Producers of hit US comedy MY NAME IS EARL have been forced to halt work on the show, after its star Jason Lee contracted the highly contagious disease chickenpox.

The actor, who last week (16JAN06) lost out on the Best Actor In A Comedy gong to The Office's Steve Carell, is anxious not to contaminate cast and crew with his itchy skin eruptions.

Television bosses hope to resume production in two week's time.

NBC TV entertainment president KEVIN REILLY rues, "I hugged him at the Golden Globes and I've never had the chickenpox."