Raising Hope: 10 Episodes to Watch
The beloved show, Raising Hope sadly ended on April 4th, 2014 after four years. Created by Greg Garcia, Raising Hope follows the eccentric Chance family. After a one-night stand with a wanted serial killer, Jimmy Chance finds new meaning after he’s left with custody of his newborn child. Believing that raising the child will provide him with a meaningful life, Jimmy, along with the help of his parents, Virginia and Burt, his senile great-grandmother, Maw Maw, and love interest Sabrina Collins, does his best to support his daughter Hope.
The show also includes an old cast of friends that help Jimmy: Barney, the manager of Howdy’s grocery store; Frank, a fellow co-worker from Howdy’s; and lastly, Shelly, the owner of Hope’s daycare that also doubles as a doggy daycare. The show takes place in the town of Natesville and often features references and guest stars from Garcia’s other show My Name is Earl.
After three years, Greg Garcia left as showrunner and was replaced by Mike Mariano, who served as an executive producer and frequent writer. Arguably, after Garcia’s departure, the episodes were not as memorable as before; therefore the list of recommended episodes below addresses seasons 1-3 Throughout its 4 year run, Raising Hope produced a total of 88 episodes.
10. Toy Story
It’s Christmas in Natesville! Burt plans to sell the hottest toy, promising Jimmy that he’ll save one of the toys for Hope. When Jimmy was a kid, Burt would receive the season’s hottest toy, selling them for money, and leaving Jimmy disappointed and without any toys. Meanwhile, Virginia wants the family to participate in the Nativity scene where donations collected at the living nativity scene will be used to repair the church organ; however, the church committee selects another family, arguing that Hope will scare people away being the daughter of a serial killer. Therefore, Virginia decides to set up her own manger.
9. Happy Halloween (Season 1, episode 5)
The episode opens up with Jimmy reflecting his dislike towards Halloween. When he was little, a man in the mask ruined his Halloween, scaring him and causing him to run him to his dad. For the next few years, the man in the mask continues to surprise Jimmy; however, Jimmy learns that his father was the man in the mask. According to Burt, the reason for terrorizing Jimmy was “for the hugs.” Meanwhile, after Sabrina gets into an argument with her boyfriend, Jimmy offers to take his place and attend the party with her.
8. Mrs. Smartypants (Season 2, episode 11)
The episode opens with Jimmy arriving home from work to discover that Hope successfully mastered an educational toy, the same toy that Jimmy failed to conquer as a young child. Feeling that Hope will eventually become smarter than him, Jimmy decides to enroll in night school and earn his GED. Eventually, Burt and Virginia follow suit for the fear of becoming “the dumb one” in the family. Unfortunately, their instructor is the same teacher present on the day each of these characters dropped out of school. It soon becomes clear to Jimmy, Burt, and Virginia that they will have to receive extra help outside of class; therefore, Sabrina tutors Jimmy on math and science, Maw Maw helps Virginia on history, and Frank, of all people, tutors Burt on literature. The sequence where the Chance family all receive help is funny and amusing, and ultimately shows how much everyone wants to see them succeed.
7. If a Ham Falls in the Woods (Season 3, episode 4)
Season 3 opens with the death of Sabrina’s grandmother, and she bequeaths Sabrina with her house, which leads Sabrina and Jimmy to plan to get married; however, they only get the house if Jimmy and Sabrina get married in the family church. In If a Ham Falls in the Woods, before Jimmy and Sabrina can get married, they attend a couples retreat where chaos ensues. Attending the retreat are Sabrina and Jimmy, Burt and Virginia, and Sabrina’s mother and her boyfriend-turned-fiancé. The retreat encourages a little competition between each couple, where it appears that Jimmy and Sabrina know nothing about each other.
6. Don’t Vote for This Episode (Season 1, episode 22)
Don’t Vote for this Episode is the season finale from season 1. Essentially, this episode is an origin story, where Maw Maw is lucid, Sabrina beginning her job at Howdy’s grocery store, and Jimmy is 18 and goes by the name Drakkar Noir, his alias from his Goth phase. Having had enough of their laziness, Maw Maw kicks Virginia, Burt, and Drakkar Noir out of her house. The Chance family attempt to survive on their own. While Burt and Virginia succeed on taking care of themselves, they move back into Maw Maw’s house after discovering that she’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly enough, the episode also features the origin story of Hope’s biological mother, Lucy, before she became a serial killer.
5. Burt Mitzvah-The Musical (Season 3, episode 21)
One of the most random and absurd episodes that shouldn’t be missed! Burt’s parents are in town and Burt’s mother relays the news that she’s Jewish; therefore, according to tradition, Burt is also Jewish. This revelation prompts Burt to prepare for his bar mitzvah. The first song occurs when Jimmy and Burt visit a deli shop and are educated on Jewish heritage. The second number occurs at Howdy’s as Barney provides Virginia with a history lesson of the chosen people. For the third and final song, Jimmy encourages Burt to follow through the ceremony. Filled with vibrant and lively songs, Burt Mitzvah-The Musical takes pleasure in ethnic humor and has fun ridiculing musicals.
4. Sabrina Has Money (Season 2, episode 2)
This episode allows not only the audience but also Jimmy to see Sabrina under a new light. The episode begins with Burt cleaning his rich client’s pool, only to discover a photograph of his client and his daughter, Sabrina. After learning that Sabrina comes from a wealthy family, the Chance family attempt to take this opportunity to their advantage. When Sabrina’s father invites Jimmy and Hope to a party, Sabrina is hesitant, wanting nothing to do with her snobby friends. This is episode centers mostly on Sabrina. Prior to this episode, we, the audience, see Sabrina as quirky and confident; however, this episode sheds light into Sabrina’s insecurities.
3. Mother’s Day (Season 3, episode 22)
The Chance family are spending Mother’s Day together. As Sabrina tries to locate her mother and wish her a happy mother’s day, Virginia becomes jealous of Sabrina after learning she gets Hope’s gift, a necklace that says ‘Mom.’ Meanwhile, Burt and Barney visit Maw-Maw’s childhood home and realize that Maw-Maw’s mother is still alive. This episode proves emotional and heartwarming, allowing Maw Maw and her mother to make amends and for Sabrina to show Virginia that she is a better mother to her than her own mother.
2. Jimmy’s Fake Girlfriend (Season 2, episode 14)
In this episode, Jimmy decides to take action upon hearing the news of Sabrina’s engagement to her long-time boyfriend, Wyatt. His parents advise that he makes Sabrina jealous; therefore, Jimmy hires an aspiring actress, Mary-Louise, to pretend to be his girlfriend. The plan essentially allows Jimmy, as well as the audience, to bring out Sabrina’s true feelings for Jimmy to light; thereby, allowing Jimmy to prove what a good boyfriend he can be to Sabrina. Towards the end of the episode, with the help of his friends and family, Jimmy puts together a short play that depicts highlights of their relationship. This scene is truly sweet and adorable: the play serves as a love letter to Jimmy from Sabrina.
1. The Pilot
The Pilot introduces the Chance family: Jimmy and his cousin work for Burt and his lawn mowing business while Virginia works as maid. On an errand to pick up bubblegum ice cream, Jimmy encounters Lucy, a wanted serial killer, running away from her boyfriend. Their one-night stand results with Lucy pregnant. After Lucy is convicted and murdered for her crimes, Jimmy receives custody of his child. Although Jimmy faces obstacles that convince his family that he is way over his head, Jimmy finds his life worth living because of Hope. Finally, the Pilot shows how Hope changes the Chance family and Jimmy promises to give Hope the best chance.
The Father Daughter Dance served as the series finale for Raising Hope. Jeffrey Tambor returns as Virginia’s estranged father. He returns to Natesville and explains to Virginia that he met someone and want her to organize and plan his wedding. It turns out, however, that her father lied only so that Virginia and Burt could renew their vows and receive the wedding of their dreams.
Although the series was short-lived, Raising Hope allowed audiences to get to know the Chance family and making us laugh throughout its duration. What made the sitcom interesting was focusing on a working class family and their attempts to rise above. It’s easy to make fun of the characters for their lack of money and education, but what remains important to the Chance family is their love for one another.
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