Raising Hope -- TV Review

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In today's world of helicopter parents, it's hard to imagine a tot-in-peril plot line getting much traction. But the pervasive "what about the children" atmosphere we live in might be exactly what makes Greg Garcia's new Fox sitcom "Raising Hope" so wryly, delightfully, honestly hilarious.

The Chance family, into the laps of which 6-month old Hope lands, is more paper airplane than helicopter. New father Jimmy (Lucas Neff) works for his pool-cleaner father's business and is the kind of guy who'll make a list of his life goals ... then get distracted drawing a fantasy sketch. He's a decent guy but has zero direction and less than zero role models: Dad Burt (Garret Dillahunt) compliments Mom Virginia's (Martha Plimpton) youthful appearance: "I told you getting pregnant at 15 would pay off eventually." Meanwhile, grandmother Maw Maw (the gloriously batty Cloris Leachman) sits around in her brassiere (or less) and smooches Jimmy, believing he's her late husband.

This is a low family: Financially, morally, spiritually and just about every other way you can think. But they do what has to be done; Mom bonks a murder suspect with a television set without blinking an eye, and Jimmy readily (if ignorantly) steps up to the plate once Hope is comes into his life after a chance romantic encounter.

Garcia knows his territory, and anyone who watched his "My Name Is Earl" knows we're among the unshaven underclass with hearts of gold.

He's a master of the tossed-off joke and deadpan delivery, though he's not above puerile humor: The baby isn't the only human who projectile vomits. But there's also a sensitive side to his constant ribbing, used with a deft touch, as when Virginia lulls Hope to sleep with a lullaby that worked on little Jimmy. What's clear by pilot's end is what makes it worth coming back to -- that Hope might be a babe in the woods among the uncivilized, but she's the one most likely to lead everyone out of it alive ... and better off.

Airdate: 9-9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21 (Fox)
Production: Amigos de Garcia Prods., 20th Century Fox Television
Cast: Lucas Neff, Garret Dillahunt, Martha Plimpton, Shannon Woodward, Skyler Stone, Cloris Leachman
Executive producers: Greg Garcia, Michael Fresco
Creator-writer: Greg Garcia
Producer: Henry Lange Jr.
Director: Michael Fresco
Director of photography: Sharon Meir
Production designer: Randy Ser
Costume designer: Robin Kennedy
Casting: Dava Waite Peaslee
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