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Series / Raising Hope

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"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, that aired from 2010 to 2014 on Fox.

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, whom he thinks he's rescued 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 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 believe it would be better to leave the child and put her up for adoption. 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.

This series provides examples of:

  • Adam Westing: Nancy Grace appears in the two part Season 2 finale caricaturing her own reputation as a muckraker who cares more for sensationalism than journalistic integrity.
  • 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.
  • "Anger Is Healthy" Aesop: In one episode, the Chance family worries that Hope will turn out like her Serial Killer mother Lucy. They make a deliberate effort not to fight or express anger in front of the baby. Jimmy goes to see Lucy's father and asks him for help. He reveals that he and Lucy's mom did the same thing. Jimmy concludes that by not seeing her parents disagree or get mad at each other when she was younger, Lucy had no idea what to do when she hit a rough patch with her boyfriends and resorted to murder.
  • Apathetic Clerk: Sabrina makes it no secret she does not like her job as the check out girl at the Howdy's, spending much of her time snarking about the store and its customers.
  • Artistic License – Law: Since it's generally recognized that an adult prison is Harmful to Minors, Lucy wouldn't have been able to keep the baby with her in prison in Real Life. Instead, "Princess Beyonce" would have been given to Lucy's parents, or to her biological father, within a couple of days of birth, while Lucy returned to prison (and if for some reason that wouldn't be possible, the baby could have been placed into foster care).
    • In addition, Lucy wouldn't have been released from prison just because the electric chair failed, or because she was injured by the guards. She still would've been executed some other way, or had her sentence commuted to life in prison, but she wouldn't have been freed.
    • It's also highly unlike she would have been put in the electric chair in the first place. While some states do allow the electric chair as an option, it's not the default execution method in any state and Lucy would have had to have chosen it over lethal injection. She also wouldn't have gone from arrest to execution in less than a year, because with lengthy appeals processes, in the US, the average time from sentencing to execution is about 20 years.
  • Ascended Extra: Barney was a minor character that added some flavor to Sabrina's boring job at Howdy's. Once Jimmy starts working there too, Barney becomes a bit of a parental figure, eventually getting joining the main cast for the second season.
  • Auto Erotica:
    • The end of Burt and Virginia's first "date."
    • This is how the series kicks off, with Jimmy and Lucy having sex in his van and resulting in Hope.
  • The Baby Trap: Inverted and played sympathetically. Burt poked a hole in a condom because he wanted 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 happy with the end result.
  • Back from the Dead: Lucy, who didn't die in the electric chair, and survived thanks to sheer willpower. She apparently dies at the end of the second season finale, only to be revealed in the wedding special that she's still alive.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: Performed by Maw Maw at the end of "The Sniffles."
  • Batman Gambit: Maw Maw performs an ingenious one in "Hey There Delilah" to get Virginia to take a promotion at work.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Chances, from both sides of Jimmy's family.
    • Burt is seen as the Black Sheep of his family since he didn't live according to his parents' expectations, as he got Virginia pregnant when they were teenagers, and they didn't end up as rich as them. His own parents are third-cousins, and his nephew, Mike, used to live in their house for a while before joining a cult.
    • Virginia's side of her family is off. She lied about what truly happened to her mom (who is supposed to be dead), and was raised by Maw Maw, while the rest of her family (especially her cousin, Delilah) treated her as a Butt-Monkey.
  • Black Comedy Rape: A dog in Shelly's daycare was put in time out for raping a lamp.
    Shelley: He broke the bulb.
  • Bond One-Liner: When Burt realizes that Smokey Floyd was still a jerkass in front of an audience (and especially when he wanted to shut up Hope's crying), he simply had enough, and smacked him over the head with his guitar, before expressing "Smoke on that, jerk!"
  • 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.
  • Bowdlerise: What Jimmy and Sabrina do to Lucy's videos for Hope. A rare case of bowdlerising being a Justified Trope, as the original videos are harmful to EVERYONE. Though Burt seemed to enjoy the dancing one.
  • 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-existent 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.
    • Burt gets mad at Jimmy for trying to talk Virginia out of prepping for the 2012 apocalypse and possibly costing him "end-of-the-world-sex", so he tells his son exactly what he and Virginia were going to do. It includes a lot of pudding.
    Burt: Live with that image the rest of your life, big mouth!
    Jimmy: (throws up)
  • Buffy Speak: Frequently, and mixed a little with Malaproper. For example, Burt once described a woman doing Yoga as "Slow Motion Karate", and due to the family's general lack of intelligence, winning arguments necessitated them being more "trickerish... trickerisher".
  • Bumbling Dad: Oddly averted. Both Burt and Jimmy are as proficient at parenting as anyone else in the house, but only because everyone else is nuts.
  • The Butler Did It: Used as a pun by Burt in "Poking Holes in the Story":
    Virginia: (to the girl she's looking after in regards to Burt) ...would you believe your father hired a butler?
    Burt: And the butler just did it! (begins making thrusting motions)
    Virginia: Not helping.
  • Call-Back: After Virginia writes "DORK" across Jimmy's face to deter him from talking with Sabrina, she offers to use make-up to cover it up. He then tells her that he tried make-up before, but that it made him look like a dork. It's later revealed that Jimmy went through a goth phase during his late-teens, and the make-up indeed made him look ridiculous... but he got the attention of a younger Sabrina, who was going through an awkward teenage phase, too.
  • The Cameo:
    • Jimmy and Christine appear as the 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.
    • Kenny Loggins in the series finale.
    • Patty the Daytime Hooker appears as a gambling addict counselor in "Gambling Again".
  • Cameo Cluster: Over the course of the series, various actors from Greg Garcia's other show, My Name Is Earl, make appearances. The episode "Making The Band" has the entire main cast of My Name Is Earl showing up and forming a band.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Season 2's "Single White Female Role Model" features Barney mentioning a new episode of Burn Notice. There's a possibility he may wonder if Simon Escher looks familiar to him...
  • 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 Chances 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, where Jimmy is drawing the pictures for the story that Sabrina is writing.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: Sabrina offering to watch a movie with them does not deter Shelley's plans to get in Jimmy's pants at all ("She won't see anything. We'll be under a blanket").
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • The Chances' President's Day celebration includes crowning Jimmy as King of President's Day.
    • In "Thrilla in Natesvilla", Barney tells Burt that he had a bad experience while fixing his air conditioner, remembering that the next thing he knew was "crying in a bubble-bath, listening to Linda Ronstadt, trying to forget the image of your cousin tongue-kissing your now-ex-wife". Which Burt replies that it all sounds awful, because "he doesn't want to listen to Linda Ronstadt".
  • Continuity Nod: The series loves to use nods to past events that were already mentioned or shown in the show. 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.
  • Continuity Snarl:
    • The show doesn't seem to make up its mind on whether or not My Name Is Earl is in the same universe, or that it is a TV show. Among other things, the series has been referenced through a movie poster, and a TV commercial for the show... but Patty (the Daytime Hooker) has shown up a couple of times, and a TV news anchor very briefly mentions that "a small-time crook with a long list of wrongs he was making amends for, has finally finished" in The Pilot.
    • In Season 1, Jimmy is seen watching an episode of Yes, Dear only for Jimmy and Christine to appear in a later season, even talking about their sons Dominic and Logan, and interact with the main characters.
  • Credits Gag: Starting from Season 2, every episode's opening credits features the phrase "And introducing Cloris Leachman as Maw Maw."note 
  • Crossover:
    • With My Name Is Earl, since Patty the Daytime Hooker appeared as a gambling addict counselor in "Gambling Again". And in The Pilot, after the news reported about Lucy being a serial killer, the news anchor begins to do a lighter side story about "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!"
    • 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.
  • Demoted to Extra: Shelly is reduced to a minor role after being an important character in the first season. It gets worse once Sabrina moves out from their shared apartment, as she gets married with Jimmy and moves to the house she inherited from her grandma, and Shelly is only seen a couple of times the whole gang reunites in any important Zany Scheme they end up doing.
  • The Diaper Change: Jimmy and Virginia end up throwing up all over Hope while changing her diaper for the first time.
  • Did Not Die That Way: Virginia was raised by her grandmother, Maw Maw. Maw Maw told Virginia that her mother died when she was trying to get honey from a beehive, and as protection, she put a plastic bag over her head. She fell off the ladder, while suffocating and bashed her head against a lawn ornament. Virginia believed this was actually how she died all the way into her adulthood. But the truth was that her mother simply didn't want to raise a baby and she left her behind.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Jimmy is initially depicted as being able to sing, albeit with an unremarkable voice. Later episodes would establish him as being Hollywood Tone-Deaf.
  • Ear Worm: Discussed in season 4, episode 22. "I have to finish playing this, or it's just gonna go around and around in my head."
  • Enfant Terrible: In "Killer Hope", the Chances fear Hope may be following in her mother's footsteps once she starts retaliating against other kids. Most of the first half of the episode features shots of her venturing into Creepy Child territory.
  • 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.
  • Fake Guest Star: Cloris Leachman was credited as a guest star for the first season despite being prominently featured throughout the show, in the opening credits, and in all promotional material because of contractual issues.
  • 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.
  • Faint in Shock: A recurring gag, as much of the show's comedy is based on secret revelations. In particular Jimmy does this several times in the 2-part season 2 finale upon hearing ludicrously illogical news about his baby's mother.
  • Fan Disservice: Maw Maw usually walks around topless (mostly when she is "not-lucid"), as she doesn't seem to care at all what others may think of her. Cue the understandable moments where many characters have to stop her from doing so in public.
  • Forgotten Childhood Friend: Sabrina finds herself at the mercy of one (played by Shannon Woodward's real life best friend Katy Perry, no less) when she's arrested. The ending of the episode, however, implies that Sabrina never knew her and the guard just does that with everyone.
  • "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 
    • 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: The show is quite fond of these. For example, in the third season premiere, Maw Maw is seen removing the dress off the corpse of Sabrina's granny. Later, when it's revealed that Sabrina's mom 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 in the background, and even puts his face on it.
  • Fun Size: Many people in the series joke around that Sabrina is actually shorter than Jimmy, although it's not funny to her.
    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.
  • Gilligan Cut: Used in the darkest way possible as Lucy, who is pregnant in prison, says to Jimmy, "You know what the best part is? There's no way they're gonna kill the mother of a six-month old baby."... gets immediately cut to her execution, which happens months after Hope is born.
  • Girls Like Musicians: Jimmy used to be a musical prodigy before he was accidentally hit in the head. When he shows his love interest Sabrina a tape of him playing, she seems impressed. This causes Jimmy to try and regain his talent, believing this will win Sabrina's affections.
  • 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 and flashbacks show that they did everything they could to provide Jimmy with a happy loving home. They also do everything they can to make sure Jimmy's wedding day goes perfectly. Which also means incapacitating a still-alive Lucy.
    • Following the example of his parents, Jimmy does the same for Hope and Sabrina later joins in to create loving blended family for her.
  • Good Stepmother: Sabrina is this to Jimmy's daughter Hope, and eventually adopts her.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Almost used during Lucy's electrocution. The camera slowly pans away from her reflection in the viewing room window; Lucy begins to react just before we shift to Jimmy covering Hope's face with his hand.
  • G-Rated Drug: As part of getting more sales for Thanksgiving Day, during the events of the "Candy Wars" episode, Maw Maw makes custom chocolate candy bars, which are addictive for anyone who eats them. The Chances even set up a laboratory on their kitchen to make the reference more obvious.
  • Groin Attack:
    • The result of Sabrina catching Wyatt making out with another girl.
    • The divorce ritual of Mike's cult involves the wife kicking the divorcee in the nads.
    • Stage three of waking Jimmy up, as Burt reveals, involves a hot drink. Guess where applied?
  • Half-Human Hybrid: According to Jimmy's dream journal, he once had a wet one involving some kind of half-Sabrina, half-dolphin creature.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: A minor subversion occurs in "Sex, Clowns and Videotape": Burt and Virginia head to Virginia's storage unit to get a replacement microwave door, only to become distracted by discovering that the clown doll that is hiding their sex tape is in a unit that is going up for auction. Several scenes later, on the day of the auction, Burt shows up late, revealing to Virginia that he snuck into their unit to steal the microwave door they were originally focused on.
  • Happily Adopted: Invoked by Jimmy; after finding out that his parents gave him up for adoption when they were younger, he figures he would have 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 would have been 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.
      • In "Dysfunction Function", we find out that one of the secrets to their marriage is that they managed to turn the chaos of being young, broke, raising Jimmy and dealing with Maw Maw into passion for each other.
      Virginia: Every young marriage needs a little chaos. Think about how it was when we started out. [..] Burt, it was uncertainty that kept us together. Every marriage needs stress. Stress leads to tension. Tension leads to massage, and no matter what, massage always leads to sex.
      Burt: That's why I can't believe they have those chairs in the mall.
      • In "Hey There, Delilah", on "Burt Island", Burt's imaginary Happy Place, he imagines a harem of beautiful women - all of whom are Virginia.
      • Sabrina reveals to Virginia that one of her main motivations for getting together with Jimmy was the prospect of having a relationship like Virginia and Burt's.
    • 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.
  • Hidden Depths: Burt knows it's not the end of the world in 2012, as Virginia believes. Why? When Virginia told him about it, he went to the library and read books about the Prophecy, concluding it won't happen.
  • Hollywood Law: You cannot get your death penalty commuted and your conviction for several murders nullified, no matter what the guards in the prison do.
    • Lampshaded by the judge:
    Sylvia Barnes: Motion to suppress evidence of my client as a serial-killer. The charges were officially dropped as part of our lawsuit against the prison, so she cannot be characterized by crimes that technically never happened.
    Judge: That's stratospherically illogical, and I don't like it. But it's legally sound. Motion upheld. There may be no mention of Ms. Carlyle's string of cruel, heinous murders.
  • Home Porn Movie: Burt and Virginia made one, which was accidentally distributed in a rental videotape's case.
  • Improvised Weapon User: Virginia and the TV. She even mentions it's kinda her go-to thing.
  • 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 awful. Played with when Jimmy realizes that this is very similar to a movie he watched...
    "This is just like that movie Inception! I have no idea what's going on!"
  • I Want My Jetpack: Burt's first line from season 2 is complaining how it's already 2011, and there still aren't any Jetpacks.
  • Jerkass:
    • Has-been rock star Smokey Floyd. At least until Burt knocks him out and he goes on a celebrity rehab show.
    • 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 they even lied to Burt by telling him that he's Jewish just so they can steal his Bar Mitzvah money.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Burt and Virginia are not at all afraid to talk to other people about Jimmy while he's right there in the room.
  • 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."
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The show is exceptionally self-aware of its own conventions.
    • When Jimmy and Sabrina finally get together in the second season Burt and Virginia discuss whether or not their relationship will be as interesting as when he was hopelessly pursuing her, while another has Burt lamenting Hope's supposedly-excecuted biological mom coming back each year "in some crazy way and messes up our lives again" as "getting old."
    • When Virginia is showing Natalie some photos in "Poking Holes in the Story" (specifically one from when she gave birth to Jimmy during her promnote  and one from four years laternote ), Natalie points out that they aged twenty years on those.
    Burt: Yeah, but we haven't aged at all since then. Explain that!
    • When the excitement of a new baby starts to wear off for Jimmy, Burt remarks that while babies are cool until the parents become bored after they have done everything there is to do with them, "that's why TV shows about babies never last more than a year".
    • In "Inside Probe" (the episode), Virginia is yelling at Jimmy to come and watch "Inside Probe" (the tabloid show-within-the-show):
    Virginia: Jimmy, we captured a serial killer, that's all they're gonna show. That's all anyone cares about. You think if they showed the embarrassing things we do every single week anyone would want to watch that?
    • In "I Want My Baby Back, Baby Back, Baby Back", the judge awards custody of Hope back to Jimmy after Lucy gets (supposedly) killed again and the family remarks that:
    Burt: We make mistakes, but we always learn from them.
    Virginia: That's true. Seems like every week we learn a new lesson.
  • "Lesson of the Day" Speech: Once an Episode with Jimmy and one or both of his parents, and occasionally with a voice-over of him repeating the lesson to Hope. But done well.
  • Magic Plastic Surgery: Smokey Floyd is introduced as a grizzled old man but he appears much younger in later appearances bar some subtle wrinkles and references to health maladies typical of the elderlynote .
  • 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.
    • It even gets lampshaded by Sabrina:
    Burt (on his parents visiting): Havin' a baby out of wedlock was one of the biggest things they judged me for. I don't want them judging me again for letting you repeat the cycle.
    Virginia: It's like a self-refilling prophecy.
    Sabrina: So I take it Burt's relationship with his parents is kind of estranged?
    Virginia: Oh, no, it's completely strange.
    Sabrina: Two malaprops in a row. God, I love this family.
    Virginia: Yeah, they are malaprops, but they're also his parents.
  • 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.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile:
    • A debatable example, Burt is on the sex offenders register for having sex with a minor. When at court to get removed from it his lawyer steers him away from an elementary school class like he would do something. Nevermind the fact that...
      • A. Burt committed the act when he was 17
      • B. The girl in question was one year under the legal age, and he didn't know because she looked older.
      • C. The minor he slept with Went on to become his wife and the only person he's 'ever' slept with. While he did technically do the crime his lawyer treats him like he is a stereotypical sex offender.
    • Jimmy tries to help a teenage boy go out with a teenage girl but the girl's father only catches part of the conversation (where Jimmy says he'd be happy to drive them around in his van) and jumps to the conclusion that Jimmy is a pervert.
  • Morality Chain: There is a reason they called her Hope. Having a baby around forced everyone to clean up their act in order to be good parents and grandparents. In the It's a Wonderful Plot episode, Jimmy finds that if he never encountered Lucy everything could have been worse, especially that his parents would have been separated.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Lucy's father. He's a psychiatrist, Lucy's mother was a patient of his, and they kidnapped Hope twice until they went 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.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Burt may be in his forties, but he gets a lot of opportunities to show he is still looking fine. Lampshaded when he gives grace in the Thanksgiving Episode:
    Burt: O Father, thank you for my great hair, which thou hast not takeneth away, and for my excellent jawline, and my rock-hard abs...
    • Abused in "Everybody Flirts... Sometimes" where it's revealed that he uses his good looks and pool boy status to get bonuses
    Burt: All I'm selling is the dream.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • After the news report about Lucy being a boyfriend-killer, the news anchor begins to do a lighter side story about "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!"
    • 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.
    • One of the movie posters in "It's A Hopeful Life" is My Name is Earl, The Movie
    • 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.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Jimmy has one in "Killer Hope" wherein Hope has turned into a Chucky-like serial killer that murders everyone in the house.
  • Oh, Crap!: Jimmy, the Chance Family and Sabrina all have one in part one of the season 2 finale when they find out Lucy is still alive.
  • Operation: Jealousy: "Jimmy's Fake Girlfriend" almost gleefully plays with all the tropes associated with this Stock Plot. With Jimmy distraught over Sabrina and Wyatt, Virginia forces Jimmy into the ploy by by telling Sabrina personally that he has a new girlfriend. Jealous, Sabrina sets up a double date, making them find aspiring actress Mary Louise to play the role. Mary Louise sold Jimmy so well as a boyfriend, contrasting Wyatt's obnoxious behavior, that Sabrina dumped him later that night. But NOW he has an extremely happy fake relationship in the way of the girl he actually wants. It's at this point Jimmy decides to go for broke and reveal the entire deception (via Mary Louise's improv group), hoping Sabrina will understand and forgive him.
  • Parental Favoritism: Burt's family preferred his brother Bruce over him. In a flashback to their childhood, their parents gave Bruce twenty dollars for getting an "A" on his report card. When Burt says that he got two "A"'s, Bruce calls him a jackass "because it also has two "A"'s in it", and their parents laugh before dismissively telling Burt to play outside.
  • Parody Episode: The Wedding Episode and Documentary Episode parodied Modern Family. Justified in the plot since, according to Sabrina, the camera men actually work for the series, and they were hired by her mom as a wedding gift, because she couldn't make it to the wedding.
  • Plastic Bitch: One episode has Jimmy getting drunk and dreaming of a world where he didn't conceive Hope. One change is that his love interest Sabrina has gotten breast implants after her job made their female employees wear skimpy outfits. This version of Sabrina is also much more jaded and mean than in the regular timeline.
  • Pocket Protector: When Burt becomes a Bounty Hunter, he reassures Virginia that until he's earned enough money for a Bulletproof Vest, he'll wear a fishing vest with the pockets filled with flasks and bibles.
  • Posthumous Character: Lucy is seen in a few flashbacks and in a videotape she made for "Princess Beyonce" while in prison. At least before it was revealed she survived her execution.
  • Previously on…:
    • In "Prodigy", Shelley sang a song that recapped season one (after she announces that in honor of one the seniors she was looking after dying over the summer, that liked to recap things in song, she was going to sing a song about everyone there that day).
    • "Deja Vu Man" has the previous 3 seasons recapped by way of a memory jogging song for Maw Maw.
    • "Throw Maw Maw from the House, Part 2" has Maw Maw recapping the events of the previous episode to the audience... by which we mean the wall she was in front of.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Gregg Brinkley was added to the picture-book opening and the final "group" drawing with the Chance family and Sabrina starting from the second season. An unusual case occurs with Cloris Leachman, as she appears in the picture-book, both the "See Maw Maw run" page and group drawing at the end, but is uncredited until the season two addition of her "...and introducing Cloris Leachman as Maw Maw" credit. She was always intended to be in the main cast but spent the first season as a Special Guest Star, credited at the end of the episode, due to contractual issues.
  • Put on a Bus: Cousin Mike was obviously meant to be a main character and Jimmy's best friend at the start of the show, but he is gone in the second episode, mentioning that he joined a cult with a girl he met. He eventually came back by "The Cultish Personality".
    • Lampshaded by Cousin Mike in a flashback during "Last Christmas", who mentions his greatest fear is "Dying. Being there one day and gone the next, completely forgotten".
  • Rage Breaking Point: After avoiding being hostile during "Killer Hope", Jimmy snaps when he gets a $200 ticket. For having an obstructed view.
  • "Rear Window" Homage: "Murder, She Hoped" features a wheelchair-bound Burt and a Virginia 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.
  • Sentimental Drunk: In "Prodigy", the Chances realize that Jimmy can play piano and sing extremely well after he's drunk, with them realizing the similarities of the situation to that of "Wasted Talent". As it happens, that was only because they were all drunk at the time.
  • Serial Killer: Lucy, known as the "Boyfriend Killer". She was supposedly executed in one of the darkest Gilligan Cuts on TV.
  • Service Sector Stereotypes: Subverted, Virginia is a maid, Burt a gardener, and Jimmy a former pool cleaner, but they get by (well, just about).
  • Sex in a Shared Room: Discussed but thankfully averted. Sabrina's cousin Shelley thinks Jimmy wants her, and he's too awkward to confront her about it. When she plans their first date to end in sex, Sabrina tries to derail it by inviting herself and her boyfriend for a double date. Shelley nonchalantly says, "That's fine, we'll be under a blanket anyway." Luckily Jimmy manages to tell her he's not interested and she accepts.
  • Shared Universe: Zig-zagged. We have seen a few characters from My Name Is Earl (such as a couple of cameos by Patty the Daytime Hooker) and there are frequent references to other characters from the show and Camden. However, there are also a few moments that suggest that the TV Show still exists inside this world as well. Not only the humor and characters share a similar tone, but 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The opening credits are a sendup of See Spot Run books.
    • Shelly gets her dead tooth fixed after watching Maureen Ponderosa getting made fun of for also having a dead tooth.
    • In the Thanksgiving episode, Barney answers his phone with "Go for Barney".
    • Burt's news report on him clobbering Smokey Floyd is auto-tuned and turned into a viral hit. There's also a Shout-Out to My Name Is Earl when Smokey Floyd calls Barney "Kenny."
    • In Baby Moniter, Virginia mentions that she has seen a similar plot with a baby monitor picking up another frequency in Modern Family.
    • 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.
    • "Candy Wars" is an entire-episode shout out to mob movies, particularly The Godfather and Scarface (1983). 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.
    • "Murder She Hoped" is a Shout-Out to Alfred Hitchcock movies, with the plot being a "Rear Window" Homage, with additional shout outs to The Birds and Psycho.
  • Show Within a Show: Oftentimes, real-world shows are parodied through the use of Parody Names. Examples include "Inside Probe" (parody of Inside Edition) and "Yo Zappa Do".
  • Slapstick: Burt, Jimmy, Virginia, and especially Sabrina are likely to suffer Amusing Injuries.
  • Slipping a Mickey: How Burt finally ends up getting a vasectomy.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Played straight during Jimmy's childhood. Subverted, however, with Maw-Maw, when a social worker ends up taking her to a state-run nursing home.
  • Speak of the Devil: Jimmy believes Dog-Head Man knows when people say his name.
  • Spiritual Successor: If the constant references to My Name Is Earl and reappearing cast members didn't explain it, the show has a very similar "white trash trying to do the best they can" tone to it.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: The show could sometimes be renamed "The Burt and Virginia Show," especially in later seasons as the particulars of trying to take care of Hope became less common. Especially in the fourth season, as Jimmy and Sabrina become rather comfortable in domestic bliss, which is later lampshaded by Jimmy's narration "Maybe the reason I can only narrate other peoples stories is because I have none of my own."
  • Start of Darkness: Lucy apparently used to be a doormat girlfriend to a jerk boyfriend. Then, Shelly (who worked at the market five years before the story kicked off) tells her that 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.
  • Teen Pregnancy: 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.
  • Take That!:
    • A minor one in "Dead Tooth", where Jimmy and Shelley rent "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo". It's covered in enough dust that Sabrina blows it off.
    • In "Yo Zappa Do (Part 2)", Burt kicks the groin of a NBC representative for cancelling My Name Is Earl.
    • In "Extreme Howdy's Makeover", after bringing up how "[s]ome dreams are better off as dreams":
      Jimmy: Did you see that movie Inception? It was someone's dream to make that piece of crap.
  • Thoroughly Mistaken Identity: Maw Maw occasionally thinks Jimmy's her dead husband, to hilariously creepy effect.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Maw Maw told Virginia that her 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 because she just wanted to have fun.
  • Too Much Information: Barney, when he's gets caught up in telling some of the unfortunate tales from his life (especially those related to his previous weight problem, and his ex-wife), and almost everything Maw Maw ever says or does.
  • 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.
  • 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?) D) she is amazed at how Happily Married Burt and Virginia are and wants that for herself E) she sees how close and loving the Chance family is, and due to growing up with distant and neglectful parents, wants to be part of it (even admitting to considering Burt and Virginia more her parents than her own biological ones).
  • 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 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.
  • Villain Ball: After winning custody of Hope and getting Jimmy back, Lucy just has to chase Sabrina with a knife. Which ultimately leads to Lucy's death.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Though she is stopped rather quickly due to Instant Sedation, in "If A Ham Falls In The Woods..." Sabrina ATTACKS A BEAR that had begun to maul an unconscious Jimmy.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In the very first episode, when Jimmy and Virginia are changing Hope.
  • Wham Episode: At the end of "Inside Probe", Lucy turns out to be alive.
  • Wham Line:
    • From "Extreme Howdy's Makeover", when Sabrina confronts Maxine (who claims to be Howdy's new owner):
      Sabrina: Why did you fire Barney? That was not part of the plan.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Good luck trying to guess what part of the country this show takes place in.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "Don't Vote for this Episode" showed what the characters were doing five 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.
  • Who Would Want to Watch Us?: Every other episode has a Self-Deprecation joke about how apparently boring the premise of the show is, the misadventures of trying to raise a baby.
  • 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. It Crosses the Line Twice when said transgender bully proceeds to kick the hell out of both Frank and Jimmy.
  • World of No Grandparents: Inverted, as the Chance family seem to have kids young, Virginia actually lives with her grandmother and granddaughter. This is 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.
  • 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. To be fair, Burt just wanted a hug.