FOX’s Raising Hope recently released its complete first season on DVD. It is a three-disc set containing all 22 episodes that aired last year. The series follows a lower middle class family as they raise a baby. This is refreshing, considering many television characters certainly live above realistic means for many of their viewers. It also focuses on the kooky friends and relatives that surround the primary clan, creating a rich, becoming vast, world of interesting characters. After one mere season, Raising Hope has become TV to watch.
The series begins when Jimmy Chance (Lucas Neff) unknowingly hooks up with a crazy murderer named Lucy (Bijou Phillips). Lucy is arrested and executed, but not before giving birth to Jimmy’s daughter, Princess Beyonce, whom he renames Hope (Bayley and Rylie Crecut). Jimmy is in his early twenties, and lives with his parents Virginia (Martha Plimpton) and Burt (Garret Dillahunt), who had him when they were teenagers. Jimmy really wants to take care of the baby, and Burt and Virginia see a second chance to raise a child correctly; it thus becomes a team effort.
Adding to the chaos is Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman), Virginia’s senile grandmother, in whose house they live. She is only lucid for short periods of time, but resents her family, worrying they are taking advantage of her. In fact, they take good care of her during her crazy periods.
To help pay for the child’s care and feeding, Jimmy takes a job at the local supermarket after falling for cashier Sabrina (Shannon Woodward). They work for enthusiastic, geeky Barney (Gregg Binkley, a recurring character in season one, but promoted to series regular in season two). These two help Jimmy keep his own sanity, and provide some fun, outside-the-home stories. In addition, babysitter Shelley (Kate Micucci) keeps Hope when the Chance family are all working.
There are many great episodes in this freshman run. “Dead Tooth” introduces Sabrina’s cousin, Shelley, and finds Burt helping Virginia to quit smoking. The latter is a necessity, since smoking is now strictly limited in primetime broadcast network television. In “Dream Hoarders,” Hope crawls into the maze of a junk-filled shed. “Burt Rocks” lets Burt meet his singer idol, Smokey (Jason Lee). In “What’s Up, Cuz?” Virginia’s gold digging cousin, Delilah (Amy Sedaris), who has a crush on Burt, visits. And the season finale takes a look at how different life was for all of the characters, main and supporting, only five short years ago.
The first season DVD set (not currently available in Blu-ray) has quite a few bonus features. There are 20 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, and the essential gag reel. The broadcast “Pilot” has a commentary track with series creator Greg Garcia (My Name is Earl), Neff, Plimpton, and Dillahunt, who talk about the constantly changing babies in the episode. The original, unaired version of “Pilot,” with a different actress playing Sabrina, and featuring Micucci as a cousin that lives with the Chances, is also included. Additionally, there is an extended version of the season finale, “Don’t Vote for This Episode,” with three minutes of cut footage inserted back in.
As far as featurettes go, “Adorable Stars: Meet the Hopes” gives viewers more than six minutes of focus on the adorable twins that play the titular baby. Fans get a look at their personalities, and their work environment. “Moments with Mrs. Chance” is a package of clips from the first season featuring Virginia in many of her best, and funniest, moments. It’s an apt choice, considering Plimpton’s vast talent, but one hopes that other performers will be featured similarly in later releases.
“Taking Chances: Shooting the Season Finale” spends only a little bit of time talking about the season’s last episode, but gives lots of attention to the usual environment on the set, and how everyone gets along. It also has Neff and Plimpton complaining of Garcia’s (My Name is Earl) alcoholism and sexcapades on set. Garcia argues in his own interview that he doesn’t usually start getting drunk until at least 9 a.m. One assumes this is all a joke, but it is filmed in Hollywood, so you never know. But yeah, pretty sure they are kidding.
Buy Raising Hope The Complete First Season, on sale now.