Nov 20, 2010

Don‘t You Like to Laugh? (Part 2)

The second of a short series focusing on three shows that I enjoy a lot that aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

Keep Hope Alive!

So over on Fox TV, there’s this new sit-com called Raising Hope that you’reraising-hope-6-10-10-kc probably not watching. What’s it about? Well, at its core, it’s about a young single dad raising his infant daughter with the help of his parents and great grandmother. Sounds sweet, doesn’t it? Like there’d be lots of sweet little “aww” moments and learning and growth and stuff, like a 30 minute version of 7th Heaven or something?  And pretty much unwatchable, right?

Well it would be, except that this situation is run through the filters of the creative team that brought us My Name is Earl, so it’s not quite as tidy and wholesome as it sounds.  Let me recap how we got to the basic situation of the show.

Twenty-three year old Jimmy Chance, played by Lucas Neff (The Beast), lives with his parents and works as a landscaper and pool cleaner for his dad Burt, wonderfully played by Garret Dillahunt (Deadwood, The 4400).  Jimmy is good natured and likable, if a little simple, and is starting to wonder if he should want more out of life. He then has a chance meeting and one-night stand with a hot blond in the back of the family van. The next day, the family sees a news report identifying her as a serial killer. She is captured and sent to Death Row.  Eight months later, Jimmy learns that she is pregnant.  Cut to Jimmy, holding his infant daughter in the viewing gallery of the baby-mama’s execution in the electric chair.  Jimmy now has to raise his daughter, christened Princess Beyoncé (“…but I think I may change that.”) and needs his family’s help in figuring it all out. And all this occurred before the first commercial break.b39b4_101101mag-raising-hope1

Trouble is, Burt and Jimmy’s mom Virginia, a housecleaner, were never the best at childrearing themselves, as we see in frequent flashbacks.  Virginia is played by Martha Plimpton (The Goonies, Running on Empty) as both exasperated and overwhelmed (her first thought is to drop Hope at the fire station. But you have to hand it to someone, the box out front is for canned goods and puppies). Possibly the smartest member of the bunch, she isn’t without her eccentricities, including hoarding all of the items she’s collected from the trash piles of her clients.

raising-hope-halloween-twoRounding out the family is Maw Maw, Jimmy’s great grandmother. Maw Maw is played with award-worthy enthusiasm by comedy legend Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein, The Mary Tyler Moore Show), as a very old woman who has lost most of her mind. Generally having only 5 lucid minutes a day, she frequently imagines she’s 9 or believes that Jimmy is her dead husband (including giving him a kiss so hard, Jimmy exhaled her cigarette smoke) and is often seen in only her bra and some stretch pants.  Leachman has long since given up on any sense of vanity and takes Maw Maw to the brink.  She’s rarely the focus of the show, but her scenes are priceless.

Also on the scene is Jimmy’s new found friend, Sabrina, played by Shannon Woodward (The Riches, Grounded for Life). Sabrina works at the local grocery store because she has nothing better to do. Jimmy is smitten with her, but she has a boyfriend away at college and doesn’t seem to notice Jimmy in that way.

This dysfunctional group does their best to care for Hope, as she was thankfully renamed. Hope is played by two sets of twins, and they are some dang cute babies. The expressions they milk out of the baby actors are priceless.51296410001_602793821001_ari-origin29-arc-185-1283551819985

The comedy in Raising Hope comes from the tension of wondering if Hope is in safe hands, and in watching this blue collar family stumble through life doing the best that they can.  These aren’t bad people, just un-smart people working to make it through life, now even more challenging with a baby in their midst.  The comedy is broad and both verbal and physical. There was a nice meta reference to Earl Hickey in the pilot. One of the biggest laughs I’ve had in a while was when Hope RollVirginia and Jimmy were driving little Hope home in the very old car seat Jimmy picked up at the pawn shop (Sabrina: Nice car seat.  Jimmy: Oh yeah, thanks, it's a used one.  Sabrina: I can see that. Who used it, baby Jesus?)  Virginia points out that the van doesn’t have a seatbelt, so how are you going to strap it in. “What do you mean ‘strap it in‘?” Cue the sight gag of Virginia making a turn, and baby Hope, in car seat, rolling across the back seat.

Raising Hope is easily the best new comedy of the season. Of course it didn’traising-hope-s1e5-Family-Secrets-01-550x365 have a lot of competition for that title (I’m talking to you, Running Wilde [good riddance]).  Fox is running two episodes a week for a while, one new and one repeat so you can catch up, plus you can watch complete episodes here.  So tune in to one of the funniest shows you’re not watching and see if Princess Beyoncé, err… Hope will survive the Chance family. I’m betting she does OK.  Her name is in the title, after all.

Raising Hope on Fox TV, Tuesdays at 9:00|8:00c

More to Come.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Questions? Comments? Scathing rebuttals? Amusing Anecdotes?