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With Dead Tooth, Raising Hope Becomes Slightly Less Ridiculous

By Edited Nov 15, 2013 0 0

When I watched the first episode of Raising Hope, which currently airs on FOX at 9:00 on Tuesdays, immediately after GLEE, I declared it one of the stupidest shows I had ever seen. So why did I watch the second episode? Because there is a core of sweetness amidst all the imbecility. Besides, my mom hadn't seen the first episode and wanted to see if it was as silly as I suggested. "We're not watching that again," she said to me after it ended. She was not impressed. I, however, had to admit that in terms of sheer idiotic behavior, the first episode was far more egregious.

Dead Tooth finds Jimmy in need of a babysitter, since apparently he's back to working for his dad again. The most juvenile moment in the episode is probably when Burt, consistently the least mature person in the house, decides that it's a good idea to turn his hose on baby Hope, whom Jimmy has brought along to work. It's at this point that it becomes apparent that Take Your Daughter to Work Day is a little too hazardous when you have such a moronic boss. Hence the need for child care, which brings Jimmy into contact with Shelley (Kate Micucci), a freaky girl he once hooked up with briefly. She has a rotten tooth and peculiar mannerisms, and the more she throws herself at Jimmy, the more uncomfortable he is. Oh, and she just happens to be the cousin of quirky grocery store clerk Sabrina, the girl of his dreams - and that's not the only wrinkle in his hopes for scoring a shot with the long-haired, sardonic beauty.

In this episode, Jimmy doesn't seem quite so completely clueless. Most of the things he does are the types of things a normal person would do, and he even shows a bit of cleverness as he tries to figure out a way of ensuring that he and Shelley are not stuck in an enclosed space together. There's also a definite tenderness in the way that he reminisces about his early childhood, in which he spent hours gazing at a tranquil painting of a deer in a field that still is displayed in his house. I could especially relate to this, as one of the fixtures of our living room is a painting of three deer walking through the forest. I also like Jimmy's persistence in trying to convince his mom to stop smoking, a crusade tied to the sweetest moment of the episode.

To my surprise, Burt sides with Jimmy on the smoking issue, though not so much for the sake of the baby's health or even hers; he just doesn't like the taste of smoke in his mouth when he's kissing his wife. His solution is to go after Maw Maw, but she's an even harder sell than Virginia, and his attempt to quarantine her, making the house a smoke-free zone, is very poorly executed indeed. Meanwhile, though it's nice to see that the fire has not gone out of his parents' marriage, his vocal amorous attentions toward Virginia are just awkward.

We see nothing of cousin Mike in this episode, which is certainly one reason that there's less moronic behavior on display. On the other hand, there's something endearing about this completely vacuous guy. If nothing else, it's nice for Jimmy to have somebody there his own age - especially when that person is even thicker than he is. Still, Jimmy comes off looking pretty good here, since he spends most of the episode right next to the eccentric Shelley. Athough she appears to have a great knack for day care - and making up goofy ditties - her interpersonal skills outside of work leave something to be desired. Meanwhile, both of his friends, Javier (Ray Santiago) and Marcus (Jermaine Williams), seem about as dopey as Mike.

Cloris Leachman's Maw Maw continues to wander around the house in a half-dressed haze, which leads to an especially icky scene involving the feeding of the baby, though she does have one lucid moment in this episode that reveals something about the person she used to be. Similarly, there are more flashbacks to teenage Virginia and Burt that show how out of their depth these two were when they became parents. Virginia seems to be the one holding the family together; I detect a hint of Ma Joad of The Grapes of Wrath in her coarse but affectionate demeanor.

It has been a while since family sit-coms dominated the airwaves. When I was growing up in the 1990s, families sat down together for inoffensive family fare like Full House, Family Matters, Step By Step, Growing Pains and Home Improvement, among others, but there's been a noticeable lack of those types of shows lately. Last year, ABC's Modern Family stepped up to the plate to begin to fill that gaping hole. That is a show that combines razor-sharp humor with warm fuzzies, with the result that it is one of the most effective sit-coms of the past decade. Raising Hope has a core of sincerity, but most of the jokes seem as though they were written by eighth-graders. Everything is grossly exaggerated, and most of the laughs are accompanied by a groan, at least in my house.

I confess that I was surprised to open up my copy of Entertainment Weekly and find Raising Hope on the Must List. I do find it refreshing to be presented with a main character who is a young man choosing to raise his child on his own when no one is forcing him to do so, and there's enough love in this family to make us want to root for their success. I like the premise. I just think that more often than not, the individual attempts at humor fall flat. This family simply does not feel very realistic. Still, this episode was not nearly as over-the-top as the first. Maybe if creator Gregory Thomas Garcia takes it down a couple of notches, I will raise my hopes for Raising Hope.



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