By the end of this month, mad hatter show Raising Hope, on Star World, will be taken off the air to make space for cult favourite How I Met Your Mother. This surprise hit, chronicling the life of the ne’er-do-well Chance Family, succeeded in capturing the attention of critics and audience alike, even resulting in a few Emmy nominations.
The show was shot on the same lot as the thriller 24, but as patriarch Burt Chance (Garret Dillahunt) puts it, “I’m glad that show was cancelled. Though Jack Bauer would have been a better babysitter for Hope.”
Walking around the sets, where Maw-Maw (Cloris Leachman as the sometimes-lucid great-grandmother) routinely runs around in nothing but a bra, capris and heavy eye make-up, is surreal, especially when you take in the details. Baby toys, broken parts of vehicles and the odd deckchair are tossed around the house and you almost expect Maw-Maw to come stumbling down the porch stairs and trip over a hula hoop. Even the store, where Hope’s dad Jimmy, (Lucas Neff) works as a bagger, is filled with made-up products, from sodas with names like ‘fizz me up’ to six different brands of invented toothpaste. Apparently, the creators took pains not to include any real brands because they didn’t want big companies dictating the content.
The Chance Family’s house is barely kept together by Burt’s lawn-mowing business and wife Virginia’s (Martha Plimpton) job as a maid. The set designer admits it was a challenge, saying, “When I first designed it, they (the studio executives) said it looked too rich. I reworked it, and they said, ‘Now it looks too poor’. So I had to come up with innovative ways to furnish it, like putting old ceramic plates on the wall instead of paintings.”
But don’t bring up living in poverty with the cast. “I don’t like it when people call us white trash,” says Dillahunt, pseudo-aggressively. “My grandma lived in a trailer, and I had great times there. I still kind of want one.”
Ask if anybody’s ever complimented his absurd on-screen parenting skills, which include allowing kid Jimmy to eat paint, play with old tools and break windows, and Dillahunt responds, “So many people stop me on the street and say, ‘I wish you were my dad.’ But they obviously don’t!”