When I first saw Raising Hope I enjoyed it quite a bit and watched it on my own for a while. I find myself circling back to it now and wanted to see how things have been going for the Chance family in the lovable hamlet of Natesville. The show experienced a minor hiccup during its third season, where a show which was airing after it was cancelled early in its run. The result left the network (Fox in this case) scrambling to find a contingency, and the decision was made to air new episodes of Raising Hope back to back and shortening time the season ran by almost two months (for instance, an episode touting Mother's Day aired at the end of March).
The core of the show remained as it did in previous seasons. Jimmy (Lucas Neff) is taking care of the growing baby girl Hope with his girlfriend Sabrina (Shannon Woodward, The Riches), while balancing time with his Mom Virginia (Martha Plimpton, The Goonies) and Dad Burt (Garrett Dillahunt, No Country For Old Men), who also take care of the rambunctious and occasionally lucid Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman, Young Frankenstein). The show includes voiceover from Jimmy as he attempts to…raise Hope. Simple, right?
Note: Mild spoilers will be covered here, or at least as much as one could tread spoilers on a sitcom, so proceed accordingly.
Pretty much. The show expanded its family in recent times, enveloping Gregg Binkley (State of Play), who plays Barney the manager at the grocery store where Jimmy and Sabrina work. We also experience some more of Sabrina's family in Season Three, albeit in guest starring roles. Melanie Griffith (Working Girl) appears as Sabrina's detached and plastic surgery laden mother, who is seeing a baseball player played by Wilmer Valderrama (Larry Crowne). One would presume that Garcia's charm in talking about how pleasant the set of Hope is helped land Griffith's mother Tippi Hedren (The Birds) for a brief spot as Sabrina's grandmother. The show took some steps forward in character development, specifically (and predictably) the relationship between Jimmy and Sabrina. These moments were handled delicately and with the right note that they helped reward those who have invested the time into the family.
But Season Three had two takeaways for me that made me appreciate it more, the first being the standalone episodes that were changes of pace either in storytelling or visual style that made for delightful viewing. Sure, the season had the obligatory Halloween episode and holiday episode, but it also had one in "Arbor Daze" which found Burt dressed as a tree (though more accurately was dressed as an Army sniper), which also included a ‘Ghost of Arbor Day past' cameo with Luke Perry that was amusing. "Modern Wedding" was a wedding episode that was shot in the style of ABC's Modern Family, starting at the opening credits and including some nods to said show that made it a nice blend of comedy and heart-pulling emotion. The best of these episodes was "Burt Mitzvah," where Burt finds out from his parents (Shirley Jones and Lee Majors!) that he has some Jewish heritage, which he endorses headlong and over the course of the episode in a couple of songs with choreography that is Simpsons-esque in creativity, lyric and execution.
The other thing I was struck by in the season is there seemed to be a subtle subversiveness going through the show, almost a thumb in the face to those who were hastening the end of the show for no real reason. Sure, there were moments of clever jokes of the cast discussing their current lot in life, but for instance "Yo Zappa Do" (and to a lesser degree "Modern Wedding) were instances where the show seemed to say almost flat out ‘We are not like the other more popular shows, where some of those shows appeal to the least common denominator. We are who we are.' Garcia may have been doubly distracted as he was working on a show for CBS which has since been picked up and is seeing roughly triple the audience that Raising Hope saw in its third season. Perhaps he saw the vultures circling?
Whatever the reason, the third season of Raising Hope remains fun viewing, but you can also sense Garcia being a little more distant or perhaps the tiniest hint of dread for the future of the show now that Jimmy and Sabrina are in the next phase of their relationship. It is still quality, but you can sense that they have seen something in the tea leaves and perhaps it is not good for the future of the show.
Fox touts "all 24 episodes of Season Three" when in actuality there are only 22 which aired, with two remaining for the recently premiered fourth season. The show continues to look solid, with little in the way of image noise or artifacts and detail which is solid through the show. Edge enhancement or haloing is minimal and colors/flesh tones are replicated as faithfully as possible without any noticeable saturation problems. The source material is pristine as can be and looks good through the year.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround for everything which for this dialogue-driven sitcom is fine by me. Said dialogue is consistent through the experience and there are even scant moments of directional effects and the low end gets involved in a sequence where Burt is dancing at a men's nightclub. But said effects (along with channel panning) are hard to come by over the course of the season and is a mild disappointment. But again, considering the nature of the material there are little qualms over this.
Zero. No look at the musical episode, no look at working with a child in the show, no gag reel. Weak ass attempt, Fox.
There are one or two moments in Season Three of Raising Hope that border on transcendent, and for the most part the season remains solid without a lot of luster disappearing from the ring. But there are others that seem to think that the show will not be around this time next year (the show's fourth season is airing Friday nights at 9 which does not help matters), so they are enjoying the car ride, even as they occasionally spit at other drivers. Technically the show looks and sounds good, even if the lack of extras is a bit of a wet fart on things. Worth checking out for even new fans to the show, because there are not that many left I think.