By now we should have learned that a sitcom needs at least a good half-season to find its legs. It’s easy to dismiss a new show early on in its run, yet history shows that even the greatest sitcoms had mundane starts. Raising Hope might be considered such a sitcom, but, in retrospect, its early episodes are pretty solid, and it has continued to get better.
The show centers on Jimmy (Lucas Neff), a 23-year-old who must raise baby Hope with the help of his imperfect family. Hope’s mother, a serial killer (played by Bijou Phillips), has been executed for her crimes. The writers actually found a way to make that kind of funny. Phillips is seen in flashbacks as well as videotapes left for her daughter.
Brought to you buy the creative team behind My Name is Earl, Raising Hope operates in the same poking-fun-at-the-lower-middle-class space. The humor, however, is not mean-spirited and has gradually moved away from white-trash gags to more character-driven places. Well cast, the show doesn’t try to be overtly whacky (most of the time) but simply has good jokes.
Greg Dillahunt, who plays Burt Chance, Jimmy’s father, is on his way to an Emmy, though the academy might never notice. Martha Plimpton, who plays Jimmy’s mother, and Cloris Leachman, who plays his grandmother, did get Emmy nods last season, so the show is getting critical attention. A solid first season under its belt, the series seems poised for an even funnier future. Grade: A