I’ve figured out what really makes a Raising Hope episode good, in my books.
A) Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman) is at least somewhat lucid. A coherent Maw Maw is funnier than a one-note senile woman.
B) Virginia (Martha Plimpton) and Burt (Garrett Dillahunt) actually treat Jimmy (Lucas Neff) like their child. Too often, Virginia and Burt seem to treat Jimmy as a friend who just happens to also live in their house.
C) Recurring characters… recur. (In this episode, Gregg Binkley as Barney and Todd Giebenhain as Frank, among others) The show can feel a bit suffocating when it focuses solely on the nuclear family, solely in their house, so episodes that showcase the quirky side characters are always welcome.
“Sleep Training” included all three of these factors.
This episode’s theme was getting over one’s fears alone. Or rather, the theme really was letting one’s child get over his or her fears alone.
After reading a book on sleep training, Burt advocates that the family start sleep training Hope. He argues that they never sleep-trained Jimmy, which effectively “made him a wuss.” Jimmy finally agrees with the plan, provided his parents sleep train the baby, not him.
It’s been interesting seeing Jimmy grow (or not) throughout this season. The main premise of the show originally was an immature twentysomething gets saddled with a baby, causing him to mature through the help of his also somewhat immature parents. The show has shifted and changed throughout the season to focus more on the family dynamic, and less on Jimmy as the main character. Lucas Neff’s bland performance has been almost universally panned, but the boy is improving, so give it some time, everyone.
Similarly, Jimmy is also learning and growing. In nearly every episode, Jimmy has to confront his own weaknesses or see the consequences of not doing so. In this episode, he attempts to date a “wild” girl to prove that he’s not a wuss. This backfires in humorous ways, as he ingests some drug-laced tea and goes into a hallucinatory dream world.
It’s always interesting to see how movies and television shows deal with characters under the influence. Raising Hope made Jimmy’s hallucinations a bit exaggerated, but still within the realm of possibility. The show didn’t make a big production on drug awareness, and there was no moral attached to that bit of the storyline.
While Jimmy is out on his wild night, his parents attempt to sleep train Hope. Eventually, both Burt and Virginia find the strength to ignore both their granddaughter and their son as each cries out to them for help. Having survived the night, Jimmy is shown to have grown up a little more, as have his parents.
Maturity points for everyone!