Raising Hope emerged as one of 2010’s few hits series. Created by Greg Garcia of My Name is Earl fame, Raising Hope looks like a more traditional sitcom from the outside. By traditional I mean the focus is on one family and the mayhem that goes on in their lives. That family, the Chances, have their world turned upside down when 23-year-old slacker son, Jimmy(Lucas Neff), finds out he’s a father from his one night stand with a serial killer, recently put to death (it’s actually funnier than I just described it). His baby girl, Princess Beyonce Carlyle- he renames her Hope, represents an opportunity for Jimmy to turn his life around and become responsible. He may not be a rich man or be the smartest guy on the face of the earth, but Jimmy is determined to be a good dad and give his baby girl all the love and support she’ll ever need to succeed in life.
Jimmy’s big heart drives the show, but as the first season carried on, we discovered that Jimmy inherited his great spirit from both of his parents, Burt and Virginia, simple, yet endearing individuals played by Garrett Dillahunt and Martha Plimpton (in a welcome return to stardom). The Halloween episode of Raising Hope pretty much gave away that Burt is a big old softy, in a demented kind of way. Turns out that every time Jimmy went out trick or treating, Burt would sneak up on his son in a sinister mask just to scare Jimmy. Then, Jimmy would run home crying where Burt would be waiting for a hug from his son. As Jimmy got older, it became the only way he could get some hug time with his boy. That’s a great episode.
Jason Lee does his old boss Garcia a favor by appearing as an aging rocker that Burt idolizes. When Jimmy discoverers that his birth ruined Burt’s chances of becoming a rock star, Jimmy invites Lee’s Smoky Floyd to perform, just so Burt can appear with him. Smoky turns out to be a dick and Burt decides that his family is better than the glamorous life of an over the hill rocker. By the time Raising Hope reached its season finale, all of the elements of of hit show were in place. “Don’t Vote for this Episode” is one of the funniest and most charming half hours from last TV season. We see Jimmy’s in a new light, learning how Burt and Virginia came to take care of Maw Maw (the insanely funny Cloris Leachman). We also learn that Jimmy’s huge crush, Sabrina (a spunky Shannon Woodard) wasn’t always such a bad ass chick.
Like Modern Family, Raising Hope is about growing up in America in the 21st Century. Although the situations on Raising Hope may be a little more cartoonish, the themes and the sentimentality of the show is right on par with Modern Family. It may have begun as a cult comedy on Fox, but thankfully the network stuck with it and let it find legs. The series is now succeeding on Tuesday nights, especially with its great new lead in, New Girl.
The complete first season DVD of Raising Hope contains all 22 episodes from its rookie year, as well as some fantastic special features. Among them is the unaired network Pilot, which is interesting to watch for the changes that were made before the show made its debut. The season finale extended cut contains more great stuff that had to be trimmed in order to meet their allotted time slot. There are deleted scenes, a gag reel and commentary for the pilot.