RAISING HOPE “Pilot” Advance Review

Raising Hope (FOX) Pilot

I was lucky enough to preview the “Pilot” episode of Fox’s new comedy RAISING HOPE, which introduces us to slacker Jimmy Chance, a pool cleaner who, after his dad/boss blows one too many piles of leaves into a pool he’s skimming, decides he needs a life plan. He’s really not sure what that plan will be until he sleeps with an attractive girl he meets during a bubble gum ice cream run and eventually ends up with a baby from the encounter. Jimmy brings home little Princess Beyonce, much to the chagrin of his family who want him to safe-drop the baby at (not outside) the fire station. Undaunted, Jimmy pawns his stuff to buy a baby-pusher thing and special seat and decides this baby is his purpose in life.

While Raising Hope isn’t a how-to manual for infant care, its pilot is smart, occasionally subversive, and very funny. It’s a satirical celebration of the working class, much like executive producer Greg Garcia’s earlier My Name is Earl, with humor ranging from dry witticisms to hilarious visual gags that should probably require a “No babies were harmed during the filming of this episode” disclaimer be shown over the credits.

Jimmy, played by charmingly affable Lucas Neff, is a loveable loser drifting through life until he inherits his baby. His mother Virginia (the fabulous Martha Plimpton) had Jimmy at 15, so she knows how “dramastically” this will change his life and she’s as thrilled about the baby as she is about having to scrub toilets for a living. Dad Burt (Garret Dillahunt, Deadwood, Burn Notice) still acts like a kid himself, while great-grandmother Maw-Maw (Cloris Leachman) is less than lucid and thinks Jimmy is her late husband most of the time. Only bored grocery clerk Sabrina (a wonderfully dry Shannon Woodward) seems to have any answers and she’s not yet sure Jimmy isn’t an idiot.

As with many pilots, a lot of action is crammed into the episode, making the pacing a bit uneven and leaving little time for any depth, but the characters are all introduced well and I like the use of flashbacks to show Virginia and Burt as young parents. It would be hard not to root for the sweetly clueless Jimmy and his desire for more out of life than cleaning pools. There is just enough (and not too much) of the wacky and often topless Maw Maw shenanigans, and I look forward to more of the tartly clever Sabrina.

I love both the hilarious (vomiting on the baby, young Jimmy sticking his head through the hole in the car floor) and sweet (Virginia and Burt serenading both Hope and young Jimmy) moments, and the dialogue is sharp and witty. The exchange between Jimmy and Sabrina when Jimmy wants to make sure Hope can eat food with an Asian on it is so wrong it’s absolutely right and Virginia’s whacking serial killer Lucy (Bijou Phillips) with the television is awesome.

I can’t help but wonder how long the premise can hold up before Raising Hope loses its irreverent edge and becomes just another family sitcom, but this is a very promising start and with such a talented cast and pedigree, my hopes are raised (really, really sorry and I won’t do it again!) for a long and funny run.

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