TV Review: Raising Hope

E: You’re not going to believe this.  You’re really not.  I hardly believe it myself.

I totally like this show.

I know, I know.  It’s a sitcom.  I really can’t defend myself.  I suspect that the eating of crow will be involved in this post.

But I can’t help it.  I do.  It was funny.

I shouldn’t be entirely shocked I like this show; there’s not much attempt at realism, and the tone is hopeful (sorry) without being cloying.  And there is snark.  Man, is there snark.

Jimmy Chance – a sweet slacker who longs for better – rescues a girl on his way home from getting Bubble Gum ice cream for his deranged great grandma.  The girl is being chased by a raving, hulking man, but the van manages to outrun him despite it dating from the early seventies.  Jimmy and the girl have ecstatic sex while the van is parked on his front lawn.   Jimmy this perhaps he’s found a purpose in life – to love this nameless stranger.  His family take a shine to her – she explains the morning news over breakfast, and helps them pronounce the name of a certain outspoken Iranian – until her picture pops up on the news with the unpleasant tidings that she’s a serial killer.  Mom Virginia matter of factly knocks her out with the television (just before the news anchor can tell us the ending of My Name is Earl, the previous offering by this creative team – cute).

Eight months later, we find out that murderess Lucy is pregnant with Jimmy’s baby.  And just like that, Lucy is executed, and Jimmy takes baby Princess Beyonce home.  I’ll admit, I just assumed that Jimmy’s baby momma had skipped town and dropped off the baby.  I didn’t realize that the white knit hat and chambray shirt (seen on the commercials) were tiny baby prison clothes.  Or that we’d sort of get to see an execution.  But man, that is such genius.

Jimmy’s parents urge him to drop the baby off at the fire station.  You don’t know what it will do to your life.  (His mother, in fact, insists on calling the baby “it”.)  They do, since Virginia was 15 when Burt knocked her up. But he won’t.  He’s determined that this will be the thing that gives his life meaning.  His family at first refuses to help, but they’re slowly drawn in, helping to explain that he needs a car seat, and can’t just use the bean bag in the back of his van.   And that, when he finally gets an amazing avocado vinyl car seat, that he has to buckle it (and not just buckle her into into it).  We get the use of flashbacks to illustrate Burt and Virginia’s bad parenting; nothing is funnier than the site of joyfully untethered little Jimmy sticking his head out the rusted bottom of his parent’s moving car.  And slowly, slowly, Hope wins them over.    Maybe it starts when a poopy diaper causes mass vomiting.  Maybe it’s singing her to sleep.  Or maybe it’s the idea that their lives might not be as dead end as they’ve been assuming.

The Chance family lives in a kitsch wonderland, with the aforementioned deranged Grandma (the always delightful Cloris Leachman) and goofily articulate cousin Mike.  ( I fear for Mike – he’s not listed on the IMDB.) There’s a clock shaped like a house, covered with snow, with a miniature figure in a work rocking chair.  I feel that house is going to be a treasure trove of odd gems; it’s glorious.

Honestly, I watched this show because Martha Plimpton’s droll, paper dry delivery knocked me over in her guest stint on The Good Wife.  She deserves to have her own show.  And this show deserves to be a success.  From Lucas Neff’s adorable dreamer Jimmy, adrift yet determined, to Garret Dillahunt’s prankster father Burt (quite a change from the Russian mobster he played in Life)  the cast is oddly appealing.  Not least is  Shannon Woodward as Sabrina, the snarky and disaffected Juno/Tibby type who adds a little intelligence into the mix.  I laughed as Jimmy – on his way to pawn his worldly good to buy baby gear – explaining to her that he wasn’t stealing a cart from the supermarket she works at; it’s his family’s cart and occasional grill.  I laughed when the harried store manager kept complaining to her about the mischievous imp who draws on melons and stocks the soup cans upside down (since, of course Sabrina’s the culprit).  Will she and Jimmy find true love, or just an entertaining friendship?  Will she help raise the newly renamed baby Hope?  Time will tell. Yet there’s far more than the promise of a love story here.  I like this family.  I like the mordantly cheerful way they fail, and yet keep on. I’m going to be tuning in to find out how they do.

Man, I can’t believe I just wrote that.

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4 comments on “TV Review: Raising Hope

  1. Jennifer says:

    Oh wow, you used a whole bunch more words then me. The only word I came up with was “stupid.” I don’t know what I was expecting but was just excited to see Martha Plimpton but she wasn’t Patty so it didn’t work for me. I agree she is wonderful but I would way rathershe be a regular on tgw then have her own show especially if it is a silly sitcom.
    Your positivity is good though and i will lighten up a little and try to give it another try.
    Thanks so much.

    p.s. I hope you good wife review comes this fast since that is what I am really waiting for. 6 more days! 🙂

    • E says:

      LOL. I don’t remotely think I can get TGW up that fast, not if I do it in the usual detail! I will try my best, though.

      I usually hate sitcoms, so I was surprised how much I liked this. Of course I’m more excited about TGW – I’m almost glad, from a writing point of view, that it premieres next week, since I’ll be done watching all the disappointing pilots and won’t have any other reviewing projects competing for my time.

      And, yeah, I’m disappointed she won’t be back as Patti. Patti is indelible. I’m sure that’s how she got this sitcom, though (bitter Martha with a baby! genius!) and for her sake, I’m happy. She’s been around a loooong time and deserves to have her talent shown off.

      • Jennifer says:

        O.k. don’t be that fast then cause I want your usual detail.
        You are a bigger person then me for wanting what’s best for Martha 🙂 And she was the bright spot in the show AND I know I will watch it again because of her.

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