Raising Hope – Season 1 (2010) – By Duane L. Martin

We don’t do a lot of television reviews here on Rogue Cinema, and let’s face it, Raising Hope isn’t the sort of thing we’d usually cover in any case. However, having been a fan of this show from day one, when I got the chance to review this season 1 DVD set, I jumped at it. It is now my pleasure to share with you all the brilliance of one of, if not the greatest comedy series on television today.

So what’s the premise of Raising Hope? Well, in the pilot episode, we meet Jimmy Chance (Lucas Neff). One night, Jimmy picks up a female serial killer named Lucy (Bijou Phillips) and ends up taking her back to his house and having sex with her. The next morning, his parents Burt (Garret Dillahunt) and Virgina (Martha Plimpton) see a news report on TV talking about Lucy and the men she’s killed. So Jimmy comes in all excited talking about the girl he picked up last night, and they think it’s all cool, until Lucy comes in and sits down for breakfast. Naturally, the quick thinking Virginia did what any good mother would do. She cracks her in the head with the television set. From there, Lucy goes to prison and receives the death penalty, but before they can do the deed, they have to wait for her to give birth to the child Jimmy knocked her up with. She does, she gets the chair, and suddenly Jimmy gets a child he wasn’t mature enough to handle, and his own parents suddenly find themselves grandparents at 39 (they had Jimmy when they were teenagers), and they’re not ready for a new baby in the house either. Still, they decide to keep her, as the name of the show would imply, and together along with the senile Maw Maw, played by the ever brilliant Chloris Leachman, they all go through their own growing pains, while helping baby Hope to get through hers. Jimmy also has a huge crush on the girl who works at the grocery store, Sabrina (Shannon Woodward), but she has a boyfriend in college, so he’s been stuck in the friend zone for now. I hear tell from interviews I’ve seen with Greg Garcia that there may be some progress on getting them together in the second season, which is currently airing.

This show, created by the brilliant mind of Greg Garcia, is not only incredibly funny, but it’s full of characters that you can like and identify with. To cover them all, I’d have to write a book. Seriously, there are a lot of characters in this show. Some are more primary characters, some are more side characters, and some just appear randomly now and then. It’s this mix, along with the witty situations and the incredible comedic acting that give this show its brilliance and really fleshes it out, making it more than just your average sitcom. From the first episode, you can tell it’s something special, and very different from the average, unfunny sitcoms that seem to permeate the television schedules nowadays. The greatest thing about this show, aside from the amazing cast, is that it’s not afraid to just be stupid and silly. That not only makes it incredibly funny, but very endearing as well.

One of the best episodes of the season, and in my opinion, one of the best episodes of any television show ever, rivaled only by one particular episode of the BBC comedy, Coupling, is a prime example of this. It’s a "back in time" episode to five years earlier, and gives a huge amount of back story on the primary characters of the show and things that were going on back then. One scene in particular had me laughing so hard, I literally couldn’t breathe. I was literaly rewinding and watching it over and over again. Maw Maw had kicked Burt, Virginia and Jimmy out of the house right after Jimmy turned 18, so they ended up sleeping in the basement of Virgina’s boss’ mother’s house, along with a ton of washers and dryers (her mom ran a laundry service), and an alpacca, or as Burt calls it, "a crazy ass lookin’ sheep". When they go down there, they ask about the thing spitting, and Maria tells them that it only spits if you look it in the eye. Naturally one morning, Burt looks it in the eye, and it goobs all over him. He’s disgusted and looks it in the eye again, and again it spits on him, so he spits back, and then the alpacca spits again, and this goes back and forth in what has to be one of the most ridiculous and hilarious scenes in any sitcom ever.

Another episode that’s a particular favorite of mine is called The Blue Dots. Jimmy tries to enroll Hope in a fancy pre-school, and while he’s at the initial meeting talking to the other perspective parents trying to enroll their kids, he finds out that there’s a sex offender in their neighborhood. When he goes home and looks it up, he finds out that the sex offender is in his own house. It’s his father. See, Burt and Virginia had jimmy as teenagers. Unfortunately, Burt got busted for having underage sex, but had totally forgotten about it and didn’t realize he had to go around the neighborhood to inform everyone that he was a sex offender. So he goes to a lawyer to try to get the whole mess cleared up. Unfortunately, even though he got himself cleared, everyone else in the family ends up with a blue dot throughout the episode by getting wrapped up in some totally innocent, totally stupid situations.

The show in its entirety is just brilliant. Everything about it is nearly flawless. I initially had my doubts about the casting of Lucas Neff and Garret Dillahunt, but those doubts were gone as quickly as they appeared. The cast of Raising Hope is about as perfect as you could ever hope to find. The relationships feel very real, the comedy is hilarious and the show doesn’t focus too much on the baby, which kept it from becoming too sugary and detracting from the brilliance that comes from the situations and experiences that the adult cast deal with from episode to episode.

There is no way I could possibly recommend this series enough. There have been very few shows that I’ve felt this strongly about. Married with Children and Warehouse 13 are the only other shows I can remember being this totally into. Do yourself a favor and pick up season one of Raising Hope ASAP. If you’ve seen the show, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you’re in for a serious treat.

Two final notes about the set. First, I want it on blu-ray. I really wish these big media companies would release these shows in high def on blu-ray already. There aren’t many series that are released on blu-ray right now, and I keep hoping that’ll change. Second, I want to mention the extras on this release. There have been tons of videos of little extras and behind the scenes stuff from the show that I would have loved to have seen included in this set in the extras, but unfortunately, none of them are here. What we do have is the unaired network pilot, an extended cut of the season finale, commentary on the pilot episode, a gag reel (this is great), deleted and extended scenes (some great stuff in these as well), and a look behind the scenes at the shooting of the season finale.

One final technical note as well. I did have some problems with the audio in the deleted and extended scenes section on my Samsung blu-ray player. It would drop audio when it would hit scene changes and get totally out of sync. However, upon checking the disc on the Asus blu-ray player in my computer, I discovered that this was a player specific error and not a problem with the disc itself. So if you’re watching this particular extra and have audio problems on whatever player you’re using, try it in a different player. I’m not really sure what the issue is, but there was a problem with at least that one particular player.

You can pick up Raising Hope Season 1 from Amazon here, or any of the other normal DVD outlets.