'Raising Hope: The Complete First Season'
(Martha Plimpton, Lucas Neff, Cloris Leachman, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2011 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: A one night stand becomes a life-long commitment when twenty-three-year-old Jimmy Chance inadvertently impregnates a wanted felon and decides to raise Hope (aka Princess Beyonce) on his own.
DVD Verdict: 'Raising Hope' is one of the more puzzling "comedies" in recent memory: Nothing about it is funny and it strands two outstanding actors in a vehicle that fails to harness their many talents.
'Raising Hope' is broad, shrill and aggressively wacky until the last couple minutes of the show's pilot, when the main characters are allowed to have a moment that is unlike everything that came before, in that it feels real and takes place on a human scale.
That's when the show lost me completely -- the tacked-on attempt to give the show some heart was so disappointingly cynical and contrived. It was a transparent attempt to give depth to something that had so vociferously lacked it that I was convinced that the show's creator, Greg Garcia, was working out some anger issues by creating this cacophonous show.
The premise is a knee-slapper -- oh, no, wait, it isn't. Young Jimmy impregnates a criminal, and has to raise the baby she later gives birth to. He is clueless about raising babies, but in ways that make him seem brain-damaged, not in ways that are laughter-inducing. If you find child endangerment hilarious, this may just be the show for you.
Lucas Neff, who plays Jimmy, has the kind of sincere demeanor you'd find in a coming-of-age drama, which makes the rest of his family seem like they're in a different show. Cloris Leachman plays an extremely inappropriate grandma, and the show as a whole is full of almost-offensive stereotypes about lower-class people. Still, the broadness and the brashness wouldn't be a problem if any of what transpires was funny. It isn't.
The real crime here isn't that the show lacks the sweetness that Garcia's 'My Name Is Earl' had for a couple of seasons, before it devolved into a more crass and average show. No, the crime of 'Raising Hope' is that Garret Dillahunt and Martha Plimpton are wasted here as Jimmy's parents. They're among the most enjoyable dramatic actors working in TV today, and 'Raising Hope' doesn't begin to use the full array of their talents. [AKR] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.77:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Unaired Network Pilot
Don't Vote for This Episode - Extended Episode
Adorable Stars: Meet the Hopes
Moments with Mrs. Chance
Taking Chances: Shooting the Season Finale
Deleted and Extended Scenes