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Raising Hope Continues to Raise the Bar

Raising Hope poster

Written by : published Friday 29th March 2013

FOX's Raising Hope completed its third season with a pair of new episodes last night, "Burt Mitzvah: The Musical" and "Mother's Day." Both are truly excellent examples of a consistently great series, and unable to choose between them, this review will cover elements of each.

In "Burt Mitzvah: The Musical," Burt's mother (Shirley Jones, The Partridge Family, The Music Man) tells her son that she's recently discovered she is Jewish, and by extension, so is he. She lays in a fitting Jewish mother guilt trip until Burt (Garret Dillahunt) agrees to have a Bar Mitzvah. However, Burt soon learns that his mom is lying, and his parents are trying to get even with all of their friends, whose children they have paid for gifts for all these years. They abscond with his money gifts, and, feeling like a disappointment for not having any celebration-worthy events of his own, he lets them.

Burt is a kind, good man. He has made some mistakes in his life, such as knocking up Virginia (Martha Plimpton) when they were only teenagers, but he takes care of his family, and has a big heart. It isn't fair that his mother and father treat him so poorly and look down on him so much, a theme also present in the second episode concerning others characters' parents. It's no wonder he tries so hard to please his parents now, but he shouldn't have to.

Burt's patience does have limits. He goes along with their scheme because of his love for them, but he also lets them know this will make them even, and not to try anything like this again. He understands and accepts his parents for who they are, but he won't be abused by them. They may still treat him like a child, but Burt is truly a man in every way that is important.

"Burt Mitzvah: The Musical" features three big musical numbers, which are definitely a high point of the series. The tunes are catchy and fun, with a host of upbeat extras dancing their way through. It all fits perfectly in tone with the series, and also adds something special that makes this episode more memorable than most. I love a musical done right, and my only complaint is that there should have been more than three songs, and that the episode should have ran an hour. I could definitely have used more.

Each member of the main cast gets to sing, including a big solo for Barney (Gregg Binkley), but the show is really stolen by Jimmy (Lucas Neff), who turns out to be quite the rocker. Add in Jones and Smash's Jason Kravits as a Rabbi, and the musical talent is quite impressive.

Part two of the season finale, "Mother's Day," finds Maw Maw's (Cloris Leachman) mother still alive at the rope old age of one hundred and four. Burt and Barney bring her back to the house, and Maw Maw and her mom resolve a grudge they've held against one another for seventy years.

I'm not a fan of Maw Maw, and while I like the idea of allowing Leachman to pull double duty in both roles, the humor in this subplot falls short. Leachman is a comic god, and being reduced to gross jokes and farts played for laughs seems beneath her. Yet, there is no arguing that she does such trivial junk with a talent and grace that should put to shame many modern day performers.

The ending, where Maw Maw's mother dies, but Maw Maw remembers the resolution, if little else, is incredibly sweet. I love that there is a peace between them, and that her mom hung around long enough for Maw Maw to make things right. It's a little bit disturbing, seeing what Maw Maw may turn into, but kudos for designing a story that deepens the character, even if the bits aren't particularly funny, in my opinion.

Even better is the plot involving the other women in the household. Hope (Baylie and Rylie Cregut) makes Sabrina (Shannon Woodward) a Mom necklace, which arouses jealousy in Virginia, who has helped raise Hope. Virginia is a grandmother, not a mother, to the toddler, and shouldn't feel left out. However, one can understand, now that Jimmy and Hope have moved out of the house, why she might be sad.

Thankfully, Sabrina not only makes things right with Virginia, but points out how she herself sees Virginia as a mother. Sabrina's own mother can't be reached (see my comments early in this article about parents), and Virginia treats Sabrina well. Virginia may not live in the same house as Sabrina and Hope, but she definitely has positive relationships with both, and that counts. Sabrina even gets Frank (Todd Giebenhain) and Shelley (Kate Micucci), the extended family that could very well be part of the main cast at some point, to help her make Virginia feel better.

Seeing how the Chance family gathers, full of love for one another, is heart-warming and moving. Not every family likes each other this much, and even if they screw up and get into trouble, they always support one another. That's why I like Raising Hope. It shows how a family should be.

Plus, it's super funny. From Barney and Burt walking through a gate where there is no fence, to singing pastrami sandwiches, to Virginia's tendency to get words wrong, there are so many fantastic little touches in these, and every, episode that keep the show amusing and round out the world. Make no mistake, Raising Hope isn't just a family, it's a fully flesh out, very specific universe in which these characters dwell. It's charm is rarely matched.

Raising Hope has been renewed for a fourth season and will return next fall on FOX.

About the author JeromeWetzelTV

JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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