'Raising Hope' series finale: A fond farewell to the Chances

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raising-hope-series-finale.jpgWhen "Raising Hope" shot its fourth-season finale, its cast and crew knew that they could very well be filming a series ender as well. The show's move to Friday nights this season precipitated a sizable ratings drop, and the writing was on the wall.

What the show delivered Friday night (April 4) was a sweet, lovely send-off to the Chance family and the assorted oddballs that populate Natesville -- and in so doing made the more satisfying of the two comedy series finales on the air this week. ( Ahem.)

In fairness to that other show, "Raising Hope" goes out under far less scrutiny -- and with arguably a lower degree of difficulty. It had no big story threads to tie off, no mysteries to solve, no Hope's-serial-killer-mom-is-still-around well to dredge up once more (and thank goodness; that story got increasingly stale the more the show used it). Instead, all it had to do was be funny and warmhearted and leave us with a sense that Jimmy, Hope, Sabrina, Burt, Virginia and Maw-Maw would be all right.

The final episode, "The Father Daughter Dance," did just that*. Jeffrey Tambor returned as Virginia's estranged dad, Arnold, with a cockeyed plan to win his daughter back by throwing her the extravagant wedding she never got to have, complete with a Princess Diana replica dress. He of course lies at first and says he's getting married, and offers to pay for Hope's college if Virginia and Burt can put together a ceremony in three days.

(*The first of the two episodes, "How I Met Your Mullet," was funny in its own right but told a separate story: Burt, thrilled that Virginia is making "comma money," quits his business to discover his "passion," where he has a run-in with local bounty hunter Mullet, played by "Breaking Bad's" Uncle Jack, Michael Bowen. Jimmy and Sabrina become spoiled by her grandma's housekeeper, played by "Downton Abbey's" Lesley Nicol, aka Mrs. Patmore.)

He's lying about the college fund too, it turns out: He sold his condo to pay for the wedding and is now broke and without a place to live. Whoops.

Burt notes, though, that the lies and crazy stunts "are kind of how our family shows love." He has four seasons' worth of evidence to back that up, Virginia eventually relents and Kenny Loggins sings us out to "Danny's Song" -- a wonderful callback to the pilot, when Virginia and Burt use the song to help baby Hope sleep.

"Not everybody becomes a parent at the perfect time," Jimmy says in voiceover during the final scene of the family around the dinner table. "Some of us do it way too early, some of us do it way too late. The important thing is, when you get the chance, you make the most of it." That's followed immediately by Maw-Maw trying first to stab Arnold, then mistaking Jimmy for her dead husband and trying to make out with him.

That mix of sweet and crass was a line "Raising Hope" managed to walk pretty successfully for most of its run. The show was often at its funniest when it leaned into its cartoonish aspects, but a deep through-line of affection was almost always present, both within the Chance family and in the way the show portrayed them. It would have been great to see another season or two of that, but leaving the Chances this way feels awfully nice too.

What did you think of the "Raising Hope" finale?
Photo/Video credit: FOX