[rating=3]Starring: Lucas Neff, Martha Plimpton, Garret Dillahunt, Shannon Woodward, Cloris Leachman
Creator(s): Greg Garcia
Fox’s sitcom Raising Hope has become the latest sleeper hit that’s beginning to waken up. On the heels of the start of the second season comes the DVD release of the first.
Early 20s Jimmy Chance (Lucas Neff) is a single father to baby Hope (twins Baylie and Rylie Cregut). This happens when mother Lucy (Bijou Phillips), a serial killer, is sent to the electric chair. He lives with his father Burt (Garret Dillahunt) and his mother Virginia (Martha Plimpton), who all live in the house of Virginia’s grandmother Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman). Having had Jimmy when they were teenagers, Burt and Virginia didn’t know what they were doing in bringing him up. But they agree to help him.
The obstacles? Money is a big one. To support their “lower lower lower middle class” household, Burt is a pool cleaner and Virginia is a maid. Jimmy worked with his father but eventually becomes employed as a bagger at the local grocery store to get closer to friend and fellow employee Sabrina (Shannon Woodward). Although she already has a boyfriend and is seemingly oblivious to his feelings, Jimmy isn’t deterred.
Anyway, it should probably go without saying that no one in this family, not even straight man Jimmy, is particularly intelligent. To give an example, every time Burt tries to think hard, the only thing he can think of is the word “think.” And Maw Maw’s absent-mindedness induced seemingly by Alzheimer’s doesn’t make things any easier for them. At times she is harder for them to handle than Hope!
In the episodes this season, the Chances deal with family secrets, sex offender charges, obsessively germ-proofing the house, Virginia’s hoarding habit, and sleep training. Plus special holiday episodes for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
The strength of the show lies in the actors assembled. Plimpton and Leachman received Emmy nominations for this season and fully deserve them. Dillahunt and Woodward are hilarious too, respectively giving off some vibes of Will Arnett and Ellen Page. And although he’s surrounded by scene-stealers, Neff manages to hold his own.
And while this all may seem to be far from your grandparents’ shows, the episodes still manage to end with some morals and lessons to be learned. Messages about family, success, and dreams are communicated as we get to see the Chances grow from their experiences. The double meaning of the show’s title comes fully through.
There are some dumb inconsistencies that bug me though. Jimmy’s exact age is probably the biggest one. We learn that Virginia had him at 15 and is currently 39, which would make him 24. But in a flashback to five years ago, he turns 18, which would make him 22 in earlier episodes and 23 thereafter.
Guest stars include Jason Lee as an aged rock star, Amy Sedaris as Virginia’s cousin, Brandon T. Jackson as a fellow single father who befriends Jimmy, J.K. Simmons as Burt’s brother, Mary Lynn Rajskub as a polygamist with multiple husbands, and Ethan Suplee and Jaime Pressly as dysfunctional neighbors.
Extras are the original unaired pilot, an extended version of the season finale, 20 minutes of deleted scenes, commentary on the pilot, a featurette on the babies who play Hope, a making of on the season finale, a gag reel, and a collection of Virginia’s funniest scenes.
In one episode, Burt says, “TV shows about babies never last more than a year.”Raising Hope has made it through that time and will Hope-fully be on for years to come.