Haven’t written about “Raising Hope” for a while for a couple of reasons, which I’ll get into in a moment, but as tonight’s episode was really funny, I thought I’d offer a quick review, just as soon as you catch me on bleaching day…
As I mentioned on last week’s podcast, FOX sent out a screener of three “Raising Hope” episodes – last week’s, tonight’s, and next week’s – and I was glad to have an opportunity to revisit a show I had found amusing in spots but not necessarily fantastic as a whole earlier in the season. Greg Garcia shows, much like Chuck Lorre shows, tend to straddle this delicate line between laughing with and laughing at their main characters, and while the early episodes of “Raising Hope” had some big laughs, they were often so blatantly at the expense of its own characters that I found it hard to feel very attached. I understood why it was more successful than “Running Wilde,” and I figured I’d come back later to see if the ratio was better – and based on last week’s and tonight’s, I would say it pretty clearly is.
They’ve figured out a way to tell jokes with these characters without just pointing and laughing at them. There’s a level of affection underneath the squalor and hillbilly logic of it all, so that when, say, Burt insists on proving he can out-“Jackass” “Jackass,” there’s a weird integrity to it even as he’s torturing himself and others. (Plus, Garret Dillahunt screams funny – every single time.) Similarly, I liked how the family’s sudden discovery of the danger of germs – culminating in that wonderful sight gag of Maw Maw’s black-lit germs flying onto Jimmy’s face – got turned on its head at the end, so that Sabrina was being the weird germaphobe and the Chance family turned out to be sturdy folk. (Sort of like how, last week, Virginia recognized that even though the other couple had been vastly more successful financially,she and Burt had raised a better kid.) The final scene with the home movies was lovely – not in a “if we tack on a saccharine ending, it’ll absolve us of all the previous silliness” way, but genuinely sweet and organic to what had come before.
That said, I don’t suspect the show is going to become a regular part of the rotation, for the same reason that something like “Big Bang Theory” isn’t. One of the things that’s come up a lot in all the discussion about the Slate piece about me and other TV critics who do episode-by-episode reviews is the idea that the form tends to be more interesting with dramas than comedies, and then with serialized and/or narratively complex comedies over simpler ones. “Simpler” doesn’t equal “worse,” but it usually means less fodder for reviewing. I stopped writing about “BBT” because I could sum up my reaction to most episodes as “that was funny”/’that wasn’t funny,” and that was less interesting than writing about a show like “How I Met Your Mother” that probably makes me laugh less in a given week but gives me more to write about. “Raising Hope” isn’t quite as simple as “BBT,” but my reactions to it are usually on that level. So given my usual time constraints, I’m going to treat it as a show I write about when it does something particularly notable, and leave it alone the rest of the time.
But since I’m here now, what did everybody else think of “Germ of a Story”? And how are you finding the show overall at this point in its first season?