Thursday, February 23, 2012

Raising Hope engages in "Sheer Madness"

FOX's Raising Hope goes for "Sheer Madness" this week. Sabrina (Shannon Woodward) and Jimmy's (Lucas Neff) relationship is still new, so they hide their embarrassing habits from each other. This doesn't sit right with Virginia (Martha Plimpton), who encourages them to be themselves. To do that, Sabrina goes off her meds, which reveals her irrational fear of spiders crawling into her ears at night, which she solves by wearing pantyhose on her head. As this plays out, Burt (Garret Dillahunt) feels guilty for hiding his own shameful secret from Virginia, but is scared of what she might say if he does come clean. To this end, he seeks advice from Andrew (Ethan Suplee). 

Raising Hope did the bold thing last week by putting Sabrina and Jimmy together. A year and a half is enough dancing around the issue. The series deserves praise for taking the chance, something many shows why away from. While their relationship is only one week old in "Sheer Madness," it is already showing signs of working well for the series. Now that she is with Jimmy, Sabrina gets the chance to reveal a little more of her character. Woodward is a constant delight, and any opportunity for her to be even funnier on the show is appreciated.

How will the couple progress from here? Making it through this first trial is a valid test, though it's a simple, easy one that just covers the onset of being together. Jimmy accepts Sabrina the way she is, which is just a more pronounced version of the personality she has already shown. But he also cares enough to help her try to get over her fear. It's telling that Jimmy doesn't ask Sabrina to go back on the meds, but rather, tries to help her work on her issues in a healthy way. This doesn't end well for Jimmy's face, but it should prove just fine for his heart.

There are signs already that Jimmy and Sabrina's relationship is similar to Virginia and Burt's. Both care a great deal about each other. They overlook flaws, and love the other person for who they are. They understand each other. This is evident on Jimmy's part over the past year and a half, but it's gratifying to witness that, with Sabrina, this just may be a two-way street.

In this story, Virginia is arrogant in her assumption that she and Burt are the perfect couple, with nothing to hide from each other. They have a very open, honest relationship, but that doesn't mean that they are perfect, as "Sheer Madness" soon reveals. This isn't a bad thing. It makes them relatable and normal. The fact that Burt goes to great lengths to hide his foot shaving habit speaks to his continuing desire to be adored by Virginia. When she finds out, she handles it wonderfully. This is certainly a couple in it for the long haul, and one who shares deep love. And if Jimmy and Sabrina continue to follow their example, as they seem to be doing, there could be a second pairing just as good on Raising Hope soon.

Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman) is a strange character, in that the humor she plays up in the series is divisive. This reviewer, for one, does not usually find her character amusing, which is a shame, given the actress's long body of excellent work in film and television. However, in "Sheer Madness," it's hard not to like her. The way that Leachman goes for the gusto in describing the foursome that she lost her virginity to is quite impressive, and it dares anyone not to appreciate her in that moment. She proves once more why the term 'comedy legend' is apropos in describing her. Well done!

"Sheer Madness" is not quite as good as last week's episode, but considering how epic that particular one was, how could it be? Instead, the truly excellent cast and writing staff (and surely everyone else involved) deliver the consistent, funny, touching content that few series can do week after week, and that's plenty.

Watch Raising Hope Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

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