Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Aging (but still hip) Role of GenX on TV

Somehow I missed watching FOX’s new comedy series Raising Hope until this week, even though it’s aired since September. I did a cartoon-like double take at the opening credits when Martha Plimpton was listed as the grandmother character on the show.

Martha is only two years older than me and smack in the middle of Generation X. She can’t be a grandmother yet! It wasn’t THAT long ago she was a teenager in The Goonies, was it?

But my stumbling upon the show was serendipitous, because I ended up really liking it. The plot is strange on paper, but in action it works. Main character Jimmy Chance is a 23-year-old single dad living at home with his slacker GenX parents (who conceived him on their prom night, thus making them meemaw and peepaw so young). Jimmy’s raising 1-year-old Hope by himself because his baby’s mother—with whom he had a one-night stand—is on death row. Like I said, in theory it’s a head scratcher, but on screen the hijinks ensue nicely.

Plots center around Jimmy’s struggles with parenthood, the generation gap, family dynamics, friendship, and fitting in…but not in a "very special Blossom" kind of way. These aren’t the Keatons or the Seavers of yesteryear. These folks are more like what would happen if Punky Brewster got knocked up by Ben Seaver, they moved into the apartment above their parents’ garage, got hourly manual jobs, and then became grandparents at 38. They’re good people at heart who just happened to get caught up in life.

I love that Jimmy struggles with the frustration of living with GenX parents. When he’s unable to delete an awkward and nervously-delivered phone message because he’s calling from a rotary phone, he exclaims in agony, “WHYYYY do we live in the ‘70s?!?!”

I also love the hidden bits of nostalgia in the show’s set. When Grandpa Chance sits at the kitchen table, hanging behind him is a 1972 linen dish towel calendar, the exact one I am sure my own mother had in our kitchen when I was a kid. Basically Jimmy is living in the house WE all grew up in, and it frustrates the hell out of him. (For all I know it IS the house his mom grew up in; I missed the first 11 episodes so that may have been covered at some point.)

The Chances are people you’d totally want as your neighbors. They freely share their box wine, they take great delight in tiny bits of clever humor, and Granny Martha never fails to capture special moments on her breadbox-sized VHS camcorder.

Raising Hope probably won’t win any Emmy Awards for writing, but who cares. I laughed out loud multiple times. It’s worth the 30 minutes if only to play How-Many-Things-in-Their-House-Were-Taken-From-My-Mom’s-House. It airs Tuesday nights at 9:00 on FOX, and is also on, which is where I am headed now to catch up on the first 11 episodes.

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