I have a tremendous amount of affection for the Fox sitcom, Raising Hope, but the Internet doesn’t always seem to share that appreciation. The ratings for the show are modest, good enough to stay on the air for three seasons, but not good enough to avoid looking down the barrel of cancellation every year (as it will likely do again this Spring). It features one of the most loving families on television, Burt and Virginia Chance (Garett Dillahunt and Martha Plimpton), who are basically the white-trash versions of Coach and Mrs. Taylor. They are amazing. Lucas Neff plays their soft-hearted but somewhat dim-witted son, Jimmy Chance, who is left to raise a his baby, Hope, after he impregnates a serial killer who is jailed, electrocuted, ran over by a bus, and later, locked away by her father in her old room.
What I love about the show, besides the earnest affection all the characters seem to have for one another (seriously, Raising Hope is the least cynical sitcom on television) is how effortlessly clever the show manages to be. The pop-culture references aren’t as aggressive as, say, Happy Endings, the humor isn’t as irreverent as Arrested Development, and the self-referential jokes aren’t as wink wink as Community. The jokes can often be sly, but they also work on a superficial level.
There’s no way to catalogue all the best jokes from Raising Hope, but just to show my appreciation for the sitcom, and hopefully to encourage some of you who haven’t yet to check it out, here’s some of my favorite recent inside jokes and gags from the show.
This was from last night’s show, and I loved it.
Spielberg, of course, wrote Goonies.
There was also a plotline involving Burt pitching his landscape ideas to a bunch of television executives, but ultimately deciding against working for them because they didn’t respect his vision. Before he walked away, he did this:
Raising Hope’s showrunner Greg Garcia also, of course, created My Name Is Earl. Everyone from My Name Is Earl has appeared on Raising Hope at some point, although Ethan Suplee appears most frequently.
Garcia also makes the occasional sly reference to Earl or includes something like this:
Hickey was the name of Jason Lee’s character. Garcia also created Yes Dear, and it took me a moment to realize last night that the couple that had discovered Burt and Virginia’s sex tape was the couple from Yes Dear.
They even made a reference to the other couple from Yes Dear. Garcia is also fond of subverting tropes. For instance, I think the show’s Cousin Oliver (a character introduced in the pilot who then disappears) was by design because Cousin Mike — who disappeared after the pilot — showed up in a flashback once to mention that his greatest fear is “Dying. Being there one day and gone the next, completely forgotten.” (Mike would also appear in a later episode in the present timeline to explain his disappearance).
Virginia has a penchant for delivering the best malapropisms.
Raising Hope also loves to make reference to other shows.
And make fun of other celebrities in straight-up fashion.
Oh, and Burt wears the best T-Shirts.
One of my favorite gags was the casting of Christopher Lloyd as a banker with an obsession with DeLoreans. And yes, there was a “Great Scott!” mention in the episode.
And if any of that appeals to you, Shannon Woodward ought to seal the deal.