Viewers sent on 'Easter egg' hunt

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When executive producer Greg Garcia was filming an episode for the 2005 season of "My Name is Earl" in high definition, he noticed in one scene that actor Ethan Suplee (who plays Earl's brother Randy) was out of the 4:3 shot. That is, Mr. Garcia could see him on the master HD cut, but not inside the 4:3 frame.

Instead of directing Mr. Suplee to step back into the shot, Mr. Garcia told someone to give the actor a sign that read "High Def Rocks!"

Mr. Garcia's joke-a so-called Easter egg-caught HD-viewer and blogger attention and prepared viewers to look for more.

In an episode where Earl's dad runs for mayor, a sign on the HD edge reads "Carl Hickey loves high def." (Mr. Garcia said they also did a sign that fit inside the smaller screen and read "Carl Hickey for 4:3.") The beer taps in a bar where Earl is drinking one time appear in HD with sticky notes on them that read "HD draft."

The idea to put content into the sides of the screen that get cut off on a regular TV is not unheard of, but Mr. Garcia's HD-specific messages were.

"It was fun to give them a little something extra," Mr. Garcia said, adding that he wasn't trying to marshal an HD campaign; he was just having fun. But HD fans may be disappointed to find out it won't be happening anymore.

Mr. Garcia said it was frustrating to shoot for two formats. Entrances and exits had to be done carefully so people didn't seem to just appear or disappear in 4:3.

So the upcoming season of "My Name is Earl" will be letterboxed, which means the show will be shot only in HD, so "regular" viewers will see the whole screen, with dark bands above and below the image.

Still, maybe someone else will take up the creative-in-the-margins idea-perhaps even an advertiser. "I think you'll see more of that in the future, but more extensive," said Phillip Swann of
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