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Thursday, September 22, 2011

A secret "Prodigy" on Raising Hope

     In the season premiere of FOX's Raising Hope, Jimmy (Lucas Neff) learns that he was a child "Prodigy" when he finds a video of him playing the piano and singing, quite well. Apparently, though, eight months after Jimmy's talent surfaces, he is hit on the head with a golf club and remembers nothing of it. MawMaw's (Cloris Leachman) efforts to reteach him are fruitless. Virginia (Martha Plimpton) feels guilty, wondering if she pushes him too hard. Burt (Garret Dillahunt) secretly feels worse because he is the one that threw the golf club, though the family doesn't know it. A night of drinking makes them thing Jimmy's abilities have come back to him, but really, they're just drunk.

     It's more than a little weird that Jimmy has this ability, and then doesn't. A doctor can't explain it, and there's no sign that any of it ever happened until Jimmy finds the video. While it is nice that Raising Hope doesn't go the Gilligan's Island route and use another whack to the head to fix things, in fact, they mock that shoddy writing, but it's also just a strange plot in general. And why do his parents think he gets his memory back after some drinking? Yes, alcohol might make him sound better, but as good as he once was? Not even close. It's disappointing, after such a brilliant first season.

     Also weird is Sabrina's (Shannon Woodward) infatuation with the young, brilliant Jimmy. She stares dreamily at his video. While this "Justin Bieber-effect" of older women swooning over younger men, it's kind of creepy to see a gal in her twenties drool concerning a thirteen year old. Woodward is a hilarious actress, but this subplot is a clear miss.

     Young Jimmy is played by Greyson Chance, the young boy who got over thirty-six million hits on YouTube singing Lady Gaga. He's a decent enough actor for the role, and certainly has the voice to pull of the part. Plus, he bears a passing resemblance to Neff, and fortuitously shares his character's last name, making his casting a pretty solid choice. The weakness of the episode is not his fault.

     Raising Hope begins "Prodigy" very cleverly. Shelley (Kate Micucci) sings a recap ditty, while scenes from season one and footage of baby Hope (Bayley and Rylie Crecut) are shown. It's clever and touching. Despite the fact that two toy cars are seen in the background of one of the "home movies" of the Crecut twins, it's not noticeable that two children are used. The tune is catchy, and the lyrics are funny in Raising Hope's particular humor vein. As such, the opening is the best part of the episode.

     Strangely, and a little regrettably, Barney (Gregg Binkley) is absent from "Prodigy" even though he has just been upgraded to series regular. But, of course, not everyone can be in every episode. His portion of the story is missed, and I look forward to seeing him again soon.

     Hopefully, next week will be better, as Raising Hope is usually a very, very good show. Watch Raising Hope Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

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