FOX’s Raising Hope has always been a really good show with just enough schmaltz to keep it from achieving true greatness. Though, that seems purposeful, and I don’t think it wants to be more than what it is. It has real charm and presents an authentic-feeling, extremely funny family. After four seasons, the series wrapped itself up this past Friday night in much the same vein it’s always been in, providing a touching half hour (or, rather, two half hours), but not going for the closure-filled ending.
The first half hour, which is its own installment, not connected to the second, is called “How I Met Your Mullet.” This is 100% a typical episode, with character-driven segments that illustrate the terrific dynamics, without actually changing who the players are. Burt (Garret Dillahunt) gets the chance to search for his passion since Virginia (Martha Plimpton) is now making “comma money,” only to realize he already has his ideal life. Jimmy (Lucas Neff) and Sabrina (Shannon Woodward) inherit a maid (Downton Abbey‘s Lesley Nicol), only to later realize they’re taking advantage of the help and setting a bad example for daughter Hope (Baylie and Rylie Cregut), so they let her go. None of this is anything spectacular or dramatic, but it’s a wonderfully typical episode.
The second half, “The Father Daughter Dance” goes in a little different direction, not reveling in the show’s personalities, as most entries do. Instead, this is all about Virginia’s father, Arnold (Jeffrey Tambor, Arrested Development), trying to get back in her good graces. He does so by throwing Virginia the dream wedding she never had, complete with a replica of Princess Diana’s dress. But his good intentions start to fall apart when the family realizes Arnold can’t pay for Hope’s college, as he promises to do, and ends up homeless, needing Virginia and Burt to take him in.
I do wonder if this is how the fourth season of Raising Hope would have ended if the show was renewed. After all, I can’t imagine Tambor sticking around full-time, so his crashing with the Chances would likely be only a temporary situation, perhaps Arnold even being gone by the fall premiere. That’s a shame because adding Arnold to the household gives the show a chance to really grow in a new and interesting direction, completely shaking up the firmly established dynamic. I’m not complaining about the mix, as I’ve enjoyed Raising Hope immensely, but almost all series would benefit from growth over time.
Raising Hope does allow change, usually incrementally. After all, Jimmy discovers how to be a good dad, marries Sabrina, and gets his own house in the first few seasons. This provides a lot more Virginia-Burt plots separate from the others, which works well because they are easily the two best characters on the program. But it’s never been a program that would shake things up too much, at least not in any kind of permanent way.
I’m disappointed “The Father Daughter Dance” is the last episode. Like Everybody Loves Raymond, Raising Hope decides to go out without a bang. It may work for the style established, but people want a memorable capper. The series with the best (or worst) endings are often talked about and debated for years to come. A stellar finale can raise the profile of a series significantly. By bowing out quietly, Raising Hope squanders a chance to attract even more viewers in its afterlife. And if there’s something this show has always deserved but never received, it’s more viewers.
The biggest regret about Raising Hope ending now may be that the writers didn’t have more time to explore the chemistry between Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman) and Frank (Todd Giebenhain). I don’t think their February-December relationship is romantic in nature, but we really doesn’t get the chance to figure out what it is, the twosome only being featured together a few times in the past few weeks. I am really interested to see where the show would have gone with this, but I guess we’ll never know.
Overall, I still enjoyed “The Father Daughter Dance” as much as most episodes of Raising Hope, which is a considerable amount. It’s a series that really knows itself, found its groove, and uses it effectively. Some shows flounder, but this one never does, being on very solid footing in tone, style, and sense of humor for quite some time. For those who connected with this spirit, it is a continuous joy, watching week after week, and it will be sincerely missed.