Out of the many shows that premiered in 2010, Raising Hope has been one of my favorites.
The single-cam sitcom, helmed by My Name Is Earl creator Greg Garcia, is surprisingly funny and endearing. Martha Plimpton and Garrett Dillahunt are hilarious as the parents of the main character, Jimmy, played by a lukewarm (but improving) Lucas Neff.
The one qualm I have with Raising Hope is that the show never quite seems to know what to do with Cloris Leachman. In the first half of the season, her character, Maw Maw, was incoherent, a one-note gimmick that wasted Leachman’s comic talent. After the season break, the writers have been changing how they deal with the character. She’s coherent more often, which leads to some wonderful dry humor. She’s still mostly senile, but that still can lend to some good jokes.
Like most freshman shows, Raising Hope had some kinks to work out in the first half of the season. However, by episode 17, the show has a nice stable of recurring characters and in-jokes. The leads are fleshed out, and in general, the show works.
This episode, however, did not.
In “Mongoose,” Maw Maw is in the background for the bulk of the episode. She shows up laughing in one scene for no apparent reason, except to signal to the audience that they’re supposed to be laughing. This episode featured the characters laughing at the show’s jokes a few different times. It happens often in the series, but usually in a more natural way. After all, even in the real world, people in families do laugh when another person makes a joke. However, what’s unnatural in this ep is that the jokes weren’t terribly funny and most were telegraphed far too early.
Perhaps I would have liked this episode more if I had watched when it originally aired, before Modern Family’s “Someone To Watch Over Lily” gave an example of how to make this premise actually funny. Yes, the basic plot impetus (finding a suitable guardian for a baby) has been used many times in sitcom history, not just by Modern Family. However, I expected more of Raising Hope. I hate when a show spends so long setting up its climax that even the dimmest audience member can predict what will happen in the end.
The pacing of this episode felt off, with an overly-long setup for an anticlimactic third act. Something is wrong with the timing of the story, when the conclusion fails to air before the credits start rolling. I did enjoy recurring guest star Todd Giebenhain in his role as creepy, spacy Frank. It’s unfortunate when the best part of an episode is a 2-scene guest star, though.