Raising Hope

Doing goofy comedy with lower-class characters requires riding a tricky line; it’s easy to slip from showing a lovable bunch of losers to  elitist sneering at the powerless. My Name is Earl somehow managed to spend most of its time on the funny-rather-than-just-cruel side of that line; perhaps it was because we were able to find things to root for in most of the characters.

The new Raising Hope, from the creator of Earl, starts out on the wrong side of that line. It tells the tale of a family of quirky-but-n0t-lovable losers, with a new baby that is unexpectedly brought into the family, in the primary custody of the least quirky, least loserish of the batch. The cast has a few respectable folks in it – Cloris Leachman as the conveniently senile oldster leaves me with the feeling that she really wishes she had Betty White’s carer, while Martha Plimpton as the newborn’s young grandmother gave me the reaction of “Martha Plimpton? In this??” for its odd fit with what she’s done in the past… followed by the realization that I’d not seen anything with her in a long time. But the characters in the family and out (mainly, a retail worker that the young dad has a thing for) are neither sufficiently interesting to excuse their lack of lovability nor sufficiently lovable to excuse their lack of interestosity.

But sandwiched within the desperate character stuff are moments, moments where the material work. There were a number of out-loud laughs generated by the episode, such as when the baby bounces around in the back seat of a car, due to dad being wise enough to know he needed a baby seat but not enough to know that the seat has to be buckled in. It’s just a happy bonce in the back seat. But that very gag points to a reason why it may not be watched in the Nat’s TV household; Mrs. Nat’s TV flinches at any humor derived from babies at risk. (In some ways, it’s a good trait to have in the mother of one’s children.)

Is it good enough? No. Is it rescuable? possibly.

Published in: on September 23, 2010 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

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