FOX’s Raising Hope presents the second half of a two-part episode as their season finale this week. Entitled “I Want My Baby Back, Baby Back, Baby Back,” this installment finds Jimmy (Lucas Neff) and family locked in a court battle for custody over Hope (Baylie and Rylie Cregut) with his “wife,” Lucy (Bijou Phillips). This follows an episode of Inside Probe, in which Nancy Grace (herself) tells the family’s story, and reveals that Lucy survived her execution. Lucy wins the legal battle, and Jimmy has to leave his parents and Sabrina (Shannon Woodward) behind in order to stay with his daughter.
If a comedy series is hilarious enough, it does not need to follow the rules of realism. This is a relief, because Raising Hope leaves such constraints far behind in the dust during these final two episodes. Not only does Lucy survive the electric chair, there is a jailhouse wedding, complete with a prisoner allowed a knife to cut the cake, a jury made up purely of miners who were trapped underground for six months, and so don’t know Lucy is a serial killer, Shelley (Kate Micucci) is allowed to testify with a ukelele, and Lucy will most likely survive being hit by a bus. The last of which is welcome, because Phillips is such a joy during her guest stints on the show. And with Jimmy needing a divorce, she will have to return again.
But honestly, the fact that the events of “I Want My Baby Back, Baby Back, Baby Back” would never happen does not lessen the enjoyment of the episode in the slightest. Part of this is the comedic writing, which is just as sharp, tight, and unexpected as it ever has been, if not sharper. Part of it is nostalgia, as this week’s installment and the one before it reference many of the show’s earlier events and gags, as well as bringing back a large number of guest stars.
Best of all, most of the cast of My Name Is Earl, a previous show by Raising Hope‘s creator, Greg Garcia, appears again. Earl is alluded to as well, and the tone of both shows are similar. In fact, the Inside Probe stunt feels just like Earl‘s Cops episodes! So it all comes across as one big, happy, funny universe, drawn closer together with each crossover, of which there have been many.
Should Raising Hope have concentrated on pathos instead? Sure, there are tears and heartbreak when Jimmy leaves Sabrina so that he can stay with Hope. Viewers would be heartless not to feel for Sabrina as tears stream down her face, and the situation really evokes something inside of oneself. However, instead of capitalizing on these dramatic moments, leaving a heck of a cliffhanger, Lucy is hit by a bus, and Jimmy gets to return home.
Nor does it appear that Burt (Garret Dillahunt) and Virginia (Martha Plimpton) will face legal charges for fighting with law enforcement in the court room, as they are seen to be in their house and doing just fine.
And that’s OK. Some sitcoms need the drama to infuse with comedy in order to keep their fans invested. Raising Hope does not. It’s tongue-in-cheek style, with meta elements and constant self-referencing, has created a unique world that deserves to be on television. One can drop in to see what the Chances are doing each week, and continuously be very taken in by their spell.
What kind of show dares to have Nancy Grace lampooning herself, Ed Begley Jr. playing both god and the devil, and “introduces” Cloris Leachman each episode? Raising Hope, that’s who, and it does so proudly. Never before has white trash been made look so attractive. The show doesn’t just play on stereotypes, it redefines them. It will change the way you think about many things, and if the show contributes anything to society, it assists in tearing down the barriers of hate and judgment.
Does this make Raising Hope sound too important? Perhaps. But it deserves the accolades. There is absolutely nothing else currently running like it, and it continues to hit all of the right notes week after week. That is a laudable feat.
Is it the sharp writing or the amazing cast, which includes Gregg Binkley and a slew of talented, recurring players to fill out the world, that makes Raising Hope work so well? It’s both, as well as everyone else in the crew who builds this specific place and time. There is really nothing to complain about in Raising Hope. It’s that rare gem that knows what it is, and delivers extremely well on a remarkably consistent basis.
Thank you to Raising Hope for an awesome second season, and I am greatly looking forward to years of more terrific comedy. Raising Hope will return to FOX this fall.