'Raising Hope': FOX's dark take on a family comedy

raising-hope-project-pilot.jpgThe "Raising Hope" pilot is funny... or depressing... or both.

Disclaimer: These posts are not reviews -- shows often make tweaks to their pilot episodes between filming in the spring and their fall debuts. Full reviews will come closer to the premiere date.

What it is: FOX nails down an eclectic cast of familiar faces and newbies for a sitcom about a dysfunctional -- and yes, pretty trashy -- family that gets custody of a baby orphaned by capital punishment.
Who's making it: Gregory Thomas Garcia, the man behind "Yes, Dear" and "My Name is Earl" ups his off-color humor for a new network. Michael Fresco, who most recently helmed several episodes of the dearly departed "Better Off Ted," directs the pilot.

What to look for: It's a solid ensemble, but three really stand out. Newcomer Lucas Neff endearingly plays Jimmy, the disenchanted slacker who becomes a father after a one-night stand with a murderer. And the fact that Martha Plimpton seems far too young to play his mother doesn't make us any less thrilled to see her on TV. Also: Cloris Leachman's senile "Maw Maw" is just as funny in her moments of lucidity as when she's wandering around topless. 

What pops: There's undeniable potential in "Raising Hope" that makes you want to laugh even when you're not. The family's verbal sparring, in particular, suggests the series would fare better if it didn't dwell on child rearing in future episodes.  

What doesn't: Tonally, this first taste is all over the map. Between the baby mama execution scene and Jimmy's family constantly pushing him to drop his child off at a fire station, attempts at dark humor often feel too heavy.   

Reminiscent of: "My Name Is Earl" and "Three Men and a Baby"

"Raising Hope" will air Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET on FOX starting Sept. 21.

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Photo credit: FOX