Even though I was a mistake, I'm a mistake my parents would gladly make again. And that is something you and I definitely have in common. I couldn't have planned how you came to me in a million years, but I always want you to know that you're the best thing that has ever happened to me.
- Jimmy, to Hope
A series by Greg Garcia, the creator of My Name Is Earl.Jimmy Chance is a 23-year-old slacker with not a lot of prospects. He works for his father Burt, grooming lawns and cleaning out pools. His mother Virginia works as a maid. His delirious great-grandmother Maw Maw lives with them and sometimes believes he's her old dead husband. He realizes how mediocre his life is and starts desperately searching for his place in the world.While on a snack run he meets a young woman, Lucy, who he thinks he rescues from an abusive boyfriend. He thinks it's fate and they hook up in his van that night. The next morning it turns out Lucy is a serial killer (who kills her boyfriends, natch) and is subsequently arrested. Months later, she informs Jimmy that she is actually pregnant with his child and hopes that will keep the state from giving her the death sentence. It doesn't work and as she gets the electric chair Jimmy finds himself a single dad with a baby girl named Princess Beyonce.His home life is barely functioning as is and his parents encourage him to leave the baby outside the fire department. Recognizing this is a chance to do something decent with his life, Jimmy renames his daughter Hope and is determined to raise her himself. With a little help from his family and the cute girl at the local grocery store, Sabrina, Jimmy finally has something to look forward to.Fox announced during the fourth seasons runs that the show wouldn't be renewed for a fifth season.
This series provides examples of:
Absurdly Youthful Mother: Virginia was 15 and Burt was 17 when Jimmy was born. The show mines A LOT of humor out of the fact they look and act like his older siblings rather than his parents.
All Jews Are Ashkenazi: When Burt goes to a deli with Jimmy to find out what it means to be Jewish, they all burst into song detailing stereotypes about Jews and their cultural features, all of which refer specifically to Eastern European Jewish Americans.
Alpha Bitch: Virginia's cousin Delilah, when they were young. As an adult, she's a Rich Bitch who isn't actually that rich.
Ascended Extra: Barney was a minor character just adding some flavor to Sabrina's boredom working in the grocery store. Once Jimmy starts working there too he becomes a bit of a parental figure, eventually becoming part of the main cast in season two.
And of course Jimmy and Lucy, resulting in Hope and sparking the series.
Baby Trap: Inverted and played sympathetically. Burt poked a hole in a condom, as to purposely knock Virginia up, since he thought she was out of his league. By the time she finds out, she can't get upset about it because she's pretty happy with the end result.
Book Dumb: The Chance family is very impressed when Lucy is able to correctly pronounce Mahmoud Ahmedija...ahmejid...that guy from Iran's name. This probably applies to everyone in the family except Maw Maw, whose lucid moments strongly suggest she's read more books than the rest of the family combined.
Brain Bleach: "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go to the bathroom and wash my eyes."
Maw-Maw "going French" for the non-existant swimsuit part of a Grandmother-Granddaughter pageant (which had already been decided) results in Virginia covering her eyes and Burt pouring hot sauce into his.
Call Back: After Virginia writes "DORK" across Jimmy's face to deter him from talking with Sabrina, she offers to use makeup to cover it up. Jimmy says that he tried makeup and it makes him look like a dork. During his goth phase (which was shown in a flashback), Jimmy wore heavy makeup. See Unrequited Love Switcheroo for the implications.
The Cameo: Jimmy and Christine appears as owners of Burt's and Virginia's sex tape. They even mention Dominic and Logan. The previous episode also featured Mr. Savitsky being pitched a script. In another episode Filthy Phil appears, wearing his kutte.
The Cast Showoff: More of a guest-star showoff, but if Kate Miccuci is in an episode, she'll likely be singing and playing the ukelele.
Cerebus Syndrome: A recurring theme of the show is that a lot of the quirks of the family are rooted in something a little more serious, although often heartwarming as well. One is that the Chance's seem to be mooching off Maw Maw and taking advantage of her dementia, when it is actually revealed they had the opportunity to live on their own but stuck around because they knew Maw Maw needed help and owed her for the time when they were mooching off her. Another is the fact they celebrated all of the minor holidays (President's Day, Groundhog's Day, Arbor Day) with the same excitement as Christmas. Sabrina later realized they did it so that Jimmy felt special on those days because he wouldn't get the fancy gifts on Christmas.
Characterization Marches On: Maw Maw in the first few episodes was a lot more impossible to reason with, oblivious to everything else and her lucid moments being a very rare thing. Afterwards she is more of a straight forward Cloud Cuckoolander, being able to hold a conversation and going in and out of awareness on a regular basis.
Sabrina had a very dry personality for most of the first season, having an understated wit. When she becomes better friends with Jimmy we see her with a bit more spunk. Interestingly, in the second season it's revealed she was taking mood stabilizers, keeping some of her more outlandish quirks under control. Jimmy noted that going off them didn't overtly change her personality, if anything it enhances it.
Chekhov's Skill: In episode three, Maw Maw plays Jenga really well while listening to "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and later in the episode is able to use that to rescue Hope from a garage full of stuff Virginia hoarded.
Jimmy's talents in art were shown in the first episode. The first season also has Sabrina taking a creative writing class and really enjoying it. In the fourth season they get the idea to work on a children's book together, Jimmy drawing the pictures for the story Sabrina writes.
Continuity Nod: "Sex, Clown and Videotape" had Burt and Virginia go searching for the sex tape they had mentioned losing in "If A Ham Falls in the Woods".
In "Sleep Training", a flashback reveals that Jimmy was once approached by door-to-door Mormon missionaries. In "It's a Hopeful Life" Jimmy signs away the rights to the story of how Hope was born for a beach ball, to which Virginia scolds him for answering the door.
Virginia: Dammit, Jimmy! We told you not to answer the door anymore after what happened with those Mormons.
This happens quite a bit. For example, in the pilot episode, Jimmy's cousin joins a cult, and a later episode deals with his polygamous cult marriage. Jimmy mentions being allergic to fruit and in a later episode they reveal he's not (a plot point). And Virginia's rich cousin is mentioned many episodes before she appears. And so on.
There has been a poster for a My Name is Earl movie in one episode. The penultimate episode of season 2 also had a commercial appear for the TV show. Also, in the first episode, after the news report about Lucy being a serial killer, the news anchor begins to do a lighter side story about how "A small-time crook with a long list of wrongs he was making amends for has finally finished, and you'll never guess how it ended!"
One with Yes Dear in the episode "Sex, Clown, and Videotape", where Burt and Virginia find out their sex tape was bought by Jimmy and Christine.
When lucid, Maw Maw is the biggest one in the show.
Did Not Die That Way: Virginia was raised by her grandmother, Maw Maw. Maw Maw told Virginia that her mother had died doing something with a plastic bag on her head, was attacked by bees, and as a result fell over, hitting her head on a lawn ornament and suffocating. Virginia believed this until she was an adult, when she learned that her mother simply had not wanted to raise a baby and had left her.
Don't Explain the Joke: A variation happens when Burt reveals he would play up the fanservice at work with his shirt off (a proud tradition of all pool boys) while flirting with his customers. When Virginia finds out she is upset, forcing him to tell those women he can't play that game anymore. Virginia eventually agrees it is harmless and Burt tries going back to the fanservice, but actually talking about the unspoken game ruined it for both of them.
Dude, Where's My Respect?: A variation happens when Sabrina formally adopts Hope. She was expecting a little more fanfare along with an official family portrait, but the clerk was very apathetic and just stamped the papers and handed them back to her. This, in addition to feeling left out when talking with mothers of their biological children, leads Jimmy to organize a "rebirthing" experience.
Dumb Blonde: Lucy. She thought being seven months pregnant would let her get out of being executednote It didn't.. And in the season 2 final, after gaining full custody of Hope and Jimmy, she chased Sabrina with a knife, intend on killing her and getting run over by Smoky Floyd's busnote And even if she hadn't, she might have gotten arrested for attempted murder and lost custody of Hope.
Dysfunctional Family: Oddly enough, subverted with the Chances. They have all the trappings of having a really screwed up life and some interesting personalities, but they actually support and care for each other better than most families. In a season one episode they tried teaching each other how to do the others role in the household and things fell apart because they tried to be independent rather than help each other, which had them learning that their previous method actually worked.
Epunymous Title: Raising Hope is about raising a baby... named Hope. The original title was Keep Hope Alive but Raising Hope was ultimately decided to have more positive upbeat connotations.
Ethnic Menial Labor: Except for Virginia, all the other maids shown are presumably of Hispanic origin. This is used for a throwaway joke when one of them remarks (in Spanish): "I read in Newsweek that in 2028, we are going to outnumber these people."
Subverted a bit in the sense that Virginia has worked there for years and is still on the bottom rung.
Faking the Dead: Lucy is revealed to still be alive near the end of season two.
Family of Choice: Sabrina does not have a good relationship with her own parents and grows close to the Chance family because they are more caring and nurturing than anything she had at home. While she does marry into the family, the third Season Finale has her confessing to Virginia that she has been more of a mother than her real mom, who couldn't be bothered with a Mother's Day phone call.
The ending, though, implies Sabrina never knew her and the guard does that with pretty much everybody.
Friends Rent Control: Justified before the set became a regular location. Jimmy and Sabrina's spacious house was left to Sabrina by her departed grandmother, with the stipulation that she has to be married to live there. This, in turn, sped up their relationship timetable to get married because they would get that bonus, plus much better schools for Hope. It's not quite a mansion but it is much better than two grocery store clerks would be able to afford otherwise. note Although realistically there is still property tax and inheritance tax they would need to pay, which is why donating such things for poor people to maintain is not always the best thing in the long run.
Averted by the Chances home, where it's depicted as fairly small, old and run down. The family also works hard to barely have enough to scrape by. It's actually Maw Maw's house and they mooched off her for years before she went senile, so that also eliminates issues like rent (although property tax is still an issue). It's suggested in the first season finale that if they didn't stick around to take care of her they might be able to afford someplace better.
Funny Background Event: Twice in the season three premiere. First, Maw Maw removes the dress off the corpse of Sabrina's granny (played by Tippi Hedren). Later, when it's revealed that Sabrina's mom (Melanie Griffith) had her breast implants made into one of the artworks on the kitchen wall (the one that has two scrambled eggs), Burt starts fondling the artwork, and even puts his face on it.
The show is actually quite fond of these. In the first season, one episode features this twice.
Fun Size: Sabrina is very short and this is frequently played for comedy.
Jimmy: You're not that short. Sabrina: Jimmy, I'm wearing five inch heels. Jimmy: (looks down in surprise) I thought you looked strangely normal sized.
Gag Boobs: Sabrina sported these in the It's a Wonderful Plot episode, described as 30 pounds of silicone. It is the only thing Jimmy misses when taken back to reality.
Genius Ditz: Burt is dumb as a brick in most respects, but he often shows a high degree of emotional intelligence and insight into human nature.
Bully: I got what I really wanted, what I needed the most... a vagina.
Yes, the everlonging pervert gets a gender change.
The Little Beaver's song. The most overt part is the end which references licking little beavers but the whole song is this hidden as a quasi-girl scout song.
A Little Beaver marches without fear A Beaver's always in the front and not the rear When a Beaver's lost and cold she warms up by rubbing sticks I'll never give up because a Little Beaver can't be licked.
Good Parents: Despite all the heckling Virginia and Burt do to Jimmy, they genuinely love him and a few times even they are surprised that they raised a decent son. They also do everything they can to make sure Jimmy's wedding day goes perfectly. Which also means incapacitating a still-alive Lucy.
Jimmy and Sabrina are slowly becoming this for Hope.
Happily Adopted: Invoked by Jimmy; after finding out that his parents gave him up for adoption when they were younger, he figures he would of had a better life with them after finding out how successful his former adopted brother live since his adopted parents "tried harder" in parent raising. Too bad that if he was raised by them, he be just as racist as them.
Hope is formally adopted by Sabrina in "Adoption".
Happily Married: After some time this became one of the central tropes of the series, as instead of defining a couple by the arguments they have it defined them according to how much they care for each other and how much fun they have together. In fact, almost every argument or conflict they have is fixed by a discovery of something the other had already done, not something they did just to apologize.
Burt and Virginia are amazingly well adjusted, supportive and loving to each other considering they have been together for over twenty years. When Virginia asks Burt who'd he'd marry if she died, he expressed disgust at even looking at another woman. We learn they have only ever had sex with each other, and their current sex life is still very active. Their arguments have never gone beyond "mildly annoyed," even with all sorts of dark secrets being revealed over the years. All this is after a teenage pregnancy and neither of them graduated high school. That's saying something.
After "Modern Wedding", Jimmy and Sabrina are married and could not be happier. Most of their stories surround their efforts to make their own identity as a family by taking vacations, ironing out complications with their own history (like Sabrina not being Hope's biological mother) and learning to deal with emergencies as they show up. Sabrina especially wants to avoid the way her parents eventually despised each other.
Hypno Fool: Burt is easily entranced by hand gestures.
Idiot Savant: About half the family. When Maw-Maw is lucid, she's a great mechanic and has many other skills and piercing insight. Burt, who never finished High School, got a 1540 on his SAT. Apparently he's good at filling in bubbles.
When he was a teenager, Jimmy was a highly skilled piano player and had a beautiful singing voice...until he got nailed in the head with a putter. That Burt threw.
In the Blood: While (probably) not dangerous, Lucy's mother is delusional, while her father is a sociopathic psychiatrist who married a patient and still treats her.
It's a Wonderful Plot: Season two's Christmas Episode (aptly titled It's A Hopeful Life), in which Jimmy hallucinates what his life would be like if he hadn't had that fateful meeting with Lucy. Turns out it would be pretty bad. Played with when Jimmy realizes that this is very similar to a movie he watched...
Virginia's biological father, who made the Chances believe he wasn't around because the people of Natesville were homophobic. Maw-Maw later reveals it had nothing to do with him being gay, but the fact he was egotistical, narcissistic, and generally unpleasant to be around.
Burt's parents, who refuse to adapt to a less lavish lifestyle after spending all their money on luxuries and Lie to Burt by telling Burt him he's Jewish just so they can steal his Bat Mitzvah money.
Kissing Cousins: Burt's parents were third cousins, ones with the same last name.
Killed Off for Real: Lucy. They wrote in a story about her miraculously surviving the execution and being released from jail, only to have her be run over by a bus at the end of the episode.
Subverted. Turns out, she survived yet again but the brain damage from being hit by a bus has reverted her into a state of perpetual childhood. Lampshaded by Burt to Lucy's father: "Just keep her away from us."
Kitschy Local Commercial: The gang has to film a commercial for the store where they work. All of the sample commercials they film have elements of this.
Virginia is fascinated by a commercial using a typical "Crazy Eddy" sort of spokesman, gone horribly wrong. "I swear, if that guy doesn't actually have Tourette's, he deserves an Oscar."
Malaproper: The Chance family use these Once an Episode. Virginia will make a mistake on a word, such as "illusional" when she meant "delusional." Even Burt will join in sometimes, one example: "repulsive shopper."
"Oh no! She's got old-timer's disease!"
Lampshaded by Sabrina: "wow, that's two malaprops in a row."
Mama Bear: Virginia Chance. Especially when she has a TV at hand.
Sabrina turns into one to Hope as early as late Season 1, when she cannonballed through the ceiling to land on a shotgun-toting Maw Maw.
Milholland Relationship Moment: Happens nearly every other episode. A Central Theme of the show is that these characters make accommodations for each others quirks because they care about one another. Half the time a character comes clean before the Fawlty Towers Plot can unravel because they realize even if successful the lie itself would eat them up. Along the way the other person ends up appreciating the honesty more than being offended over the deception.
Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Lucy's father. He's a psychiatrist, Lucy's mother was a patient of his, and they did kidnap Hope twice but did go to jail for it. In "Modern Wedding", he's been released on good behavior, but his wife is still in jail and he had to smuggle a still-alive but heavily brain-damaged Lucy home and spends most of his time caring for her. He genuinely loves his psychotic daughter, but has questionable methods of reining her in.
Never My Fault: Jimmy. He blames his parents' for not having a higher education, having a successful career or making his own decision in life. While yes Virginia and Burt's parenting were questionable, they are not entirely at fault for Jimmy current life.
Rear Window Witness: "Murder, She Hoped" is an homage to Rear Window, with a wheelchair-bound Burt and Virginia, who is dressed like Grace Kelly, investigating their backyard neighbor's murder of his wife.
Reunion Show: Somewhere between this and a Fully Absorbed Finale with a healthy dose of Expy involved. The episode "Making the Band" had every main actor from My Name Is Earl, most of whom had minor roles in other episodes on Raising Hope already. It was a constant stream of familiar Catch Phrases and references to the show, adjusted to fit their new characters (Jason Lee's character Smokey made a list of everyone he hurt and is trying to make up for it, Ethan Suplee's character Andrew calls Smokey "Brother" in the slang term, etc). When Smokey first shows up the Earl theme song blares almost as a Theme Music Power-Up.
Rich Bitch: Virginia sees her cousin Delila this way.
Sabrina wants so hard not to be one because her dislike of her father's lifestyle (there are hints of Parental Abandonment in her backstory), that she almost becomes one only to rich people. Her massive insecurity issues turn her into an incredibly rude and insulting person when around her rich friends.
Running Gag: A ton, starting with Burt's problem not thinking of the word "think." Also, Dancin' Dan.
Service Sector Stereotypes: Subverted, Virginia is a maid, Burt a gardener, and Jimmy a former pool cleaner, but they get by (well, just about).
Shared Universe: Zig-zagged. We have seen a few characters from My Name Is Earl (most prominently one appearance from Patty the daytime hooker) and there are frequent references to other characters and Camden, but there are a few moments that say the TV show My Name Is Earl exists in this world as well. The humor and characters are similar in tone (although this show is slightly more sedated), but it also doesn't help that many of the same actors have notable parts in this show, including a pseudo Reunion Show featuring those characters taking on similar roles to Earl.
Shotgun Wedding: A Generation Xerox joke. Maw Maw apparently married her husband after what was technically a date rape, Burt and Virginia were teenagers (17 and 15) when Jimmy was born and we learned later that during the Time Skip in the pilot that Jimmy and Lucy got married. To continue the joke, Jimmy and Sabrina have something similar happen but not with pregnancy, Sabrina's grandma left a nice suburban house to her but she could only live there if she was married. They had only been dating about 8 months tops, but with such a nice perk they accelerated their schedule.
Burt and Virginia write their live on their own plan on a bag from "Chubby's Burgers" one of the many businesses owned by Richard Chubby (and later Little Chubby) from My Name Is Earl
In the season finale, in a flashback, Jim watches one of Ernie Belcher's fetish videos (the one where Joy repeatedly kicks a guy in the groin) from the two-parter "Inside Probe" of My Name Is Earl.
During "Prodigy" Burt and Virginia note the similarities to an episode of Family Guy, because Jimmy can only play the piano when he's drunk. Except for the final twist that his music only sounds good to drunk people.
The penultimate episode of season 2 features the return of "Inside Probe" from My Name Is Earl, but paradoxically, one of the commercial breaks has an advertisement for the My Name Is Earl TV show.
The retirement home that Maw Maw is sent to temporarily is the Earl J Hickey Memorial Retirement Home, and it is on Camden Avenue.
"Candy Wars" is pretty much an entire-episode shout out to mob movies, particularly The Godfather and Scarface. Complete with the horse head in bed scene(Godfather) and the chainsaw shower scene (Scarface).
"Squeak Means Squeak" has a character wearing a Sons of Anarchy Redwood Original vest. Bonus points since this character was actually played by an actor who was on the show at the time of the episode's original airing.
Sabrina rescuing Jimmy and Hope from the "birthing tunnel" in "Adoption" is similar to the climax of The Shawshank Redemption.
Start of Darkness: Lucy apparently used to be a doormat girlfriend to a jerk boyfriend. Then Shelly (who worked at the market 5 years ago) tells her she should "Get rid of him." Lucy takes the advice to heart...and later returns to the store to buy a huge quantity of bleach for cleaning up blood.
Too Dumb to Live: Maw Maw told Virginia that her daughter and Virginia's mother died when, while trying to get honey out of a beehive, she put a plastic bag over her head (to protect herself from the bees) and subsequently suffocated, fell off the ladder, and bashed her head against a porcelain duck. It later turns out Virginia's mother is actually alive, and this was just a cover story (based on one she read about in Reader's Digest) that Maw Maw told Virginia to spare her the truth that her mother didn't want her and abandoned her.
Took a Level in Dumbass: As evidence that Tropes Are Not Bad, this happens to Sabrina. Earlier episodes she was a smart, quick-witted, sarcastic but friendly girl who was there to comment on Jimmy's situation. By the end of the first season she showed some neurosis and having panic attacks that made her more prone to mistakes and odd behavior, making her more of a Rounded Character.
Turn Out Like His Father: In "Killer Hope" Burt and Virginia get worried that Hope will turn out like her mother (a serial killer) when she hits a kid at daycare.
Two Scenes, One Dialogue: Used in "Romeo and Romeo". And then just when you think the joke is over, it keeps going and gets to the real punchline of the scene.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Downplayed significantly with Jimmy and Sabrina. It's been shown a few times that Sabrina could get a guy who is more attractive, rich and muscular than Jimmy. But it has been systematically destroyed because A) Jimmy is not that bad looking to begin with, B) Sabrina's family is already very wealthy and she dislikes what that lifestyle has done to them, C) Jimmy is a very nice guy who is always considerate and loving to her (avoiding What Does She See in Him?) and D) she is amazed at how Happily Married Burt and Virginia are and wants that for herself.
The Unfair Sex: Subverted. Jimmy ends up between Sabrina and her ex-boyfriend Wyatt and Sabrina is being unreasonable regarding some personal items that had not been returned, hair care products left at her place vs. an ice cream maker given to him as a gift. Burt tells Jimmy to always side with his girlfriend, while he can't help but empathize with Wyatt's situation while feeling Sabrina was in the wrong. He (intentionally or not) ends up taking a third option where he loses a competition against Wyatt, forcing Sabrina to hand over the hair care products. But Jimmy takes the opportunity to earn brownie points with Sabrina anyway by buying her an ice cream maker.
Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Since meeting her in the first episode of the series, Jimmy has harbored feelings for Sabrina, who has a boyfriend. But in the Whole Episode Flashback season finale it was shown that Sabrina was an awkward, but Adorkable, girl with braces who pined after Jimmy when he was going through his Goth phase. There was even a bit of of Dramatic Irony at the end of the episode thrown in for good measure.
Burt: Remember when you used to wear all that make-up? You looked like a freak!
Jimmy: Shut up! And never ever say anything about that around Sabrina. It's embarrassing.
Burt: Don't worry, I wouldn't wanna mess up your chances.
"Yo Zappa Do" gives a bit of a clue - LA is at least a day's drive away, suggesting Natesville might be somewhere in the Southwest.
Whole Episode Flashback: "Don't Vote for this Episode" showed what the characters were doing 5 years ago: The Chances had just been tossed out by Maw-Maw, Jimmy was going through a goth phase, Sabrina was a braces-wearing geek with a huge crush on goth Jimmy, Barney was a fatty, Shelly worked at the market, and Lucy was dating the first of her boyfriends/victims.
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Zig-zagged in "Meet the Grandparents." The first time the Carlyle's (Lucy's parents) kidnapped Hope, Jimmy insisted on not involving the authorities because he already sent their daughter to the electric chair. The second time they kidnapped Hope, no time was wasted and they were in the squad car within an hour.
Will They or Won't They?: Subverted to some degree with Jimmy and Sabrina. Jimmy had a crush on Sabrina from the first episode and most everyone else knew that, but because Sabrina had a boyfriend at the time he (for the most part) doesn't do anything inappropriate. They lightly flirt but it doesn't lead to much and she is oblivious to his feelings. They get together after she breaks up with her boyfriend in season two and are married about a year later in season three, which is actually a fast turnaround for any couple on a tv show.
Would Hit a Girl: His former bully now being a woman doesn't stop Frank from clocking her good.
World of No Grandparents: Inverted, as the Chance family seem to have kids young, Virginia actually lives with her grandmother and granddaughter.
Taken even farther when we find out Maw-Maw's mom is still alive. At the ripe old age of 104. Though she does croak in the same episode.
Wrench Wench: During her longer lucid moments, Maw-Maw is a skilled mechanic. And electrician. When not lucid, she's also a skilled exterminator.
You Monster!: Jimmy takes the revelation that his father was the masked man who had been scaring him every Halloween since he was a kid (so he could get hugs when Jimmy eventually made his way home) very badly, and again when he finds out that he staged dropping Hope off at the fire station.