The Formula:
Three Wishes = Extreme Makeover Home Edition × 1

I watched what felt like a full hour of Three Wishes, and then looked at the little timeline on my TiVo, realized that I had only gotten through the first 15 minutes and just gave up. Amy Grant is still nice and pretty, and I liked “El Shaddai” as much as anyone, but even she can’t manage to lend an air of sincerity to this exploitive pile of cheese.

The Formula:
My Name is Earl = Raising Arizona + Highway to Heaven

I think NBC is subconsciously trying to make up for subjecting us to Three Wishes by putting on My Name is Earl, which, oddly enough, is about a man trying to make up for the things he’s subjected people to. The title character (Jason Lee) is a petty thief and layabout who wins the lottery, learns about karma from Carson Daly, and sets out to balance his own cosmic scales by helping out all the people he’s ever wronged, even if it means stepping out of his element. Making fun of dumb trailer trash always seems kind of tacky to me, but Earl is likable and the editing is brisk enough to glide over some of the cheaper jokes. Like Three Wishes, Earl is about making randomly-chosen dreams come true, but unlike that show, it’s unexpectedly fun to watch.

The Formula:
Everybody Hates Chris = The Wonder Years + Good Times

Everybody Hates Chris is also fun to watch, but instead of being about poor white folk getting rich, it’s about poor black folk getting by. Chris Rock narrates as his 13-year-old alter ego (Tyler Williams) muddles through life in the New York of 1982 (specifically in Bedford-Stuyvesant, although I’m not sure that should mean anything to those of us who aren’t from The City). While there’s plenty of Rock’s grouchy humor scattered amidst his efforts to stay out of trouble, the show’s real anchors are his disciplinarian mother (Tichina Arnold) and cheapskate father (Terry Crews), who ride him hard but also work to keep their family safe, well-fed, and respectable. The show veers on the edge of sugary at points, but it’s a better example of people doing good than the arbitrary lotteries of Three Wishes could ever dream of being.