“Raising Hope” brings hope to TV viewers

By Tom Comi

Sometimes the shows you think might resonate the least with you end up resonating the most, and that has certainly been the case with me in terms of FOX’s out-there comedy Raising Hope.

And why would any reasonable person expect to connect with a show that revolves around a young man (Jimmy, played by Lucas Neff) who impregnated a criminal who was tried and executed by the state shortly after delivering his baby (Hope). All of this took place in the pilot last year, thereby setting the stage for Jimmy to raise the daughter with the help of his parents (fabulously portrayed by Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt).

To say any of the three is prepared or qualified to raise a child would be an overstatement, which sets the stage for a lot of the program’s humor. But as dysfunctional as they might be, there is no questioning their unconditional love for the child — and that’s where the show derives its emotional connection with viewers.

They make horrible parenting decisions, their home is anything but safe and they barely make enough money to survive. Oddly enough, though, their biggest problem is Jimmy’s senile great-grandmother (played by TV legend Cloris Leachman). Many of the plots revolve around her character Maw Maw, which can be very funny at times and a detriment at others. While I’m sure Leachman is thrilled to be working at her age, she deserves better than some of the ridiculous storylines she is given.

Still, every show has some obstacles to overcome, and Raising Hope knows where its bread is buttered. TV-newcomer Neff is subtly brilliant in carrying the show, and he is in able hands alongside the hilariously understated Plimpton and Dillahunt. In tonight’s episode (9pm ET), Jimmy’s friend Sabrina (Shannon Woodward) thinks her college boyfriend Wyatt is cheating on her, so she gets Jimmy to accompany her on a roadtrip to get some answers.

Of course, nothing ever goes as planned on this sitcom, especially when you factor in Jimmy’s crush on Sabrina. And it’s that unpredictability that makes Raising Hope so much more clever than anything else on television.