Raising Hope: “Credit Where Credit Is Due”
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Raising Hope: “Credit Where Credit Is Due”

 Given the Chances’ close proximity to the poverty level and their inability to take likely consequences into account when planning their next move, it seems a strange oversight that Raising Hope has never addressed their relationship to the credit industry. Virginia and Burt would be unusual Americans indeed if they were never besieged with credit-card offers when they were younger. And though it’s not hard to imagine how that must have turned out, you can’t help but wonder about the grisly details. Tonight, the terrible story is finally told, as an indirect result of Jimmy setting out, with $830 in hand, to purchase his dream car.

Sabrina, that temptress, tries to get Jimmy to consider the option of taking out a loan for a new car, but it turns out that Virginia and Burt have a very strong moral position toward this. “Credit is for chumps,” Virginia says, citing the example of Wimpy, “the worst cartoon character,” and his constant, ill-considered pleas for a hamburger that he offers to pay for at some later date. She points out the role that credit played in the financial meltdown. As Burt says, too many people borrowed more money than they could afford to pay back, and “now their houses are either under water or upside down. And while that may sound like fun for a weekend, it’s no way to live.”

Virginia and Burt urge Jimmy to follow their example and live by the rules that have kept them swimming in great deals: Never buy anything new, and never pay more for anything than what you have in ready cash. When Sabrina says that she doesn’t think there are a lot of good cars that can be had for $830, Virginia, quite sensibly, says that they’re not looking for a lot of cars, just that one “diamond in the rough.” After considerable searching, Virginia and Burt find their dream car: A DeLorean, whose winged side door Martha Plimpton hangs out of in a triumphant gesture that Alexander the Great entering the kingdom of Persia couldn’t improve on. They then pass their old clunker down to Jimmy. Dissatisfied with this turn of events, Sabrina drags Jimmy to a car dealership and uses a siren song of extras and new-car smell to seduce him into buying “the first new car in Chance family history.”

The bubble bursts when the salesman checks Jimmy’s credit history and find that he has an all-time-record-low score of 91. (“It’s the hardest my manager’s laughed since I showed that Internet video of guys getting kicked in the jingles.”) Only then does Jimmy learn that Virginia and Burt took out a credit card in his name when he was five and used it to buy a hot tub. It was a rotten stroke of parenting, but when he confronts them about it, it’s hard not to be touched by their story of a young married couple, barely out of their teens, in the throes of credit-card addiction, maxing out the cards they’d received on such delights as the George Foreman Grill, the Henry Winkler Sprinkler, and the Bret Michaels Poison Control Kit. “We spent hundreds!” wails Burt. After that, they vowed to regard credit cards as Kryptonite in the future, “but the devil had other plans!”

Sure enough, a card with Jimmy’s name in it arrived in the mail. “We could have easily shredded that card with out fancy new knives, and then effortlessly cut through a tomato,” says Burt, “but we were young, and we really wanted a hot tub.” Also, they assumed that the Statute of Limitations on the debt would expire by the tme Jimmy was an adult. Rather than risk kicking the comedy to death by explicating how brilliantly this all works as a metaphor for the state of the global economy, I’ll just mention that the man at the bank to whom the Chances turn for help is played by Christopher Lloyd. And he’s still got it!

Stray observations:

  • Sensing that Sabrina is feeling vulnerable about her relationship, Frank says out loud what she dare only think—that it “isn’t very sexy” when a guy can’t shop for a car without checking with his parents first—and then, he makes his move:
  • I haven’t talked to my parents in seven years,” he says. “I’m a free-thinker, and I can do 25 sit-ups, over the course of a day. Just putting it out there.” This is the first sign I can remember that Frank might have designs on Sabrina, and the very thought of it, and of him doing anything as skeevy as trying to cut in on Jimmy’s action, grosses me out a little. But I’m grateful for any information the show can include about what it’s like in his world.
  • Virginia: “Sabrina, Sabrina, Sabrina! You need to think for yourself, Jimmy. And for God’s sake, do what we tell you!”
  • Before using the DeLorean to figuratively go back in time, by trading it to Christopher Lloyd to erase Jimmy’s bad credit history, Virginia and Burt try to use it to literally go back in time, but this proves impossible. “It’s probably for the best,” says Virginia. “Remember that movie, The Butterfly Effect? We would have had to sit through that stupid thing twice!

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