Take Me to the Pilots '10: FOX's 'Raising Hope'

Greg Garcia's latest raises the bar for Baby Endangerment Humor in primetime

<p>Lucas Neff and Garret Dillahunt of 'Raising Hope'</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>

Lucas Neff and Garret Dillahunt of 'Raising Hope'

 

Credit: FOX

[As I've already mentioned, and will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

Show: "Raising Hope," FOX
The Pitch: "It's 'My Name Is Earl' with a baby! And a randy grandma!"
Quick Response: Greg Garcia has settle on his Thing: Low income, low motivation white dude (politically incorrect folks would say "po' white trash," but I certainly wouldn't) decides to change his life with a contrived catalyst. In "My Name Is Earl," it was a lottery win and The List. In "Raising Hope," it's a baby left to the main character by a death row inmate (Bijou Phillips, who I hope returns somehow). Leaving aside the *utter* ridiculousness of the core premise -- I'm skeptical about The State handing over an orphaned baby to a woefully unprepared father with no clear means of support -- this is another Garcia series where we have to stand back and ponder if Garcia feels love or contempt for his characters. With "Earl," we were generally laughing with our main character and *at* everybody else. With "Raising Hope," there's a bit more laughing *at* our heroes and their foibles. Leading man Lucas Neff has ample charm and everybody else is chewing scenery. As his parents, Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt are talented enough that they can simultaneously mug and also find heart when required. Cloris Leachman just mugs in the latest evolution of the Inappropriate Granny character she's been playing for over a decade. I'm *really* sick of Leachman. I liked large parts of "Raising Hope," but every time Leachman came on screen she became the center of attention. If she were just a guest star, I wouldn't care, but as a regular? Too much. Way too much. Also, "Raising Hope" is going to test viewers' tolerance for Child Endangerment Humor, since that's the spine of the show: Lovable schlub with questionable book smarts *or* street smarts learns to be a better man and a father through trial and hilarious error. But I laughed. A couple times. More times than I laughed at "Running Wilde." And I liked the sweetness that Garcia is good at pulling off, whether between the core family or between the main character and his future love interest, played by Shannon Woodward.
Desire To Watch Again: Like "My Name Is Earl," "Raising Hope" is going to be a balancing act for Garcia, a more dangerous one since babies make for fragile comedic props. For a couple more episodes? I'm definitely curious how he's gonna pull it off. But I could check out on this one really fast if the balance tips the wrong way.

Previously...

Take Me to the Pilots '10: NBC's 'The Event'
Take Me to the Pilots '10: FOX's "Running Wilde"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: FOX's "Lonestar"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: CBS' "Hawaii Five-0"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: NBC's 'Undercovers'
Take Me to the Pilots '10: ABC's "Better Together"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: CBS' "Feces My Dad Says"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: The CW's "Nikita"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: ABC's "No Ordinary Family"

 

 

 

Dan-feinberg-sm
Daniel Fienberg
Executive Editor
A long-time member of the TCA Board and a longer-time blogger of "American Idol," Dan Fienberg writes about TV, except for when he writes about movies or sometimes writes about the Red Sox. But never music. He would sound stupid talking about music.
Around the Web