Everyone (L-R: guest star Kate Micucci, guest star Ray Santiago, Shannon Woodward, guest star Jermaine Williams, Lucas Neff, guest star Skylar Stone, guest star Todd Giebenhain, Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt) gathers in a season 1 episode of Raising Hope.
Everyone (L-R: guest star Kate Micucci, guest star Ray Santiago, Shannon Woodward, guest star Jermaine Williams, Lucas Neff, guest star Skylar Stone, guest star Todd Giebenhain, Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt) gathers in a season 1 episode of Raising Hope. Isabella Vosmikova/Fox
In this week of sitcom debuts, most of the attention will be focused on new girls and broke girls and girls named Whitney, but tonight, let's make time to watch the second season premiere of Raising Hope, the little-seen but largely-awesome comedy on Fox.
In case you've never seen it, here are three reasons to give Raising Hope your time, complete with clips that will surprise and delight you.
(1) The Tone is a Tasty Smorgasbord
Raising Hope blends the outre irony of Community, the blue-collar sensibility of Roseanne, and the love-through-slapstick generosity of Modern Family. All three elements are apparent in the show's premise: Twentysomething Jimmy Chance (Lucas Neff) gets a woman pregnant, then raises their baby after mommy gets executed for being a serial killer. Hey-ohhhh! This is hard on his working-class family — mom's a maid and dad cleans pools — but they bumble through because even though they're loopy, they love each other. Awww!
Granted, things sometimes fall apart.
The Chances live with Jimmy's great-grandmother (Cloris Leachman), for instance, and her dementia is typically played for laughs ... even though it's not funny when a helpless old lady can't remember what year it is. Some episodes also push too hard to be zany, serving us thirty minutes about a cult that lives in a Winnebago.
But when the tone clicks, the show is both ridiculous and moving, like in this late-season episode where the family tries to sleep-train the baby by refusing to coddle her when she cries.
By the spring, most of the episodes were like this one: weird, funny, and charming. God willing, Season 2 will keep it up.
(2) Martha Plimpton Slays it Every Week
Martha Plimpton deserved her Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy. Virginia Chance (Jimmy's mom) is constantly torn between loving her life and fearing she's not classy enough, and Plimpton's timing and sweetness make that conflict relatable. When Virginia does break out of her routine, Plimpton lets you taste her delight, like in this scene where Virginia learns how to flirt with strangers.
(3) Burt Chance Is the Anti Man-Child
New series like Last Man Standing and Man Up! cater to dudes who feel threatened by the feminizing influence of personal grooming, paternal responsibility, and powerful women. That attitude is disappointing, and Burt Chance, Virginia's husband and Jimmy's dad, proves that it's not even necessary.
As much as any father in sitcom history, Burt (Garret Dillahunt) is in touch with his feminine side — or, rather, he's not concerned about proving his masculinity. Instead of worrying that his wife is going to force him to wear earrings (or some such thing), he gets anxious that his son is too old to hug him. Because he's emotionally open — and because Dillahunt plays him as a golden-hearted doofus — he's easy to root for.
The show roots for Burt, too. Nobody mocks him for being a girly-man or an idiot, which is the usual "corrective" for a character like this, and that allows for touching scenes like this one, after Burt runs away from a vasectomy appointment.
A less generous series would tease Burt for feeling this way, but Raising Hope creates comedy by taking him seriously.
It's easy at this time of year to focus so much on new shows that you lose track of existing shows you might have missed when they first showed up. If Raising Hope is on that list for you, make time for two episodes tonight at 9:00 and 9:30 on Fox, and see whether it will make you nostalgic for Fall 2010.
Mark Blankenship is on Twitter as @CritCondition.