There was a charm to Raising Hope when it first aired, and it tended to retain some of that charm in the form of jabs at the network broadcasting it (Fox) when I came back to it in Season Three, but there seemed to be some writing on the wall for the show as it came to its fourth season, which I will get to in a second.
The show's creator, Greg Garcia had been responsible for in Season Three and other shows before developing Raising Hope, but I presume he felt the demands of Hope taking a toll on him, and he decided to develop The Millers. The CBS-aired show gave him the chance he needed to focus on that and depart from Hope, turning things over to Timothy Stack and Mike Mariano, who were with Garcia on the first three seasons. The show had another setback as it was moved from Tuesdays to Friday nights. The core of the show was still there in Jimmy (Lucas Neff) and Sabrina (Shannon Woodward, The Riches), along with Jimmy's parents Virginia (Martha Plimpton, The Goonies) and Burt (Garrett Dillahunt, No Country For Old Men), and his grandmother Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman, Young Frankenstein).
Note: Mild spoilers may be touched upon though nothing of any real consequence for a lame duck situation comedy. But still, avert your eyes if you wish.
The show's management turnover seemed to be reflected in how Raising Hope was unfolding in Season Four. Sure, we managed to see Virginia's father in a recurring role, played by the usually excellent Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development). But by and large, Season Four of Hope tended to lean a little too heavily on the classic sitcom format with little new wrinkles for the family to tackle with newfound vigor. The Chance family seemed to change a little bit also. The relationship between Burt and Jimmy went from goofy father who managed to share some paternal experience with his son who was raising a daughter at a young age to one where the experience was tapped and, well, they also seemed like drinking buddies in Season Four. The goofiness replaced the poignancy in Hope's last season and it paid the price…WITH ITS LIFE!
However, to the show's credit some other familiar faces guested in Season Four that helped give it some funny moments, such as Amy Sedaris playing Virginia's cousin Delilah. Novelty casting from earlier comedies helped a newer viewer of Hope get exposed to Judith Light and Shirley Jones playing Virginia's boss and Burt's mother, respectively. Which reminds me, the show tried exploring more of Burt and Virginia's respective jobs in Season Four which, let's be honest, just weren't all that funny.
The show did have a sense that the end was coming and had a finale of sorts with "How I Met Your Mullet" and "The Father Daughter Dance" as a two-part finale that not only provided some closure to the arc of Tambor's guest starring role and to the elder Chances in general, combined with a somewhat inspired guest appearance in the end. But one gets the sense that at the end of this, the Chances will just go on and be not very memorable, which is oddly enough how Raising Hope will be remembered.
It is a shame that Raising Hope followed the suit of many shows before it, starting out nicely and providing moments of unexpected emotional depth and heart. But it did not grow out of that skin very well and the result was a show that ended a tad worse than it started, for the characters and those that viewed it.The Discs:
22 episodes of Raising Hope, spread over three discs and all presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen for your eyeholes. Nevertheless, the show looks faithful to the broadcasts, appearing natural with no saturation issues or noise when reproducing the show's color palette. Flesh tones are also natural with no color pushing involved, and darker lit moments include black levels that occasionally crush but do not completely distract. It is fine viewing material.The Sound:
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround for all of the episodes which to me, sounded a tiny bit better than the third season. There may not have been low-end fidelity for the subwoofer to engage on, but it sounds like a more robust soundtrack, with more directional effects involved and channel panning to boot. For a sitcom it is not consistent but it was noticeable in how active it was, going against my memories of the third season discs. Dialogue is also consistent and with little worry during listening, and I was mildly surprised with how Raising Hope sounded.Extras:
Nada, otra vez.Final Thoughts:
Like most final seasons of shows (True Blood as a recent example), Raising Hope went out weakly with little of consequence in storytelling, character moments or creative challenge. Technically it looked and sounded good, even if the extras were again non-existent. For fans of Hope this is a forgettable last year and for those new to the show, just as much. I will forget about this last year, hopefully as much as Greg Garcia has.