When I watch Raising Hope, I occasionally forget that Jimmy is supposed to be Burt and Virginia’s son and not their naïve, slightly square roommate. Of course, this is by design. Burt and Virginia became parents at a young age, so their relationship with their only son is both unusually close and unusually open, even though, temperamentally, Jimmy is a different breed altogether.
Witness tonight’s episode, “Everybody Flirts… Sometimes,” in which Jimmy is disillusioned to discover that his father shamelessly exploits his body on the job, flirting unabashedly with his clients (male and female) in order to get a few extra bucks at Christmas time. It was a funny, if obvious, riff on two age-old clichés: the sexy pool boy and the horny housewife. Part of what kept it from being a stale gag was the great Kerri Kenney, whose failed attempt at sexy talk—“You’re coppery”—might have been my favorite joke of the night.
Egged on by Sylvia, Virginia dabbles in a little flirting of her own. The object of her flirtation is “Gary Barista,” a waiter at the coffee shop (who may or may not be related to Gunther on Friends). The flirting works, and Virginia returns home with bags of free food. But this being a sitcom, Virginia’s attentions result in some outlandish consequences. The Gary character was a touch creepy and too annoying to be really funny, but the storyline gave Martha Plimpton a chance to shine. (P.S. Martha Plimpton ruled the airwaves tonight, also doing duty on The Good Wife.) Particularly amusing was her flirtation with the mailman. What’s a little disingenuous flattery when there are free Tide samples on the line?
Jimmy also learns the value of flirting—or, to be more accurate, sucking-up. His role model is Sabrina, who strategically bats her eyelashes at Barney and therefore never gets assigned to trout-filleting duties and even gets to work at home one day a week. The trout duty thing was over-the-top, not to mention unsanitary, but it was funny and provided one of the best lines of the night—“You're getting fish guts in my neckhole.” In other words, it was worth it. I also admit that Todd Giebenhain is sort of growing on me in his role as Frank, evolving into the kind of peripheral weirdo character that Curtis Armstrong played back in the ‘80s. Plus, who doesn’t love a trash ‘stache?
But I digress: back to Jimmy’s brown-nosing. All it takes is a little fawning—asking about Barney’s workout routine, laughing too loudly at his jokes—and Jimmy is suddenly besties with his boss. Instead of butchering fish, he’s hanging out in the back office, clutching a vibrating barbell and rocking out to Foreigner. The only problem is Sabrina is left to pick up the slack for Jimmy, and soon enough, a battle is under way to see who can most thoroughly ingratiate themselves to Barney. Ultimately, Jimmy’s no match for Sabrina, who’s clearly mastered the art of sucking-up.
No episode of Raising Hope, no matter how absurd or irreverent, is without some kind of moral lesson. The lesson this week? Flirting is okay because you’re just making people feel good about themselves. The realization dawns on Virginia as she watches Burt’s sensitive treatment of Gary. Burt doesn’t get mad that Gary’s been stalking his wife. Nope, it’s actually is a sign of determination. (Try telling that to my probation officer. Hey-o!) It doesn’t take much to convince Burt, who decides Jimmy should learn the tricks of the trade. Decked out in a pair of cutoffs and a cowboy hat, it’s time for Jimmy to learn to perfect the art of pool-boy self-objectification. “All you’re selling is the dream,” Burt says. And with that, I have discovered my new motto.
Raising Hope episodes come in at least different varieties. Some are more high-concept, like “Mongooses” or "Sleep Training." Then there are the breezier, “slice of life” episodes, like this one. The plots aren't especially innovative or even that fresh, but perhaps for this reason, the dialogue tends to be stronger, sharper, and funnier. It's as if, because the writers haven't poured all their creative energy into coming up with overly elaborate storylines, they've got some creative juice left to write some really punchy dialogue. As I sat down to write this recap, I initially wasn’t sure how I felt about this episode, but going through my notes, I realized just how many great lines it included. As usual, Burt got most of the good stuff, but there were zingers all around. And now, to the tape!
- “Your obsession with my moisture and nipples is making me uncomfortable.”
- “What the hell is a scone?”
- “You doing slow karate on that mat?”
- “I would really like to reopen my flirtgates.”
- “Patriotic nut jobs are picketing the hummus again.”
- “I'm a barista.” “And I'm a Chance. Both good families.”
- “When somebody asks ‘Why would I kill you?’ you shouldn't give them such good reasons.”
- "Is that an inspirational stone in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"