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Why 'Raising Hope' is the Best New Comedy on TV

by Joel Keller, posted Nov 23rd 2010 5:00PM
The Cast of 'Raising Hope' on FOX
This fall has been a bit of a bump in the road for what was supposed to be a comeback of comedy on network television. The crop of sitcoms that bowed in September have been a mixed bag of quality and ratings.

'Mike & Molly' has done well since day one, and it's steadily improving from its fat-joke-laden beginning. '$#*! My Dad Says' may be steadying creatively, but less people are watching it every week. 'Outsourced' has its detractors and supporters, but it's being moved to 10:30PM in January. And 'Running Wilde' is about to disappear from FOX's lineup, despite the presence of Mitch Hurwitz and Will Arnett.

Only one new sitcom that has been consistently strong both creatively and in the ratings this fall: 'Raising Hope' on FOX. Creator Greg Garcia has managed to put together a show that seems to satisfy people who want gross-out humor as well as people who want to watch warm fuzzy family comedy, while throwing in some edginess from time to time.

Some reasons why the show has been fun to watch so far:

It's not portraying its characters as morons.
Sure, the Chance family has been down on its luck for a long, long time, and they're not the most educated bunch in the world. But they're sincere in their intentions. Burt Chance (Garret Dillahunt) may have some wild ideas, but he's managed to build himself a struggling landscaping business, and Virginia Chance (Martha Plimpton) is eking out a living cleaning houses. They have managed to keep Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman) from wandering off too many times, and, despite the fact that Jimmy (Lucas Neff) can't take any clues from them in the parenting department, they've managed to raise a guy who's rapidly becoming a good father himself.

Jimmy Chance is stepping up as a father. How Garcia has written his main character, Jimmy Chance, has been the key to the show's success. Again, he's not the most educated guy on the planet, but instead of making Jimmy so clueless that he puts Hope in dangerous or absurd situations, Garcia has made Jimmy more mature and responsible than his parents in a lot of ways. For instance, when Hope had the sniffles, he did everything he could do to make sure she had insurance, something that Burt was never able to do ("I'll just ask the butler to get it out of our hot air balloon," he says to Jimmy when he asks, as if that's an extreme luxury to have).

So Jimmy's working at the supermarket, he's lined up day care (more on that in a second), and he admonishes his parents when they do things like give her a meat bone to play with. He may not be the best dad in the world, but so far, he's one of the most responsible ones on TV.

The "will they/won't they" is being kept at a simmer for now. Sure, we all know that Jimmy's got a big ol' crush on his supermarket colleague Sabrina (Shannon Woodward), but Garcia and his writers seem to be content to let this pairing build organically for the time being. There are episodes where you just see the two of them interact as friends, such as when she helped Jimmy fill out the application for a hardship grant to an elite daycare center. Woodward has brought a smart, wiseass sensibility to the show that keeps it from being too sweet; I'm happy to see her character develop without being bogged down by a romantic dance with Jimmy.

Kate Micucci and her funny songs. The first time most people encountered Micucci was when she played Stephanie Gooch during the eighth season of 'Scrubs.' What stood out about her, of course, was when she broke out her guitar or ukulele and sung one of her adorable but funny songs. As dog/baby caretaker Shelley, Micucci has found a home for those songs, and Garcia's making liberal use of them. My favorite was this song she sung to the dogs in her care, wondering why they get so worked up over the doorbell:



Martha Plimpton. Seeing Plimpton in the role of a grandmother, even a young one, is disconcerting at first. She made her career playing the girl who was soulful and artistic and troubled. But as Virginia, she's what may have happened to that troubled soul twenty years later. Many actresses would play Virginia with a lot less subtlety than Plimpton does; yes, Virginia regrets getting knocked up as a teenager, and she is constantly wanting more out of life than what she has.

Plimpton also conveys a sense of warmth and caring that you might not expect on first glance; she still loves the lug that knocked her up, and she cares about her son and granddaughter, even if she doesn't dote over either. As Garcia proved during the run of 'My Name is Earl' that people who seem irredeemable on first glance have reservoirs of warmth and compassion running deep within them. And Virginia is an especially good example of that.

Cloris Leachman is used sparingly. As much as we'd all like to see more of Cloris, Garcia's done a nice job of using Maw Maw sparingly in most episodes. Sure, she still has the capacity to take her top off in a group of children, as we saw in the 'Blue Dots' episode, but there have been entire episodes where we've only seen her in one or two scenes or not at all (such is the plight of the "special guest star"... the contract isn't for the entire 22 episodes).

Have you been enjoying 'Raising Hope' so far?

'Raising Hope' airs Tuesdays at 9PM ET on FOX.

(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.)

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SANDI

Raising hope hope is a really funny show and it shows what some of the real life catastrophes a young father let alone a dysfunctional but loving family can have.Living rent fee off Maw Maw come on now it could be raising Hope alone, homeless, and going to see Maw Maw in a nursing home.
Take it for what it is a comedy!

March 19 2011 at 9:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DELERIUM23

I love Raising Hope, but it bacame my favorite new program during the first show when they played Punk Rock Girl by the Dead Milkmen.

November 29 2010 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jude

I love the show. I seldom laugh out loud at TV, but I do that several times per episode.

November 27 2010 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Emily

I agree, this is my favorite new show! I think last night's Thanksgiving episode is one of the better episodes I've seen of any show in a long, long time. It manages to be hysterically funny in parts and really sweet in others; I can see how that wouldn't work for some people, but I adore it. The end of last night's episode just had me grinning like crazy because you get really attached to these characters.

And for the poster who said that Jimmy is taking advantage of his senile grandmother by living rent-free in her house, you actually see much more as the show goes on that it's not nearly that heartless. Maw Maw (who's actually the great-grandmother) raised Jimmy's mother in that house, and yes the whole family still lives there but they work really hard to make sure she's happy and safe and well taken care of. So yes, they're living there rent-free, but there's no way she could live on her own, so if they weren't there she would have been taken out of her house a long time ago.

November 24 2010 at 1:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kristi

I actually really enjoy Raising Hope. I never got into Earl, which had me cautious going into the show, plus I wasn't sure the concept would work. What I think makes this work especially well are how the actors are portraying the characters. They could easily go over the top (like I think the actors in Earl did), but they don't and it's the subtle things they do throughout the episode that make it fun for me to watch.

As far as being the best new comedy on network television, I would agree. I like Mike & Molly, but I DVR it and watch it later. I tried to watch Bleep My Dad Says, but couldn't get past the pilot (seemed too forced for me), and Outsourced never really stuck on my radar long enough to watch an episode. And Better With You is okay, but if it disappeared I don't think I'd bat an eye. And as far as Running Wilde is concerned, I've put in a huge effort to like the show, but sadly I don't think they ever had ground to run on (based on the concept) for more than a season. I think Raising Hope is a great step for FOX in terms of sitcom comedy and I hope they stand behind it.

November 24 2010 at 9:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
darquemode

I personally disgree completely. I turned it off 15 minutes into episode 1 because I had not so much as moved my lips in the direction of a smile or laugh the slightest bit. All the other sitcoms mentioned made me laugh atleast once or twice, Mike & Molly, Shat MY Dad Says make me laugh throughout the show. Most the gross out humor is only funny if you find gross things or stupid things funny. Nothing wrong with that, but it is not my cup of tea. To chery pick facts and ignore others about Raising Hope is wrong. He may be stepping up as a father to his biological baby, but he is living rent free taking advantage of his senile/Alzheimer ridden grandmother too. Many of the things you point as positives for Rasiing Hope are also found in Mike & Molly and Shat My Dad Says. Seemingly ugly, rude, or dumb characters that also show warmth and love, and Shatner even is stepping up as a dad decades later to a son he ignored when rasising him. I did like Kate's songs on scrubs, but I won't watch a show just for that. Funny is relative of course and it may be the best new show to some, and much is only my opinion, but ratings are not relative they are facts.I don't know what sources you use for your ratings info , but Mike and Molly has been steady and over 10.5 million every week with this weeks episode having higher ratings than its pilot episode! Shat MY Dad Says has been steady and gone up a few weeks. Raising hope is trending down since its pilot every week (7.5, 7.4, 6.2, 6.0, 6.0, 5.8, 5.9), at best that is holding steady. All that being said, I may give it another try and see if the things you point out were things I missed by not watching the entire first or third episode, or maybe they show up more as the show has aired more episodes.

November 24 2010 at 1:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to darquemode's comment
Lyn2

Different strokes for different folks I guess. I find Mike & Molly and Sh** My Dad Says totally intolerable. Raising Hope makes me laugh as much as Modern Family and that's saying alot. BTW, they never say that Jimmy is living "rent free" off his parents and when has he taken advantage of his senile grandmother? Comedy is like pizza, everyone has their own taste for what's good.

November 24 2010 at 2:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lucy

I love this show! I think the father is the best part. He makes me laugh every time he opens his mouth!

November 23 2010 at 10:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Iceruby

Been a fan since it premiered. Hope more turn into it to see how a family cannot only make the most of lifes bumpy roads but that no matter what happens we should all stick together!

November 23 2010 at 10:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
you're right but you're also very wrong

Uh, they are CERTAINLY portrayed as morons. Their level of sincerity is separate from intelligence. I mean, the main source of humor in this show is their idiocy. I can't believe that your first bold bullet point was that far off the mark.

Aside from that, it's a very solid show. I don't enjoy it quite as much as Terriers but I also agree that it's the best new comedy on television. Garret Dillahunt does a fantastic job.

November 23 2010 at 9:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jason

Martha Plimpton is gorgeous!

November 23 2010 at 8:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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