisty.
    • With Darnell, it makes sense. He is in the Witness Protection Program, so he wouldn't want to hint at it. He even admits at one point that his behavior up to that point had been a ruse.
  • Chroma Key:
    • Darnell uses this to insert Joy into various heroic situations to convince a young faith healer that she is a good person. The situations become increasingly outrageous, including Joy congratulating George Bush and US soldiers in Afghanistan and praying with the Pope.
      Joy: I thought you said this was going to look like I was standing in front of an Alaskan oil spill. This is just our big blue sex tarp.
    • Earl and Randy visit a TV station to make amends with a news reporter who they previously embarrassed while on the air. Randy wanders over to the blue screen where the weather forecaster stands and unzips his jacket, revealing a blue shirt underneath. He freaks out when he sees himself on the monitor, thinking his body's disappeared.
  • Citizenship Marriage: After Catalina is deported, Randy marries her so she can return to the US.
  • Cliffhanger: Of the unresolved type. In the last episode it's revealed that Dodge is actually Earl's son but Earl Jr. isn't Darnell's son. Cue the To Be Continued to be suddenly canceled after this very episode.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Randy, Raynard.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In the Christmas Episode, Earl remembers how he never bought any good Christmas gifts for his ex-wife. He flashes back to the Christmases they had when they were married, and one in particular involved Convenience Store Gift Shopping. He had bought her some condoms, to which she angrily responded, "How are these for me?! " His response?
    They're flavored!"
  • Coming-Out Story: The pilot episode centers around Earl helping Kenny to come out of the closet, to make up for bullying him during their childhood.
  • Commune: Earl recalls that he once robbed a stoner of all his possessions during a Heat Wave a few summers back. He tracks the guy (Christian Slater) down, and finds that he's living in a hippie commune outside of Camden, and thus doesn't want his air-conditioner or other items back. He teaches Earl about climate change...but also that it's going to be small changes that help prevent an Apocalypse How.
  • Continuity Nod: Countless instances of references, varying in subtlety
    Season 1: "This is the sweetest, most justified kidnapping I've ever seen" - "How many have you seen?" - "Five or so"
    Season 2: "This is the cruelest, most unjustified kidnapping I've ever seen" - "How many have you seen?" - "Six or so"
  • Continuity Snarl: On occasion. Case in point: "The Frank Factor" having Catalina (escaping from her home country) meet Darnell the day he was dropped off by Witness Protection, when in "Y2K", it was established that Darnell was already living in Camden County when Catalina was making her journey; she got to Camden Country on Jaunary 2nd, 2000.
  • Contraception Deception: An example where the deceiver is not one of the two who have sex (good thing since he's underage at the time) — it turns out that when Earl was a kid, he had a crush on his babysitter. When he finds out she has a boyfriend, he pokes holes in the boyfriend's condoms and she gets pregnant as a result.
  • Cousin Oliver: Parodied, like many sitcom tropes, in Season 3's coma arc. Apparently The Hickeys adopted a young boy when their own kids were no longer cute.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot:
    • "Broke Joy's Fancy Figurine" has Joy, no longer caring about the figuring, repeatedly tell Earl to buy her a hot tub in order to cross her off the List. An example in and of itself, but then Season 4's "Joy in a Bubble" reveals that a different List item was for Earl costing Joy a hot tub several years ago.
    • Arguably, the show as a whole would have been prevented had Earl not ran into the road after winning his scratch off. Though if he didn't, he likely never would have changed for the better.
  • Crazy Cultural Comparison:
    • One episode involved an incident where Nescobar Aloplop received a lap dance from a stripper, who then got into an argument with Catalina, because Nescobar Aloplop is one of her regular "clients". His response:
    "Wives, please, there's no need to argue. I have enough seed for both of you. The thin one, I will lay with you for pleasure. The thick one, you will birth my sons."
    • And then he was informed by staff at the strip club, "Sir, just because a woman sits on your lap does not mean you're married to her."
  • Crazy-Prepared: Darnell is like this at times and attributes it to his super-spy training. One episode had Catalina's voodoo practicing nephew cause a mob to form with Earl, Randy and Darnell trying to keep him safe. Darnell produced a trunk with various survival supplies, including passports, and explained, "I've been trained to think three steps ahead. I saw this coming 7 months ago."
  • Creative Closing Credits: In the episode citing Smokey and the Bandit, "Stole Beer From a Golfer".
  • Crisis of Faith:
    • Sister Millie has one of these when she finds out it wasn't God's voice she was hearing, but Earl's.
    • Earl also temporarily loses his faith in Karma after he gets out of prison (ironically for doing something bad), life on the outside is pretty rough since no one wants to hire an ex-con, and it's been years since he started the list but he hasn't had any real reward for doing good things like he wanted. (Meanwhile, his old friend Ralph has been posing as a little old lady's deceased husband and living it up.)
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Earl is not the brightest of guys and generally Book Dumb, but he is not a complete idiot and can be quite resourceful with the various problems he has to face. The skills and connections he picked up as a lowlife comes in handy frequently and is capable of being The Chessmaster when he puts his mind to it.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Subverted for laughs in every fistfight. Whoever appears to be the strongest fighter always gets their ass kicked by the person you would least expect to win. Earl once gets beaten to a pulp a man who has no legs and a single arm.
  • The Cutie: Natalie, Joy while taking her meds (which matches her dollish looks perfectly).
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Buried Treasure" has Randy, Joy, Darnell, and Dotty the Librarian replicating Earl's opening introduction and narrating part of the episode.
  • Dance Party Ending: The episode with Joy's wedding, and the Birthday Episode
  • Death Seeker: Minor side-character Philo constantly tried to commit suicide until Earl and Randy's attempts at cheering him up convinced him that he had friends.
  • Deep South: Where in the South, however...
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The show intentionally puts the plot on the deep south and makes the characters rude and insulting people who are prone to many ridiculous and negative stereotypes to play its for laughs and develop a progressive message.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: In the second COPS episode, one of the police officers says that it's the first Fourth of July since the "September 11th 9/11 attacks."
  • Depending on the Writer: How civil Joy and Earl are to each other tends to vary, mostly in later seasons (The first season was mostly violent). Later seasons it tended to be justified because of them being Vitriolic Best Buds, but one example in the fourth season was the most blatant. Randy and Joy actually discovered they had a childhood summer romance (they never knew each others real name at the time). In a nostalgic mood they decided to share a kiss they never actually got that summer. The next episode had Randy being bullied by a mean-spirited Joy.
  • The Ditz:
    • Randy was flanderized into an extreme version of this.
    • Darnell also fits, though this is largely Obfuscating Stupidity (he was a child prodigy).
  • The Documentary: Two fictional episodes of COPS and Inside Probe.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Inverted with the show's basic premise. An uncouth, impoverished thief renounces his ways after gaining wealth and being abandoned by his family, and embarks on a mission to rebalance his karma, gaining enlightenment along the way.
  • Double Entendre: The reforming camp's unfortunate slogan choices.
  • Downer Ending: The second season finale. Earl has tried to become an adult, but in trying to help Joy, he's lost his job, his apartment, his new girlfriend, and he's had to give up his list. Fittingly, "House of the Rising Sun" plays as he goes to prison.
  • Driven to Madness: What Earl (and the other Camden residents) did to the Crazy Witch Lady.
  • Dropped After the Pilot: The character Sonny, until he is unexpectedly (and briefly) brought back in the third season. Earl even lampshades this in the relevant episode.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: At his birthday party a year into his quest to do good things, people still only talk about the stuff Earl still needs to make up for instead of giving him the pat on his back he hoped for. Turns out the party was just a prank and there is a real one waiting for him at home, where everyone gives him genuine praise and each person crosses off a list item related to themselves as a present.
  • Dysfunction Junction: There isn't a single resident of Camden County who doesn't have SOME kind of educational/developmental/mental/psychological/criminal/disability/buffoonery thing going on. Even the cops are portrayed as bumbling idiots.
  • Eagleland: A Running Gag has it that whenever Earl is trying to make a good impression he always makes mention of being (specifically) a law-abiding American.
    • Joy would be the perfect patriot if she didn't have zero respect for the law.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: "Number 86: I stole a car from a one-legged woman"
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Joy's Subaru Brat lacked its American flag paint job in the pilot.
    • Darnell's family being present at his wedding to Joy, which happened before Darnell's witness protection storyline was conceived. It's possible that Darnell somehow snuck his family to Camden (something Greg Garcia has suggested), or they're not his real family, which is hinted at in "Darnell Outted Part One" when he says his "grandmaz" isn't his real grandmother.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Earl's belief in this is what motivates him throughout the show. It works for the most part, but there are more than a few bumps in the road.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: During one episode Randy tries to make a list of famous rich people he and his brother could borrow from, like The Beverly Hillbillies. Earl points out that they're fictional TV characters, "just like Richie Rich and Donald Trump".
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: The only reason Pierre wanted to travel back to America aside from hitting Earl was to do lots of American women, which he found extremely easy because of his accent.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Mexican versions of Earl and Randy in "South of the Border Part Uno". Mexican Earl even has his own list, except it has bad things he wants to do instead of make up for. The ones we see directly mirror items on Earl's list, like stealing a donkey from a one-legged woman (Earl stole a one-legged woman's car) and killing an old woman by forcing her to smoke (Earl saved an old woman by forcing her to quit smoking).
  • Expy: Liberty and Ray-Ray, for Joy and Darnell, only with exchanged colors. Played for Laughs, since they're half-sisters Also, the gangsters seen in Catalina's homeland bear a striking resemblance to the Hickey brothers, except evil counterparts- Earl's counterpart actually has a list of wrongdoings to inflict on people, and one of them is stealing a donkey from a one-legged woman, the opposite of #86 on his list.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Subverted with Willie the One-Eyed Mailman. What happened was Joy was throwing Earl's things off the trailer roof, and she warned everyone to move before she threw a bowling ball on a painting. Willie was listening to music during her warning...
  • Face–Heel Turn: Earl has a crisis of karmic faith in the third season where he finds himself being punished while doing good things and rewarded when he does bad things. He reverts back to "old Earl" because karma wasn't acting fast enough, but after an intervention from his friends and getting hit by a car again he remembers all the lessons he learned from the first two seasons.
  • Fake Faith Healer: The show featured a rather young one after Earl fell into a coma. It turns out that when Earl was bad, he and Joy had gone to him for an injured leg and a facial blemish. After the kid cures those, Earl and Joy pull off a robbery that would have been impossible if they hadn't been cured, leading the boy to quit faith healing. Randy convinces him to come out of retirement to cure Earl's coma. It's then revealed that the boy doesn't actually have any healing powers and Earl and Joy were hired by his father to pose as clients.
  • Faking the Dead: Earl did that, as did Natalie in order to get him back for it.
  • Failure Gambit: In an early episode, Earl's El Camino is impounded with the bulk of his lottery winnings in the glove compartment. To get it back, he tries to help Randy get back into high school football and then bet on the game. Randy plays, but his team unfortunately loses. Earl then wonders what he's going to do, until Randy drives up in the El Camino. It turns out that he had made a bet as well... against his own team.
  • False False Alarm: In one episode, we see a flashback to Earl & Joy stealing a diamond ring from a jewelry store. Earl's brother Randy (pretending to be an unrelated customer) "accidentally" wanders too near the door while holding a pearl necklace in order to see it under natural light, triggering the alarm. The clerk goes to deal with Randy while Earl & Joy walk out of the store with the diamond.
  • Fanservice:
  • Flanderization:
    • Camden County started as a small southern town with a few cartoonish quirks and gradually got more absurd. They had their own faction in the civil war (the Central) which lasted about half an hour and the Camdenites split off from the Amish because the latter were too accepting of new technology like the wheel and pitchforks.
    • One episode addresses how this trope can come into play in reality. After his mistreatment of a "witch lady" (played by Betty White) because of her appearance, she became a vindictive witch. Earl realized that it was just too easy for people to accept how others view them and start playing up to the role. By the episodes end, Joy resolved to be nicer and less of a bitch, Randy got a Word-A-Day calendar and Earl decided to not be so obsessed with his list, being known as the "karma freak."
    • Also, while Randy was always a bit slow, by season 3, he's got full-blown mental retardation. (By season 4, however, he's back to his usual self: still slow, but not mentally-handicapped.)
  • Flashback: Used to introduce the current list item that Earl needs to check off.
  • Flipping Helpless: Crabman's pet turtle Mr. Turtle is scared of being flipped on his back, at least according to Crabman.
  • Forced Orgasm: Comatose Earl is kidnapped by a crazy woman who wants to make him her husband. When Earl's friends finally manage to get him to the hospital, the doctor rattles off a list of injuries Earl sustained which ended with "He seems to have had an involuntary orgasm."
  • Foreign-Language Tirade: Catalina does a fourth-wall-breaking one.
    • Pierre in "Foreign Exchange Student"
  • Foreshadowing: In "Stole Beer From a Golfer", Randy makes an offhand remark about a item on the list that pertains to a deaf personnote . Joy's lawyer for Season 2's Story Arc happened to be deaf, who Earl doesn't meet until the end of the season. And, as fate would have it, Earl gets the hots for the woman and the two seem to get along like the perfect couple. Then Earl realizes the deaf lawyer is the same deaf person on his list, from whom he stole because she wouldn't hear him or Randy looting her place. When she discovers the truth, it's curtains for their relationship and she develops a grudge toward him.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Randy goes to meet his childhood crush "Pinky," who turns out is Earl's ex-wife Joy.
  • For Want Of A Nail: The Season 1 extra "Bad Karma", where instead of Earl finding out about karma from Carson Daily, he watches an episode of Family Guy where Stewie preaches the importance of getting Revenge. Earl goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, making a hit list of people who wronged him, which eventually results in Earl getting hit by a car again, and a vengeful Joy and Darnell finishing him off. Randy becomes the new protagonist.
  • French Jerk: Pierre, though it was Earl's fault. However, he does hate his wife with a passion and technically cheats on her by having Earl track down his childhood sweethearts (and the sister of one in place of her) so he could kiss each one of them.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Earl found out siphoning his neighbor Philo's gas prevented him from committing suicide, and when he returned it to him Philo went on trying to kill himself. Earl really did not like him as a person but stuck around to keep him alive. By the end of the episode Philo had gotten past his Death Seeker phase because he thought Earl and Randy were his friends. Neither Earl nor Randy liked him, but were touched that someone found their friendship to be something worth living for.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: All three of Earl's marriages (none of which ultimately lasted) were examples of this.
  • Funny Background Event: Many examples, but Randy working the stripper pole at Little Chubby's is a standout.
  • Funny Foreigner: Nescobar Aloplop, the man to whom Earl tried to teach English, shows up occasionally to help him.

  • Gambit Pileup: Essentially what happened with some silverware Joy, Earl and Randy stole from the county library a while back- them, and Darnell all thought they had stolen the silverware and hidden it, not knowing each one of them had done their own thing with it, then unknowingly transferred it to the next person.
  • Girls with Moustaches: In junior high, Earl made fun of a girl with a mustache, so now she's on his list. He tracks her down and discovers she's got a full beard and is in a carnival freakshow as "The Bearded Woman". He convinces her (and the other freaks) to quit the freak tour and follow their dreams - in her case, being a realtor.
  • Goal in Life: Earl's goal (and the focus of the series) is to make amends for every bad thing he has done in his life.
  • God Guise: In one episode, Earl used a walkie-talkie to transmit messages through his religious cranky landlady's hearing aid to get her to do nice things for him and his friends. She later became a nun... and Earl had to tell her what he did, thus shaking up her faith.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Catalina deliberately disgusted Randy in order to get rid of him without hurting his feelings. She succeeded, but Randy was so good in bed she fell for him.
  • Good Behavior Points: In the prison arc that comprises the first 12 episodes of Season 3, Earl (who took the blame for a crime his ex-wife Joy committed) acts like a model prisoner and does many things to turn the prison into less of a hellhole. For each act, the incompetent warden gifts Earl a certificate that takes some time off from his two-year sentence. The arc climaxes when the warden, out of fear of losing the benefits he reaped from taking credit for Earl's actions, shreds all of the certificates, forcing Earl to seek a different way to clear his name.
  • Good Feels Good: Randy brings this up to Earl when Earl decided to abandon his list and karma altogether. Although he will follow his brother anywhere he knew that doing good things felt good.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Joy. A former girlfriend of Earl became a hard core, martial artist bounty hunter just so she could get back at her for knocking out her front teeth. It didn't help.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: In a flashback, one of the prisoners in Season 3 gets a tattoo "before he knew what swear words were." His tattoo says "Fudge the Police."
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Earl's list is a manifestation of this in that he must cross everything off his list.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: Randy's story in "Creative Writing."
  • Groin Attack: Lil Chubby's highly effective torture scene where he ties Earl to a baseball chamber, intent on making him impotent. Free Bird plays in the background. Oooh yeah.
    • In "The Professor," the titular prof mistakes Earl for a potential rapist and kicks him. When he returns her laptop, she sits down to talk to him and asks him to speak to her class.
    This wasn't the first time a woman kicked me in the cherries and called me a rat, but it was the first time I didn't mind.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: "Sweet Johnny". The title stuntman suffered so many head injuries "his brain can't make new memories", meaning he's been living the same day over and over since "Livin' A Vida Loca" was popular. The only thing that could convince him this was true was how big his old girlfriend's ass had gotten in ten years. Johnny even compares his situation to the Trope Namer at one point. The episode ends with Johnny Driven to Suicide rather than living this way, only for Earl to stop himnote . Earl realizes it would be better for Johnny if he didn't cross him off his list.
  • Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: The whole series is very flashback centered. Typically, all the actors playing themselves in the present and 20 years ago just get a (rather bad) black wig as a sign they are younger. Jason Lee had a giggle fit in the DVD Commentary over this trend. For the main actors, there are often some mild changes done, like Randy having a rat tail or Joy with her hair down instead of in bands.
  • Happy Ending Override: Little Chubby who ended his first appearance performing a Heel–Face Turn returned in the last episode a bigger bastard than ever.
  • Happy Place: Earl's sitcom world with Billie in the coma.
  • Hard Truth Aesop:
    • In "Very Bad Things", Earl decides to atone by taking Joy's side in everything. Which leads to him; helping Joy get away with grand theft auto, kidnapping and assault. In the end; he decides to stop taking Joy's side and decides it would just be easier to just let the victim go than to keep chasing him, However, the man did remember Joy's identity and she ended up in jail. There are now 2 lessons in this:
      • Atoning for something you did wrong won't always be worth it because your victim will just use your guilt as leverage for their own crimes.
      • If you are committing a crime, never settle for maybe and follow it through to the end by tying up any loose ends.
    • In "Sweet Johnny", Earl directs his attention to a stuntman called Sweet Johnny because he endangered Johnny's life so he can have an affair with Johnny's then-girlfriend, Sheila. Earl finds out Johnny has anterograde amnesia and has been reliving the same day over and over again after receiving brain damage. After stopping Johnny from committing suicide, Earl decides to leave Johnny on the list as a permanent reminder of how bad he can be. There are 2 lessons to this:
      • There are some things you just can't atone for and you will have to make peace with your own guilt.
      • You can make things worse by trying to fix it, just use your mistakes constructively and remember what you did wrong so you don't repeat it.
    • In "Look Who's Coming Out Of Joy," Earl learns that he is not the father of Earl Jr and is ready to abandon Joy because he didn't want to take care of two kids that weren't his and a cheating wife. His father Carl, also looking to keep him from moving back in, coerces him to stay with her because when kids are in the picture, a reluctant but decent father is better than no father, and his anger with her shouldn't be taken out on them. Looking back, Earl considered it the one good thing he did before he found karma.
    • A number of episodes show that while karma can be laser guided, it is not an absolute and there will be times he or someone else will do bad things and be seemingly rewarded for it. His life has suffered from strict adherence to karma and doing the right thing, and is sometimes rewarded while doing something bad. The third season explores it the most as Earl goes to prison and manipulates the system to get out, which motivates him to reject karma and return to his old ways. Eventually Randy, who was always more of a tagalong to the list, points out they were infinitely happier doing good things because it's the right thing and not because of fearing retribution.
  • Hard Work Fallacy: Earl gets a promotion from docker to appliance salesman based on hard work and determination, despite teasing from everyone else...and wins their respect. (The episode is a parody of an example in Rudy, even featuring a few of the actors from that movie.)
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Kenny and Stuart, taking the Suspiciously Specific Denial route
  • Heel–Faith Turn/Faith–Heel Turn: A Scary Black Man gangster who went by "Hash Brown" and eventually became a minister ends up being on Earl's list at least three times, with each new list item revealed making him angrier and angrier until he snaps and decides to return to his gangster life. Then Earl recognizes his car and reveals that he broke the taillight on it (another list item). The broken taillight caused Hash Brown to get pulled over and be late for a deal which ended up turning into a brutal shootout, meaning that Earl had indirectly saved his life. Since this event was what had caused him to take up religion in the first place (he originally attributed it to divine intervention), he thanks Earl and goes back to being a minister.
    • Another person on Earl's list was Donny, a former violent criminal lunatic who found religion while serving two years in prison for a crime Earl committed. Donny forgave Earl almost immediately, reasoning that if he hadn't gone to jail he wouldn't have cleaned up his act (and figuring that he'd have likely gone to jail anyway at the rate he was going).
    • Similar to the first example, an early episode had Earl deal with an angry, religious old woman who became a nun after Earl's walkie-talkie hit the same frequency as her hearing aid and Earl pretended to be God, ordering her to do things for him and the others. When Earl revealed the truth, she left the nunnery, gave up on God, and returned to the trailer park, angrier than before. Earl's speech about her (and everybody around her) being happier when she was a nun made her realize he was right.
  • Heel Realization: Joy has one when she realizes that Liberty, her sworn enemy, is angry at her for getting to grow up with a daddy.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": Both Randy and Joy's fantasies. Not much more needs to be said.
  • Hollywood Evolution: In one episode, Joy attempts to disprove evolution by showing that a fish won't grow legs when the only food available is outside the water. Turns out it did, as she caught a tadpole instead. Justified, as Hollywood Science is the only kind she knows anything about.
  • Homage: Season 3: A guy gets innocently thrown into prison, improves the lives of his fellow inmates and becomes an asset for the warden. When his release from prison is in sight, the warden fucks with him to keep him inside and the guy begins to rebel and finally breaks out. Sounds familiar? Then you probably watched The Shawshank Redemption.
  • How's Your British Accent?: The scene where Catalina demonstrates her American accent—Nadine Valazquez actually used a fake Spanish accent to play Catalina.
  • Humans Are Bastards: One episode revolves around Earl changing the mind of a guy who had become convinced this was true because of him.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Joy tells Randy he needs to stop mooching off of Earl and start acting like an adult...right before turning around and yelling at Darnell for stealing candy from her trick-or-treat bucket.
  • Hypothetical Fight Debate: Episode Robbed a Stoner Blind: In the closing discussion, Randy and Earl philosophize who would win in a fight:
    Randy: Hey, Earl.
    Earl: Yeah, Randy.
    Randy: Who do you think would win in a fight — Muppets or Sesame Street?
    Earl: I don't really think they'd fight; they're both pretty peaceful.
    Randy: What if they had to, like in that head-chopping-off movie where there could be only one?
    Earl: Muppets.
    Randy: Okay. Muppets or Fraggles?
    Earl: Muppets.
    Randy: Okay. What about Muppets or He-Man?
    Earl: Just He-Man, or He-Man and his friends?
    Randy: Just He-Man.
    Earl: Muppets.
    Randy: That's who I had.
    • Cut to Joy and Darnell having one about their family members, ending with both agreeing Darnell's scary aunt wins no matter what.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: The toe Ralph puts in the hot dog to get money out of the hot dog corporation. Joy neglects to tell Darnell.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Joy has an impressive set of martial skills... learned from watching talk shows (!). She proved to Darnell street smarts are real by using a trick from MacGyver to save their lives.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Not every episode, but the vast majority of them read like an item from the list: "Made A Lady Think I Was God," "Made a Kid Scared of the Boogeyman," etc. Most of the ones that don't read like this are the Formula Breaking Episodes like "Our COPS is on!" and the first half of season three.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Earl once stole a cop's badge and used it to get free food and other stuff. Then someone stole it from him.
  • Improbably Cool Car: One of the obnoxious students has a mint 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, despite being sixteen and in a town implied to be largely poor and rundown.
  • Incest Subtext: Surprisingly a lot, as for the youth show, where there is not even a obscene speech and nudity.
    • Running Gag in one of the episodes is completely built on parodying this, when the characters discuss how embarrassing they are from the words "I love you" from their siblings. Catalina even mentions that one of her brothers took such words from her as a proposal of sex...
    • Earl and Randy are good brothers and the motel room is small, but it's still weird that Randy pedicures Earl and knows what his nipples taste like. It is not surprising that other characters perceive this incorrectly more than 2-3 times.
    • Earl and Randy sleep in the same bed. Their usual wake up routine includes Earl announcing to Randy some variation of "Wakey wakey, hands off snakey." In one episode Earl announces "Rise and shine... hands off mine!". And this is not to mention that in one episode of the second season, Earl mentions that "Randy went home alone, because I accidentally kissed him."
    • One disturbing episode in the fourth season, when Joy begins to be jealous of her eldest little son, which frankly frightens Darnell and turns into frank attempts to become "desired for her own son." Fortunately, it was just an obsession because of the fear of losing him.
  • Incredibly Inconvenient Deity: Karma (well, the Theme Park Version of it, anyway) is portrayed this way. Earl has to stick to his list, even when Being Good Sucks. Otherwise, Karma punishes either him, or people around him (such as a beautiful professor he had recently started dating).
  • Inelegant Blubbering: All the prisoners in Earl's cell block engage in this.
  • Inheritance Murder: Earl wins the lottery shortly after his wife Joy divorced him. Joy is upset that she will not get a share of the money but remembers that Earl once made a video where he stated that should he die, Joy should get all his property. Based on this, Joy attempts to kill Earl. She fails multiple times and when Earl realizes what is going on, he informs her that he has already had a new will drawn up and she will get nothing if he dies.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: On one episode we find out that Earl and Joy once sold an Alleged Car to a man. Earl tries to right this wrong only to find out that the experience left the man bitter and pessimistic about society and seemingly plans to kill everyone. Earl tries to change his mind by showing him that people can be nice. Unfortunately, he tries to track down the car and finds that everyone who's owned it did the same thing as Earl and Joy. He later gets Darnell to pretend he was the last owner who sold the car for scrap used to build a playground. In the narration, Earl says that he thought karma would forgive this falsehood. But then the car that was supposedly scrapped drives by.
  • The Internet Is for Porn:
    • Inside Probe 2 — "For anyone out there who is not aware of the vast array of pornography on the Internet, you are about to become far less productive"
    • Randy calls laptops "porn-machine".
  • Intimate Lotion Application: In "Mailbox", when Earl and Girl of the Week Wendy are lounging by the pool, she's slowly rubbing sunscreen on her body while Earl is Eating the Eye Candy. She can't quite reach her back, but doesn't ask for his help which the narration points out is a clear sight she's not into him and doesn't want him touching her and Earl does indeed offer to help with her back and she politely refuses.
    Narrator Earl: Anytime a girl almost pulls her arms out of their sockets instead of asking a guy to help with the lotion, well, they're Just Friends.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: Joy decides to disprove evolution by putting what she thinks are minnows in a tank with some food just out of the water. The "minnows" grow legs and walk out of the water, blowing her mind. Darnell then points out those are tadpoles, which turn into frogs.
  • It's A Small Net After All: In the second season the witness in Joy's case is killed in a bizarre accident. They hold a funeral for him and are saddened when nobody shows up, not even his neighbor. They later do some investigating and discover he had a strong presence on the internet. One of the people he knew online was a fellow player in an online game... the aforementioned neighbor.
  • Jerkass: A number of characters.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Several, but mostly Joy.
  • Jumping the Gender Barrier: Stuart settles for Kenny.
  • Just Friends: Randy towards Catalina. Then after they had sex, there was an Unrequited Love Switcheroo that wasn't followed up on.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: Chubby carries a loaded pistol and an identical-looking water pistol filled with vodka that he uses to freshen patron's drinks (and occasionally squirts directly into his mouth). He is shown shooting at least one patron's glass and (between episodes) the inevitable happens and he shoots himself in the head.
  • Kafka Komedy: The basic premise for the show after Earl makes his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Karma Houdini: Deliberately averted - the characters tend to get what's coming to them while at the same time learning life-lessons and becoming better people.
  • Karmic STD: In "Faked My Own Death," although arguably a potent combination of Karma and just straight-up cause and effect:
    Natalie: Hey Dirk. Still getting your mail. It's from the clinic: Somebody got themselves an STD.
    Dirk: I can deal with that.
    Natalie: Turn the page.
    Dirk: Aww crap... Damn shower caps.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: The entire basis of one Christmas Episode.
  • Keeping the Handicap: Little Chubby allows his genitals to be smashed by a pitching machine in order to be a better person. Subverted in his next appearance when he has them repaired because he's not good at his job when he's nice.
  • Kent Brockman News: A print version of this in "Monkeys In Space;" Hank's arrest makes the local paper with the headline "Jackass Tries to Rob a Liquor Store with a Crossbow."
  • Knife-Throwing Act: Earl volunteers to be on the target to help win a mother and daughter beauty pageant. The knife-throwing girl doesn't want to spend her life doing pageants though, so Earl encourages her to "accidentally" hit him in the leg during the act. He forgot how much getting stabbed hurt.
    • In an act of Art Imitates Art, or something like it, the knife-throwing daughter is played by Chloe Grace Moretz, who went on to play Hit Girl in Kick-Ass.
  • Lamarck Was Right: A deliberate subversion in casting Beau Bridges as Earl and Randy's suburban dad. Rather than showing Earl as being a product of his upbringing, it showed he was a Black Sheep.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The entire basis of the show is in showing this exists.
    • And its not just applied to Earl. In some episodes Randy and Joy also feel the sting of Karma. As does Mr. Patrick (Jon Favreau), the jerk-ass boss Earl has to put up with when he goes to work at a burger joint.
  • Laser Sight: On a sniper rifle. A boy who Earl crosses off his list shows up at the motel asking to live with Earl since Earl was nice to him and his parents aren't. When Earl tells him he can't, the boy pretends to have been kidnapped and a SWAT team arrives at the motel. During the standoff, Randy notices a red dot on Earl's back, prompting him to drop to cover.
  • Latin Land: Catalina's undisclosed South-American home country contains every possible stereotype associated with this trope. Her home village is called "Guadela-tucky."
  • Laugh Track: Played for Laughs (get it?) in Earl's cliche sitcom coma world in Season 3.
  • Left Hanging: While the final cliffhanger is never resolved, the pilot of Greg Garcia's following show Raising Hope worked in a brief nod that indicates that Earl eventually did finish his list:
    Newscaster: "In lighter news, a small-time crook with a long list of wrongs he was making amends for has finally finished, and you’ll never guess how it ended..."
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: The phone-booth orgy that Catalina, Darnell, Patti, and Kenny were involved in
  • Lifesaving Misfortune: Earl broke the tail light of a gangster named "Hash Brown", which got him pulled over by the cops, making him late for a deal. The deal went south and ended in a shootout, that Hash survived by virtue of not being there.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Darnell has literally three sets of clothes: a white tank top, a white ribbed long-sleeved t-shirt and a purple tuxedo (not counting his Crab Shack apron). Earl often wears an unbuttoned flannel shirt with a solid color t-shirt underneath and jeans. Randy wears something similar but is usually a blue-on-blue motif. Joy usually wears bright pink and if Catalina isn't wearing one of her stripper outfits or maid uniform she is often seen with brown slacks and a blue top.
    • Generally the only time the characters' clothing varies is when they don disguises for various wacky hijinks. Darnell and Joy stealing the priest's and nun's clothes comes to mind. Then there's Darnell's spy costume, too.
    Earl: "I know what you mean, the rich kids would tease me for wearing the same two shirts every day. I promised when I got older I would have a different flannel shirt for every day of the week. And I do... by god I do."
  • List of Transgressions: The main drive of the show, Earl starts writing in the first episode a laundry list of every bad thing he's ever done, knowing he will somehow have to make it right. The list has well over 200 items and will frequently find more of them added as fixing one bad thing leads to discovering a consequence he hadn't been aware up to this point but is nonetheless directly responsible. The easy to fix items are usually the ones that reveal a much more complex consequence that require an entire episode to make right.
  • Loophole Abuse: At one point, Joy enters a Mother/Daughter Beauty Contest. Apparently, it never states in the rules that both contestants have to be alive, so Joy pretends to enter with her mother's cremated remains(actually cigarette ashes).
  • Lost Love Montage: Randy has a character tic of playing Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" on a boombox after a woman rejects him or breaks up with him. This is depicted in an hilarious montage where he sings the song in a monotone voice. Also, when Earl and Randy are in Mexico, Randy hires a Mariachi band to play the song after he is rejected once again.
  • Lousy Lovers Are Losers: Season 2 has a plot where Catalina gets into a Citizenship Marriage with Randy, and when he gives her a public Love Confession and says he wants to make their marriage real, she doesn't have the heart to humiliate him by rejecting him in public, even though she doesn't like him romantically. Joy convinces Catalina that the best way to "let him down gently" is to sleep with him, but give him sex so terrible that he'll never want her again. So Catalina makes herself as unattractive as possible by adding hair to her lips and armpits and rubbing fish, cheese, and onions over her arms and legs. It works and she manages to "wipe out two years of love with two hours of torture", but what she didn't expect is that he gave her the best sex of her life, leading to a Unrequited Love Switcheroo.

  • Magnetic Plot Device: Inverted with Earl's list, but he views karma as playing it straight.
  • Malaproper: Often. Earl would sometimes insult Joy about her "igelitimate" children.
  • Mama Bear: Joy
  • Manchild: Earl, Randy & Joy. Especially Randy.
  • Mandatory Line: Catalina at times, mostly because she doesn't have quite the same history with the other characters as they have with each other.
  • Medium Blending: Randy's drug-induced claymation.
  • Megaphone Gag:
    • When Earl steals a police car to go joyriding with Joy, they drive around heckling the residents of Canmore before pulling over Earl's ex-girlfriend. After she is stopped, Joy calls her a "slut" over the PA system and orders her to get out of the car and spread her legs.
    • Defied in an episode where a police officer attempts to negotiate with a kidnapper who is holding a young boy hostage in a motel room using a megaphone. The boy's father shows up and grabs the megaphone, but he never gets a chance to speak with it as the negotiator immediately grabs it back and admonishes him.
    Police Officer: When we want to use the megaphone, we ask to use the megaphone. We do not snatch the megaphone.
    • In another episode, Earl's ex-wife mounts a megaphone to the roof of her car and drives around undoing the positive accomplishments he has achieved thus far in the series. At one point, she abuses a troupe of circus freaks that Earl had previously helped overcome their insecurities.
  • Meta Casting: Most of the more unusual recurring actors on the show are actually very much like their characters. Didi, the one legged girl hopping around, is played by an actress who only has one leg. Ruby Whitlow, Joy's deaf attorney, is played by well-known deaf actress Marlee Matlin.
    • Norm MacDonald gets one as Little Chubby: Chubby was played by Burt Reynolds, whom MacDonald played on Saturday Night Live
  • Metaphorgotten: Inverted by Randy who, after he allowed two convicts to walk into an ice cream shop unsupervised, was offered the 'bull in a "Chinese" shop' analogy by Frank:
    "How could you even get a bull in a Chinese shop? The doors would have to be huge. And even if you managed to get him in there all he would do is start wrecking... oh."
    • And the real kicker here? Frank wakes up from a nap in the prisoner van when Randy tells him they've stopped for ice cream and warns him it's a hell of a mistake. When Randy runs off to keep his prisoners from trying to make a run for it he discovers they really only got ice cream, didn't try to ditch him, and chastise him for not trusting them, but then come to realize it was a wasted opportunity and never crossed their minds. Unfortunately, Randy repeated his mistake by leaving Frank unsupervised with the van unlocked- and he jumped on the chance to escape.
  • Monster of the Week: In the form of the individual improprieties Earl sets right episode by episode.
  • Motionless Makeover: Ernie's Crab Shack has a Christmas tradition that the first one to pass out drunk gets to be the Christmas tree.
  • Motor Mouth: Joy
  • Mr. Fanservice: Ralph (Giovanni Ribisi). He seems run around in his speedos a lot
  • Ms. Fanservice: Catalina, as when she started working as a stripper at Club Chubby's again she had a tendency to lounge around in her stripper outfit, which included the Crab Shack and one time visiting Earl in prison.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The National Bagging Competition.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: The Crazy Witch Lady thinks killing people is the best way to deal with all the idiots in Camden that tormented her over the years.
    • Also Darnell agrees that killing Catalina is the best way to hide that Joy tried to drunkenly run her over with a mower in an effort to prevent Joy getting her third strike offense.
  • Naked People Are Funny: One episode featured a former stoner who joined an outdoorsy environmentalist group which included some nudists. In particular, an old woman tastefully sitting in a garden.
    • Also, when Frank posts a nude photo of himself on a billboard in an attempt to win his ex-girlfriend back.
  • Never My Fault: John the Artist from "Burn Victim" when Earl arranges an apology with his parents for burning their house down he thought they were there to apologize to HIM, eventually Earl gave him some Laser-Guided Karma by burning all his paintings and claiming he wasn't in control of his own actions prompting a Heel Realization
  • Non-Residential Residence: In the episode Y2K, the gang lives in Bargain Bag for a day when they believe the Millennium Bug has caused the apocalypse and they're the only survivors (The rest of the town is actually just out celebrating New Year's Day).
  • No Theme Tune: Usually, but there are moments that invoke its use, such as the episode with the stolen silverware and "My Name Is Earl" parody openings for each character, and when Earl gains respect in prison at the end of the episode and pulls a Title Drop.
  • Noodle Incident: Most everything is explained, but one Running Gag is Darnell's unexplained proficiency with weapons and Pressure Point's. Darnell was a trained by and worked for his father as a secret agent. The reason he is in Camden is that he is in Witness Protection. And there is all that worry over his love of cheese...
    • The bullet hole in the motel and the bloodstained sheets.
    • Most notably, the night Joy's half sister paid her prom date to stab her and left her with a scar she apparently hand-stitched back together. We don't know what motivated it, nor have we actually seen the scar.
    • Earl mentions a couple during his lecture in "The Professor." These include the reason the Air Force didn't shoot him, the amusement park, and what he was doing with the Ginsu knives.
    Ginsu knives could cut through cans, but not bones. So now I'm stuck in a trap and bleeding.
    • At the Halloween party where he unknowingly met Joy and conceived Dodge
    Earl: Was that the party where Fat Steve dressed up like the Kool-Aid Man and tried to go through the wall?
  • Not Really a Birth Scene: Joy wanted to induce labor because she was overdue and the pregnancy was hard on her, but her half-sister Liberty, for whom she was a surrogate, wanted her to do a 100% natural birth. Joy snuck to the hospital and tried to get herself induced, but Liberty (a wrestler) suplexed the doctor who had the needle full of Pitocin. Darnell got stuck with the needle, and went into "labor."
    Darnell: I think I'm about to give birth to poop-tuplets!
  • N-Word Privileges: Discussed in "Sticks & Stones." The bearded lady and her friends can call each other "freaks," but Earl tells Randy not to call them by the name.
    Like when black people call each know.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: The fight between Randy and Wally in "Bullies" is very obviously done with stunt doubles. There are even a few instances of the doubles' faces being shown on full display and they don't even have a passing resemblance to the actors they are doubling for.
  • Oddly Specific Greeting Card: Discussed. When Earl tries to help a former fitness trainer get together with his old crush, Earl starts falling for her himself. Catalina tries to talk him out of pursuing her.
    Catalina: You're going to feel terrible about this. And when you try to find a card to apologize, you won't be able to find one because it is too specific.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome in the episode "My Name is Alias". Earl is tranquillized by Darnell and his father and taken along on a series of missions, but passes out of consciousness, allowing us to only see fragments of the mission, as we watch from his point of view.
  • Oh, My Gods!: Earl's "Holy Moses!" and Joy's "Oh Snap!"
  • The Old Convict: Subverted When in prison Earl tries to join a gang of elderly prisoners thinking they know enough about how to survive jail to help him, turns out they wanted him so he could protect them.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Earl gets stabbed, shanked, and shot in different episodes but manages to survive fine.
  • Only a Lighter: Richard Chubby, the owner of Club Chubby, used to carry an automatic and an identical looking squirt gun filled with vodka that he used to use to freshen up patrons drink. There was more than one instance when he got the guns mixed up and shot a patron's glass. Chubby died some time later after doing vodka shots from the squirt gun, but accidentally using the real gun instead of the one with vodka in it.
  • Only Sane Man: Earl, well, eventually anyway. At first he is just another Camden idiot, but by about halfway through the run he has become the only person with a working brain in Camden. It even becomes a plot point in the Prison-Arc where the Warden needs Earl simply because of this.
    • Darnell also fits the role at times, but his shades of Conspiracy Theorist prevent him from fully qualifying.
  • Opening Shout-Out: In "Buried Treasure" Randy, Joy, and Darnell narrate to the audience their versions of what happened to the stolen silverware. These are started with a parody of the opening credits ending with the logo My Name is Randy/My Name is Joy/My Name is Crabman. The Stinger features a librarian getting in on the joke:
    "You know the kind of woman who seems like the quiet librarian, but when she removes a pencil and lets her hair fall down she looks all wild and sexy. I wish that was me. My name is Dotty."
  • Our Nudity Is Different: In one episode, a foreign Sikh neighbor denies spying on Joy in her trailer and says "Look at the way she dresses! I can see her elbows any time I want to!".
  • Out-of-Context Eavesdropping: Happens during Earl's coma fantasy. Earl is the star of a 1950's style Dom Com in his head, and he is married to a friend's ex-girlfriend that Earl was attracted to. She is pregnant, and conversing with Joy (their next-door neighbor) about a really awesome guy. Earl thinks she's talking about a turns out she's referring to a doctor.
  • The Outside World: Near Camden County there's a Camdenite settlement, Camdenites being their version of Amish. Every teen is expected to leave the settlement and explore the outside world, and decide for themselves whether to stay away or return. In the past Earl & Randy made a point of greeting the visiting Camdenite girls and ruin them for the settlement.
  • Overly-Long Gag: During "Inside Spot" Part one, we see, through a slideshow, that Earl has never appeared in a picture with his eyes open, starting back to when he was a baby.
    • Pointed out repeatedly in the DVD Commentary that making something longer than it really should be is part of the joke, like Joy playing Red Rover with senior citizens and spending 30 seconds on a lady trying to cross the gap with a walker.
  • Overly Long Hug: In one episode, Earl is trying to hide Joy (his ex-wife) from an ex girlfriend from even further back. Trying to hide Joy in an old camper trailer, they have to make a deal with a homeless guy for a pair of shoes and a hug "from the cute one." He ends up taking Joy's stilettos and Earl has to give him an uncomfortably long hug. After some time talking to each other, Earl and Joy manage to patch up their rocky post-marriage life and they hug each other. Joy starts to pull away, but Earl isn't quite finished yet, due to the last hug he had to give.
    Joy: [trying to pull away] Uh, Earl?
    Earl: Give me a minute, I'm trying to get that gay homeless guy out of my head.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": When trying to return a stolen laptop to its owner, Randy tries to figure out the computer's passcode, only to conclude it's hard to think of a word you wouldn't think of.
  • Person as Verb: Joy tried to sneak in past her accidental hostage, thinking he was asleep, when he managed to get past her in his underwear because he stuffed his regular clothes to make it look like he was taking a nap. Joy exclaimed, "Son of a bitch Ferris Bueller'd me!"
    • A purely in-universe version occurs when Darnell "pulls a Castro" on Little Chubby.
  • Pink Is Erotic: Club Chubby is a strip club in Camden County that has Catalina under their employ as one of their best and most famous stripper. It's common to see pink lights (from neon signs, lampshades, and spotlights) during these scenes, even when Randy used the stripper pole (not dancing he was just feeling how hot it was and people treated him like a performing stripper).
  • The Plan: Earl pulls off a fairly impressive one in "Orphan Earl." It borders on Gambit Roulette, but each step of the plan was well explained after it was accomplished.
  • Police Are Useless: The Camden County police are shown to be goofy and incompetent at best and outright corrupt at worst. This is likely done to justify why Earl isn't in prison despite commiting numerous felonies.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: Randy is prone to this. Among other things, be believes E.T. was a monkey, and confuses Uruk-Hai with Ewoks. Possibly the rest of the cast as well, since he's rarely corrected.
  • Posthumous Character: Josh, the guy Joy locked in the truck in the beginning of season 2, died from an unrelated accident. Since then, an episode revolved around Earl giving him a decent funeral, and he made a few more appearances, the latest one being in the penultimate episode.
    • Ernie, the Crab Shack's original owner, vanished under unknown circumstances several years ago. Geraldo Rivera is able to piece together that he vanished during a blackout caused by someone hoisting the Central flag on the roof of the Shack (the small nation Camden tried to form during the Civil War when it refused to take sides), while he was trying to switch out tapes for the hidden camera in the ladies bathroom he used to generate exploitable content for his porn site business. The flagpole caught a power line when Darnell tried to remove it and caused a blackout. Eddie tripped, and fell down in the darkness. knocking him out cold at the worst possible time- right as he landed in a pool of fresh cement laid down to coat the bathroom floor, which he sank into, and it entombed him when it hardened. Since nobody ever figured out what happened to him all that time, he was in there so long it's almost assured he died- except his nose managed to stay above the surface, perhaps allowing him to breathe and stay alive until he finally kicked the bucket- unless his lungs had filled with cement. Everyone thought his nose was just an odd doorstop until then.
      • And then Randy opts to instill us viewers with horror when everyone leaves the bathroom- he gives Ernie a Mercy Kill by clamping his nostrils shut while smiling and shushing him. If Ernie was still alive somehow, Randy's done something unspeakable.
  • Poverty Porn: Earl recalls that back when he and Joy were still married (before he began working on The List), they watched a commercial like this for some organization helping children in Africa, which inspired them to start a Fake Charity. Earl gave up on it after a while, but Joy kept it up, even long after she divorced Earl and married Darnell. She sent a picture to her primary "donor" of a boy named "Mbungo," which was really just a picture of Earl Jr. and a fly. She also got some of the other trailer park women in on her scam, with each of them invoking this trope in their own ways for their fake charity scams. After a series of disasters ensues, these women are left in dire straits for real, in ways very similar to what they had faked photos of and lied about. The old man that they were scamming wrote them checks anyway, saying how it felt good to give, and to forgive.
  • The Powers That Be: This is what karma is considered to be in this show.
  • Pregnant Hostage: In "Randy in Charge (...of Our Days and Our Nights)", Earl has to point out to Frank that the very pregnant Joy makes the perfect candidate for a hostage situation.
  • Prison Episode: The first half of season three is a series of prison episodes.
    • Punishment Box: The prison has a 2 person "Hot Box"; there's a chain-link fence between the two sides of the box, but there's also a hole in the fence big enough to put your arm through.
  • Prosthetic Limb Reveal: In the backstory, Earl once slept with a woman who only had one leg. He didn't know she only had one leg until the next morning when she got out of bed. It freaked him out and he ran away, leading to #86 on the list: "Stole a car from a one legged girl."
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Joy is certainly no stranger to fighting, but she finds herself on the bad end of this trope dealing with a psycho lady who wanted comatose Earl as her husband. This includes using a phone as one of the punches...
    "Damn, and that was my go-to."
  • Ransom Drop: The list item was stealing some antique silverware from the local library. Having been unable to melt it down for the silver content they try to ransom it back to the library, but a bum picks up the bagful of cash from the garbage can where it was to be dropped — and just as well too since he gets a faceful of blue dye for his troubles.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Jaime Pressly was pregnant during the second season, hence the written-in surrogate pregnancy. The flashbacks to a time when Joy was pregnant increased as well.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Chubby had a squirt gun full of vodka he used to top off patrons' drinks at his strip club, and an identical-looking real gun. He didn't learn from his mistake when he shot a drink with the wrong gun on-screen. You can all guess how he died off-screen.
  • Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: Several instances. One (from "Stole an RV") even doubles as Overly-Long Gag, summing up a complete season (plus the last few episodes of another):
    Earl (to Joy) Listen, do you still have that real doll you bought to make Darnell think you're in bed when you ran to Mexico to avoid the cops but got caught by Dog the Bounty Hunter, went on trial and I went to prison for it then got out and got hit by a car and went into a coma where I thought I was living in a sitcom world?
  • Retcon: Darnell's Witness Protection backstory wasn't worked out until late in the first season, when they already had several visits from his extended family. Admitting the goof-up, Greg Garcia Hand Waved it by saying Darnell found some way to sneak his family into town. The fourth season Darnell also handwaves the extended family bit, saying his Grandma wasn't really his grandma.
  • Retro Universe: Camden is stuck in the 80's with a dash of early 90's. Modern technology is shown as being a very foreign object to most people. Earl bumped a computer mouse while it was on a fish tank screensaver and he was visibly confused over what happened. In general, tape recorders are on large spools, TVs are never flat-screen or hi-def, very few people have cell phones (cordless phones have metal extendable antennas) and there is a lot of flannel.
  • Revenge via Storytelling: One episode had the main characters getting into creative writing. Catalina's story portrays Joy (her rival in real life) as trying and failing to sabotage Catalina's romance with a wealthy man.
  • Revisiting the Roots: Season Four comes across this way after a more wildly experimental Season Three that featured multiple plotlines that took Earl away from working on his list. While it is Denser and Wackier than the first two seasons (one episode dealing with multiple tornados passing through Camden), it becomes more episodic again as it focuses on the list and Earls clients.
  • A Round of Drinks for the House: Earl & Randy discover that if a golfer hits a hole in one the tradition is for that golfer to buy a round for everyone in the clubhouse. So they make sure that that golfer gets a hole in one every time.
  • Running Gag:
    • Earl is always in mid-blink when getting his picture taken. It was averted when Earl and Randy went to retrieve Catalina from South America and Earl had a portrait painted of him with a local couple; apparently the art department was going to have Earl with his eyes closed but Greg Garcia said it wouldn't make any sense.
    • The old lady hitting a character with a car (or a bus) as a turning point where they stop being a Jerkass and start to be better people.
    • Number 86: Stole a car from a one-legged girl. Earl tries to reconcile with Didi multiple times, only for her to go bonkers and try to hurt/kill him on sight before he could explain his actions (her triple amputee boyfriend even helping a time or two). However...
  • Running Gagged: Come season three, Earl is finally able to calm Didi down long enough to get through to her and after making him hop a mile in her shoe, Didi finally forgives Earl and he crosses her off his list.

  • Sassy Black Woman: Liberty Washington, Joy's enemy and unknown sister.
  • Save Our Students: Conversed. When Earl goes Back to School (back to high school) to learn at least something and feel like a grown-up, his teachers are disillusioned about teacing and let him deal with the students to get them inspired because they know it's futile. Randy points out that it happens in every school movie ever. He's observant enough to warn Earl to be careful about developing breast cancer.
  • Scantron Picture: Randy draws a sailboat with dots representing him and a bunch of hot chicks during his GED exam.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: When Earl falls for a sexy woman named Alex and begins to ignore his list to spend time with her, the forces of karma send bees after him and, when that fails, a whole swarm after her.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Doing his list is more important to Earl then his money, as shown in the Season 1 finale where he gave it all up for some time to the guy who would've won his lottery ticket (had Earl not stolen his money).
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Chubby Sr. is Ax-Crazy. But also rich, so no one minds that much.
  • Self-Deprecation: Actor TV's Tim Stack could be this tropes poster child, playing the constantly drunk or otherwise drugged up loser actor... TV's Tim Stack.
    "If you recognize this man, you may be among the dozens who enjoyed his work on the small screen [...] Tim was found naked, except for a diaper, in a cucumber patch. He was fourteen years old. Taken in by former father Joe and former father Ed, Tim has blocked out nearly every memory of his childhood and now considers himself to have a healthy addiction to vodka."
    • In the "Inside Probe" episode Earl, long before the show started, talked about a dream he had where he went to prison, got out, got hit by a car and went into a coma, all a reference to the plotline of the third season. "Me in a coma! No one wants to see that!"
  • Self-Punishment Over Failure: The episode "Sweet Johnny" revolved around Earl trying to make amends with an amatuer daredevil named Sweet Johnny. Because Sweet Johnny suffered a series of head injuries achieved so Earl could have sex with his girlfriend, he had developed a Groundhog Day-type mental condition. When Earl realized that, by being aware of this condition, Sweet Johnny would rather kill himself, Earl decided to not complete this item and instead circled it as a permanent reminder for what he did to Sweet Johnny.
  • Settled for Gay: Stuart for Kenny in a fit of loneliness after being shot down by Billie. They end up as Sickeningly Sweethearts.
  • Sexy Coat Flashing
  • Shaped Like Itself: Randy sees a "30 Miles to Camden" sign, and asks Earl why a mile is called a 'mile'. Earl says "If it was called a klorp you wouldn't know what it was."
  • Shot in the Ass - #147 on Earl's list: "Shot Gwen Waters in the ass with a BB."
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show Within a Show: The completely fictional game show Estrada or Nada and two fictional episodes of COPS centering around Camden.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Joy and Catalina for each other, probably in a competition as the two eye candies of the show.
  • Sinister Shiv: One of the episodes set in prison centres around Earl attempting to make a shiv for one of his fellow inmates. He takes inspiration from a display of shivs in the warden's office that has a sign reading "Do Not make Any of These".
  • Sliding Scale of Realistic vs. Fantastic: Most of the Karma's actions are mundane, but Earl's recovery while being in coma thanks not to the medical treating, but the List is almost a clear supernatural intervention.
  • Sports Widow: In one episode, the Karmic Restitution of the Week is fixing a relationship Earl ruined by making a guy obsessed with golf and getting dumped after turning his partner into a golf widow.
  • Stage Mom: Shelly Stoker
  • Staging an Intervention: When Earl decides to abandon his list, his friends stage an intervention to make him be good again.
  • Straight Gay: Stuart, although he may be Bi.
  • Straight Man: Darnell
  • Stunned Silence: When Randy busts out an impressive opera solo in preparation for "Estrada Or Nada" Joy and Earl just stare in stunned amazement.
    • Also, everyone in the courtroom while the prosecuting attorney plays Earl's 911 calls over Joy's crazy behavior.
  • Superstition Episode: In an episode Randy makes Earl stay where he is because a black cat crosses his path; then just as the 5 hours (or however long it's supposed to take for the bad luck to dissipate) is up, it crosses his path again. Earl takes this as a sign from Karma to do a list item where he stole a woman's cat.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Despite the premise of the show being Earl making up for the bad he has done in his life, things aren't always that cut and dry. For instance, some of the people he wronged are not so quick to forgive him (it takes a few episodes for Earl's father to forgive him and a whopping three seasons for Didi to forgive him). Also, there are some list items he simply cannot make up for and cross off. Earl decides to check up on a brain-damaged man every day because his inability to make new memories means Earl cannot make it up to him. It is also revealed that Earl would have run into a list item he couldn't cross off in the Grand Finale.
    • Earl's list supposedly contains every bad deed he's ever done. Except it doesn't. Naturally, a lifelong bully and criminal isn't going to remember every single bad thing he did and his actions will have affected people in ways he never knew. Thus, there are things that Earl has to add things to the list that he's either forgotten about or didn't know about. Additionally, Earl may be a good person now, but he still occasionally does something bad that he has to add to the list.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
    Joy: Somebody switched my cake with a pile of dog turds! Either one of you know anything about this?
    Randy: Actually they're cat turds. But I don't know anything about it!
  • Switching P.O.V.: in the episode with the silverware, where the episode transitions between characters as they recount what they did with some stolen silverware.
  • Take That!: Season 2's "The Birthday Party," when Earl switched pot brownies for non-pot brownies.
    "I listened to an entire Phish album, and IT SUCKED!"
  • Team Power Walk: "The Gang" has one when they get together to scratch the hot dog cart off the list.
  • Technical Euphemism: In the first episode, Earl calls a gay man "gay" and then decides to call him a "Homosexual-American" to avoid upsetting him.
  • That Came Out Wrong: The Right Choice Ranch has tried a number of slogans throughout its history, but each one turned into one of these (examples include "Touching Bad Boys Since 1963" and "Bringing Bad Boys To Their Knees Since 1963". In desperation, they eventually settled on "We Don't Do Anything Inappropriate To The Boys."
  • Theme Park Version: Of Karma. Although karma is indeed a real concept from Hinduism and Buddhism, it's not instantaneous, and in fact has little to do with the day-to-day goings-on in one's Earthly existence. It refers to one's fate in the next life (i.e. what/whom you'll be reincarnated as, or whether you'll be released from the cycle of death and rebirth altogether). This is lampshaded when Earl returns a psychology professor's laptop.
  • The Teaser
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch! - Nescobar A-Lop-Lop:
    Earl: How's your English going?
    Nescobar: I speak better than you, bitch.
  • Tranquil Fury: Joy normally would go full on Unstoppable Rage if anyone crossed her, but when she was trying out some "happy pills" to help with her legal troubles nothing could faze her... until their neighbors accidentally hit Earl Jr. with a beer can. In her approach to them she remained perky and sweet but she basically said "I look sweet right now but I am going to stop taking those pills and we'll see what happens in a few days..."
  • Trapped in TV Land and Dream Land: The infamous coma episodes, in which Earl thinks he lives in a 50's Sitcom world.
  • Twitchy Eye: Earl has this when stressed.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Played with in multiple instances. There was Randy and Catalina, whose marriage was purely for the green card. Randy did love her, but she considered them Just Friends until an Unrequited Love Switcheroo. Then there was the sadistic fast food manager, who managed to have a hot wife and a hot mistress on the side, which caused Earl some doubts about how karma works.
    • Jason Lee sure isn't unattractive, but Earl is portrayed as a slob, wearing the same clothes for weeks on end, his hair always a mess and that enormous mustache. Still, he's picked up several very attractive women, including marrying Joy and Billie.
      • Inverted with Frank and Billie's cousin, and Earl's Fourth-Date Marriage to Ralph's mother, especially when she leaves him for the elderly lead singer of Phish Tahko.
  • Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: Earl and Randy arguing about children's show characters, Joy and Darnell about Joy's relatives.
  • Uncatty Resemblance: Every cat in the Camden Cat Show.
  • The Unfair Sex: Zig-zagged in "Look Who's Coming Out of Joy," a Whole Episode Flashback filling in the details surrounding Joy cheating on Earl with Darnell. Previous episodes skimmed it over and even Played for Laughs but here her actions weren't condoned, although it did soften her a little with regards to the circumstances. The episode shows that Earl did take the news hard after it sunk in and technically left her for an afternoon before his dad convinced him to stick with a cheating wife and two kids that weren't his. But the interesting thing is his dad didn't really like Joy and only did it so that Earl knew what it meant to take care of someone (and keep Earl from moving back in with him). In hindsight Earl considers it the only decent thing he did before he found karma, and while he and Joy never really loved each other for the time they were together they needed each other.
  • Unfortunate Item Swap: Chubby has two guns, a real gun and an identical-looking water pistol he keeps filled with vodka. He accidentally kills himself (offscreen, between episodes) when he tries to squirt some vodka into his mouth with the wrong gun.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Randy and Catalina. He was in love with her for most of the series, but she always turned him down. When she needed a Citizenship Marriage, he eagerly volunteered. She felt obligated to have sex with him as thanks, but deliberately tried to gross him out during the act so that he wouldn't want to do it again. It worked, but to her surprise, he turned out to be really good in bed, and now she wants him.
  • Unusual Euphemism: In the pilot episode, Earl decides to make up for bullying Kenny in school by trying to get him a girlfriend. Randy, before he went from being just a bit simple to being completely stupid, was the first to realize that Earl was "trying to sell a cat to a guy who fancies dogs."
  • Vanity Plate: Amigos De Garcia Productions has a different person wearing a sombrero each time. Once it was a cat that was in the episode.
  • Villain Respect: When Carl operates a sting operation against a drug dealer in "No Heads in a Duffel Bag" he just tells him "that's what I like about you, you never do what I'm expect you to do."
  • Visions of Another Self: The story writing episode in the prison.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: When Earl was in a coma, he dreamed of being married to Billie. Then he recovered and actually married her, and the results were... not awesome.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: Even though everyone else preferred him as a nice guy, Little Chubby gets some bull testicles transplanted into him in order to become a jerk again since he couldn't effectively run Club Chubby anymore (such as being too nice to turn down an old woman auditioning to be a stripper).
  • Wham Line: After spending the whole episode making the perfect movie for a formerly terminally-ill man on his list, Earl gets some bad news on the night of the premiere.
    "Earl...Buddy's not coming tonight.
  • Wheel o' Feet: Hilariously used in a police sketch of the titular character.
  • When She Smiles: Gwen from the Season One episode "B.B." Played by Miriam Shor.
  • Where da White Women At?: Joy and Darnell. Plus the finale makes it obvious Joy probably did at least one other black guy. Inverted with Liberty and Ray Ray.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?:
    • All we know about Camden is it's somewhere in the Deep South and is apparently in the Central Time Zone. One episode reveals the town formed its own faction in the Civil War to avoid taking either side (and was taken over almost immediately).
    • Catalina's home country of "Guadelatucky" seems to have shades of Mexico (two episodes even lampshade it right in the title), but then Catalina herself says it's not Mexico, and Patty the Daytime Hooker puts it in Bolivia. (Unless she's talking about a different La Paz...)
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Lots of these. And the narration in general makes it seem like Earl is recounting every story from a time far distant in the future.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The episode "Get a Real Job"'s "B" plot is an Affectionate Parody to Rudy, with Charles S. Dutton even redoing his iconic speech.
  • Win Your Freedom: A item of the third season: the more deeds Earl did for the warden, the more time he got knocked off his sentence.
    • It even applies to "Early Release", despite the warden shredding Earl's certificates and refusing to let him leave early. All it took was Darnell crashing into the warden's office, and unintentionally giving Earl some blackmail material.
  • Witness Protection: Darnell is in this.
  • Woman Scorned: At the time he met (and married) Joy, Earl had recently begun a relationship with another woman named Jessie. When Jessie finds out Joy has a bounty on her head (for failing to appear in traffic court), Jessie trains to become a Bounty Hunter so she can fight Joy and get revenge on her for a) stealing her guy and b) knocking her front teeth out.
  • Your Favorite: For Randy - Baloney (Favorite food overall), and Animal Crackers (Favorite animal shaped food).
  • You Wanna Get Sued?: Earl reads to the trailer park children, "The Adventures of Trazan the Ape-Man". According to Earl, the Camden Library couldn't afford real classics and had to settle for the knockoffs.