According to the Hollywood Reporter, Greg Garcia once worked as a janitor and cashier at a Burger King in Burbank, California. Luckily, the 2007 Writer’s Guild strike was resolved and he was able to finish up My Name is Earl. His latest funhouse refection of white trash life, Raising Hope is beginning its second season. The first season is now available, on DVD.
At first glance there are a lot of similarities between Garcia’s two most recent shows, both a far cry from his much earlier Family Matters. My Name is Earl and Raising Hope both share a trailer park grittiness and a similar style of camera work. Where Raising Hope exceeds Earl is in the hard knocks sweetness that is rarely overly-sappy and as funny as Jason Lee and Jamie Pressley are, Martha Plimpton and company are able to deliver a measure of sincerity rarely seen in a sitcom.
Raising Hope begins with Lucas Neff as a twenty-three year old slacker son of two young and underachieving parents in Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt and an inappropriately senile great-grandmother, Cloris Leachman, sharing a home. Neff’s character, Jimmy Chance ends up knocking up a fugitive, Lucy, played by Bijou Phillips in the back of his van who is quickly apprehended. As a result of Lucy’s incarceration, Jimmy ends up as the custodian of his daughter, much to the chagrin of his parents.
Raising Hope: The Complete First Season includes all 22 episodes in 5.1 channel Dolby Digital and a Widescreen format. The episodes are the pilot, “Dead Tooth,” “Dream Hoarders,” “Say Cheese,” “Happy Halloween,” “Family Secrets,” “The Sniffles,” “Blue Dots,” “Meet the Grandparents,” “Burt Rocks,” “Toy Story,” “Romeo and Romeo,” “A Germ of a Story,” “What Up, Cuz?,” “Snip Snip,” “The Cultish Personality,” “Mongooses,” “Cheaters,” “Sleep Training,” “Everybody Flirts…Sometimes,” “Baby Monitor,” and “Don’t Vote for this Episode.” Additionally, the set includes an unaired pilot and commentary from Garcia and the Chase family on the aired pilot on the first disc.
The third disc includes an extended version of the season finale; a meet the Hopes featurette on the actresses playing Hope; “Moments with Mrs. Chance,” a montage of Martha Plimpton scenes; a gag reel; some deleted scenes; and a “making of” featurette on the season finale. The unaired pilot, the extended finale, and the deleted scenes segment are by the far the best extra features for those that have fallen in love with the series. The rest, particularly the montage are pretty much throwaways.
Raising Hope is filmed in HD so, it’s a little puzzling that the series has only been released on DVD. I must however admit that the DVD transfer is good. All of the colors and levels are spot on and maintain the gritty warmth of the HD originals. The Dolby Digital audio encoding is also more than adequate for the subject matter with no noticeable compression issues.
Raising Hope is a funny and often heartwarming show that will unavoidably be compared to My Name is Earl. While not occupying the most screen time, Martha Plimpton is the star of the show. Her ability to be tough and a little crazy while still having a heart adds an authenticity to the series, rarely seen in similar shows. Between puke gags there are a lot of “aww moments” but make no mistake, Raising Hope isn’t afraid to occasionally swipe at the low hanging fruit. There’s a lot to like about Raising Hope and lower prices on DVD sets should make it an easy choice to pick this one up.