Popdose’s Fall 2011 TV Preview: “Raising Hope” Season 2 premiere

Written by Television, TV Reviews

Kelly Stitzel reviews the season premiere of “Raising Hope.”

Raising Hope (Tuesdays, 9 PM, Fox)

After a critically acclaimed, hilarious first season, which netted the show several Emmy nominations — including Best Actress for the incredibly funny Martha Plimpton — Raising Hope continues, in its second season, to be one of television’s best sitcoms. Invoking comparisons to classic working-class comedies like Roseanne, Raising Hope is one of the few shows to feature a blue collar, down-on-their-luck family that most Americans can relate to. I like to think that, in some alternate TV universe, the Chances and the Conners are neighbors and friends. Can’t you just imagine the conversations Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman) and Nana Mary (Shelley Winters) would have?Warning: if you haven’t yet watched the second season premiere, you might want to stop reading until you have done so. Because, you know, spoilers.

In the hysterical season one finale, the Chances were getting ready to celebrate Jimmy (Lucas Neff) and Maw Maw’s birthdays. Jimmy reminisced about the year he (and his goth persona, Drakkar Noir) turned18 and Maw Maw, suffering from the early onset of “old-timer’s disease,” threw him and his parents, Burt (Garrett Dillahunt) and Virginia  (Plimpton) out of the house, forcing them to live in the basement of one of Virginia’s cleaning lady co-workers and Jimmy to spend clandestine nights in the grocery store where he would eventually work.

The second season premiere finds Jimmy doing some more reminiscing, showing Hope videos of himself as a teenager. As he watches the home movies, he discovers that, when he was 13, he was a piano prodigy (13-year-old Jimmy is played by YouTube sensation Greyson Chance), something he doesn’t remember. Burt and Virginia fill him in on how Maw Maw had once given him piano lessons and how quickly he took to playing and singing. Virginia explains that Jimmy lost his memory of the ability to play and sing after being hit on the head with a golf club during a family miniature golf outing.

After hearing all this, and watching Sabrina’s (Shannon Woodward) reaction to seeing the video of him play piano as a kid, Jimmy decides to try and rediscover his talent and signs up for the same community talent show that he played in as a child. He tries just about everything to unlock the memory of how to play piano — including taping his hands to Maw Maw’s as she plays — to no avail. The night before the talent show, Burt reveals something he’s been hiding for years about the day Jimmy was hit in the head. After some family bonding and beer drinking, Jimmy finds that he can, once again, sing and play the piano, to the joy of Burt and Virginia.

The day of the talent show, however, they discover that Jimmy has lost his ability to play and sing — again. Burt and Virgina deduce that it’s because he’s sober, so Jimmy and Burt pound some beers, then they all head off to the talent show, where Jimmy completely bombs, forcing Sabrina to leave in the middle of his performance. Virginia realizes that Jimmy didn’t regain his ability to play and sing, they only thought he did under the haze of many, many beers. But none of that matters because, as they’re watching the hilarious video of a drunk, adult Jimmy trying (and failing) to play piano at the recital, they hear the tinkle of piano keys and find that Jimmy’s baby daughter, Hope, is the culprit. They believe that she may have inherited Jimmy’s forgotten talent and are overjoyed at the idea of having another prodigy in the family.

Because of its cast’s chemistry, and its excellent writing, Raising Hope’s second season is off to a very strong start and I have every confidence that it will continue to be one of the funniest shows on TV. I hear there are some really great things to look forward to this season — including the return of Amy Sedaris as Virginia’s cousin (I found this out from Plimpton herself via Twitter recently) — so I hope (see what I did there?) that it continues to gain new viewers. With the acclaim it’s already received, as well as the strong lead-in of the highly-rated Zooey Deschanel comedy, New Girl, I think it has a very good chance (I crack myself up) to do so.

Here’s to a great second season for Raising Hope and more nominations (and some wins) at next year’s Emmys!