Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fox Fall Pilot Review: Raising Hope - Premieres September 21

Raising Hope

Raising Hope - Tuesdays 9:00PM ET/PT on FOX
Premieres Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 9:00PM ET/PT

RAISING HOPE is a new single-camera family comedy from Emmy Award winner Greg Garcia that follows the Chance family as they find themselves adding an unexpected new member into their household.

At 23 years old, JIMMY CHANCE (Lucas Neff) is going nowhere in life. He skims pools for a living, parties every night and still lives at home with his family, including his MAW MAW (Cloris Leachman); his mother, VIRGINIA (Martha Plimpton) and his father, BURT (Garret Dillahunt).

Jimmy’s life takes a drastic turn when a chance romantic encounter with LUCY (guest star Bijou Phillips) goes awry once he discovers she is a wanted felon. Months later, when Jimmy pays a visit to the local prison, he learns Lucy is pregnant with their baby, and after she gives birth, he is charged with raising their daughter.

Back at home, Jimmy’s family is less than enthusiastic about a new addition to the household. His parents, who had him when they were 15, never knew anything about raising a child and have no interest in trying again. Jimmy may be able to get some help from SABRINA (Shannon Woodward), a sardonic checkout clerk he met at the supermarket if only he can work up the nerve to ask her out. Despite it all, Jimmy is determined to take care of his baby – whom Virginia thinks they should name HOPE.

With very few useful skills but their hearts in the right place, will the Chance family be successful when they step into the unpredictable and immensely challenging world of parenting?

RAISING HOPE is produced by Amigos de Garcia Productions in association with 20th Century Fox Television. The pilot was written by Greg Garcia and directed by Michael Fresco. Garcia serves as executive producer on the series.

Cast Details:

* Lucas Neff as Jimmy Chance
* Martha Plimpton as Virginia Chance
* Garret Dillahunt as Burt Chance
* Shannon Woodward as Sabrina
* Cloris Leachman as Maw Maw
* Skyler Stone as Mike

Lucas Neff's (Jimmy Chance) acting career began as an accident when his application at the University of Illinois was misprocessed and they assigned him to the performing arts department by mistake. After graduating from college, he went on to study at the School at Steppenwolf.
Neff's theater credits include Jon, Talk Radio, Honest and Hamlet. He recently completed shooting John Sayles' Amigo with Chris Cooper.

Multi-talented Martha Plimpton (Virginia Chance) has achieved success on stage, screen, and television. She made her film debut in Alan J. Pakula's Rollover and went on to star in over 30 films, including The Goonies, The Mosquito Coast, Running on Empty, Beautiful Girls, Parenthood, 200 Cigarettes and Pecker.

Plimpton most recently starred in her one-woman cabaret act at Lincoln Center to critical acclaim and sold-out audiences. Prior to that, she starred opposite Stockard Channing in Pal Joey for the Roundabout Theater Company. The performance garnered her a third Tony Award nomination, a Drama League Award nomination and a Drama Desk Nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. In 2008, Plimpton starred in Top Girls for the Manhattan Theatre Club opposite Marisa Tomei, which resulted in Tony and Drama League nominations. As a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts Award.

Plimpton's memorable television appearances include The Good Wife, a recurring role on How To Make It In America and Law & Order: SVU, which garnered her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.

Garret Dillahunt (Burt Chance) recently completed work on John Sayles' Amigo and Ryan Redford's directorial debut, Oliver Sherman, playing the title role opposite Molly Parker and Donal Logue. This summer he can be seen in Winter's Bone, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, as well as the thriller Burning Bright opposite Brianna Evigan. His additional film credits include The Road with Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron, Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left, the Academy Award-nominated The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and the Coen Brothers Oscar-winning drama No Country For Old Men opposite Tommy Lee Jones.

Dillahunt is probably best known for his work on the critically acclaimed cable series Deadwood, in which he portrayed two entirely different characters: the assassin "Jack McCall" and the complex and deadly "Francis Wolcott." After recognizing Dillahunt's talent in his first incarnation, executive producer/writer David Milch created a second character for him. Additional television credits include Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, John From Cincinnati, The Book of Daniel, ER, The 4400, Damages, Life, Lie to Me, Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, Burn Notice and White Collar.

Shannon Woodward (Sabrina) hails from Boca Raton, FL, and Austin, TX. The 25-year-old's television credits include guest-starring roles on ER, Criminal Minds, Law & Order: SVU, Psych, Cold Case, Without a Trace, Crossing Jordan and Grounded for Life. Woodward was a series regular on The Riches.

Her film credits include Man of the House and The Comebacks, as well as independent films Girlfriend, The Shortcut, The Haunting of Molly Hartley and The Quiet.

Pilot Plot:

#1 "Pilot" (Airs September 21)
When well-meaning 23 year-old Jimmy Chance has a one-night stand with a wanted felon (guest star Bijou Phillips), he ends up with a brand-new baby girl. Inspired to do the right thing by his daughter he has to convince his less than enthusiastic parents and great grandmother Maw Maw (guest star Cloris Leachman) to help him raise her.
Directed by Michael Fresco
Written by Greg Garcia
Guest Stars: Cloris Leachman as Maw Maw, Bijou Phillips as Lucy, Ben Bagley as Newscaster, Gregg Binkley as Barney, Alycia L. Cooper as Dana, Kelly Heyer as Young Virginia (note that the guest stars weren't listed on the screener pilot - credits are from the IMDB and may be incomplete)

Analysis:

The opening scene begins with Jimmy and his cousin Mike skimming a pool. Jimmy's boss and father, Burt, rides on a lawnmower and blows some leaves back into the pool. Jimmy promptly quits the job. Jimmy says hello to his mom who goes to her housecleaning job. While "Chelsea Dagger" by The Fratellis (the Chicago Blackhawks goal song) plays in the background, Jimmy makes his life plan. The family has dinner together and discover they are out of bubblegum ice cream. Jimmy is the odd man out and picks up a frantic Lucy in his van on his way home from getting the ice cream. After a one-night stand, she meets the family the next morning. Everybody is shocked to watch a news report on TV that says Lucy is wanted in connection with a series of murders. Eight months later, Mike goes to the local prison and finds out that Lucy is pregnant. After she gives birth, he brings the baby, known as Princess Beyonce, home. Jimmy later pushes a shopping cart with the baby to go to a pawn shop to get a car seat. He meets Sabrina in the parking lot at the local grocery store. The shopping cart is stolen at the pawn shop, so Virginia drives him back. There is a flashback scene with a young Virginia and Jimmy in a car in a unbuckled car set. Jimmy goes to the grocery store to get some baby food and meets Sabrina again. Later, Jimmy changes the baby's diaper and he and Virginia have a bad experience. When the baby cries that night, Virginia sings a song to get her to sleep. Virginia later suggests that they name the baby Hope.

This single-camera comedy pilot is very funny and entertaining. It's shot like a mini-movie. There are many different scenes and shooting locations. The only sets appear to be the interior of the Chance family house and the grocery store. All of the other scenes appear to be shot at real locations. This is a very edgy and dark comedy. Some may find some of it to be tasteless, rude and crude, but I think it fits perfectly on Fox. I couldn't imagine this on another network. There's also a certain amount of warmth and sweetness to it. This blue-collar comedy is similar to one of creator Greg Garcia's earlier projects, My Name Is Earl. Like Earl, quite a few songs and flashbacks are used in the pilot.

There really isn't anything that I didn't like about the pilot. It sets up the characters and premise of the series nicely. It will be interesting to see who they bring in to play some quirky recurring characters in future episodes. Bijou Phillips will be brought back for at least one more episode. Cloris Leachman is listed as a guest star for the pilot. Her role is pretty small as the senile grandmother, but she makes the most out of her limited screen time and lines. The show could use a little less of her shirtless, however.

Conclusion:

Raising Hope appears to be one of the most promising new comedies this season. I'm usually not a big fan of single-camera comedies, but this one is set up the right way. I was a big fan of Greg Garcia's My Name Is Earl and this show has a bit of the same feel to it. Those episodes were shot like mini-movies with many different scenes per episode. They also used quite a few songs and flashback scenes, just like the Raising Hope pilot episode. Lucas Neff, as the young dad Jimmy, could be one of the breakout stars of the fall TV season. He seems to be a unknown with only a handful of film and TV credits. There isn't even a Wikipedia page for him yet. He does an excellent job in the pilot and is surrounded by an experienced ensemble cast. It's nice to see Martha Plimpton as a regular in a TV series. She has had a number of film and TV guest star appearances over the years, but this is her first lead role on a weekly series.

This will be a new show to watch this season. I've seen it listed on many critic's top new shows this fall. Fox really hasn't had a great live-action comedy since Arrested Development ended, but this should fill the void and end their drought. It faces some tough competion against the Dancing with the Stars Results show, NCIS: LA and the second hour of The Biggest Loser. I don't think it will generate great ratings, but this is a show that should be popular with DVR users and for people who watch shows online at the official sites. Tune in amd meet the Chance family on Fox on Tuesday nights at 9 ET/PT.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4.5/5
Funniness: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 09/19/10

Discuss the show after you watch it on Tuesday, September 21 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • Fox.com Official Site

  • TV.com

  • epguides.com

  • Internet Movie Database

  • Wikipedia

  • Raising Hope Photo Gallery


  • Preview:


    Our normal weekly ratings report will be back next week. We will be bringing you pilot reviews over the next few days. Here is the schedule:

    Friday, September 17: Mike & Molly, CBS (premieres Monday, Sept. 20)
    Sunday, September 19: Raising Hope, Fox (premieres Tuesday, Sept. 21)
    Monday, September 20: Running Wilde, Fox (premieres Tuesday, Sept. 21)
    Tuesday, September 21: Better With You, ABC (premieres Wednesday, Sept. 22)
    Wednesday, September 22: $#*! (Bleep) My Dad Says, CBS (premieres Thursday, Sept. 23)
    Thursday, September 23: Outsourced, NBC (premieres Thursday, Sept. 23)


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