April 18, 2012



Greg Garcia’s RAISING HOPE, like his My Name Is Earl, has a very particular chaotically surreal good-naturedness.  (The 2 shows exist in the same meta-universe, and Hope often nods to Earl–in tonight’s season finale, Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee and Jaime Pressley all made cameo appearances, repeating roles they’ve played in earlier episodes.)   Unlike Community, which wears its pop culture references not just on its sleeve, but tattooing its entire body, Garcia’s shows make more of an effort to exist within a viewer-friendly family comedy framework, and the result is an odd but often tasty mix of downscale characters with very upscale structural and narrative hooks. 

Although Hope has never been a breakout hit for FOX, it’s a reliable second banana show, and the network has already renewed it for a 3rd season.  That made the 2d season finale, written by Co-Executive Producer Bobby Bowman and directed by Eyal Gordin, a little odd, an unusually gimmicky episode that felt like it had been prepared just in case this turned out to be the final episode of the series.  The episode built on last week’s climactic revelation that serial killer Lucy (Bijou Phillips), Hope’s birth mother, had actually survived her prison execution, and jumped into a courtroom battle for Hope’s custody. 
This was an excuse for a succession of cameo witnesses from many past episodes (it was somewhat reminiscent of the Seinfeld series finale, which may have been deliberate), and much less focus than usual on the core Chance family of Jimmy (Lucas Neff), Virginia (Martha Plimpton), Burt (Garret Dillahunt) and Maw-Maw (Cloris Leachman), plus Jimmy’s (finally!) girlfriend Sabrina (Shannon Woodward).  Also, in a show that usually prides itself on finding the good in any bizarre character, Lucy and her lawyer were fairly straightforward villains.  The ultimate plot turn that–one would think–eliminates the threat of future Lucy visits got a laugh, but it was off-tone, as if Garcia had been watching a Curb Your Enthusiasm marathon before he sat down to outline it. 
There were still plenty of bright moments (in the Nancy Grace-hosted pseudo-tabloid reenactment of Lucy’s story, Ed Begley Jr as himself played both God and the Devil, and when Virginia wore Maw-Maw’s burial dress to court, Burt accurately paid her the compliment that it made her look like “Pretty Woman in that movie where she played a lawyer”), and the cast continues to be a terrific ensemble. The finale episode wasn’t Raising Hope at its best–“event” episodes don’t suit it–but there’ll be plenty of opportunity next season to enjoy Hope when it’s back in its quirky groove.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."