Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's Amazing Any of Us Reached Adulthood, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Greg Garcia

Some people are going to have  problems with Greg Garcia's new Fox series Raising Hope. A lot of problems. I'm not one of them. Funniest moment from the premier for me? The car seat scene, where Jimmy (Lucas Neff) and his mother Virginia (Martha Plimpton) are driving the baby home in the new car seat Jimmy just traded for at the pawn shop. 

You know why that's funny? Because when I was a kid, we DIDN'T have car seats, hell, I don't think we even had seatbelts. You know what was the only thing standing between little jammy-clad you and a metal dashboard? Your MOM'S RIGHT ARM. That's right, your life depended on your mom's reflexes. God forbid she was trying to tune the radio or light a cigarette or was leaned over the back seat trying to break up a wrestling match between your siblings and then had to make a sudden stop. Well into high school, if I was riding in the front seat and my mom was driving, every time she stopped, her right arm would shoot out and whack me in the chest. And this was AFTER we had the new-fangled seatbelts.

Our childhoods were an obstacle course of hazards worthy of Indiana Jones. Anybody remember lawn darts? Or the Creepy Crawlies creature oven, the one that was made of super-heated metal that would literally fuse your fingers together if you accidentally touched it? How about Wacky Clackers? It was a toy you could get at Shakey's Pizza which consisted of a string with a huge solid glass ball on either end, and you would whack them together to make the most glorious noise. But still, they were GIANT BALLS OF GLASS. THAT YOU SLAMMED TOGETHER REPEATEDLY.

Which brings me back to Greg Garcia, purveyor of the visual Wacky Clacker. Garcia last graced the airwaves with My Name is Earl, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so sue me. That loopy, low-brow, poor-white-trash, Snopes-next-door* comedy is hard to pull off. Comedy is hard, but Snopes comedy is double-hard. It's a fine line between hilarious and pathetic. When you hit is right, you get Malcolm in the Middle or Roseanne, when you miss it, you get Sons of Tucson. When you miss it, it becomes brittle and mean-spirited and uncomfortable.

So far I like Raising Hope a lot. Lucas Neff is sweet and earnest, and I adore Martha Plimpton (and have ever since Goonies). Add in Garrett Dillahunt and Cloris Leachman, and there's a lot of promise there. The thing about Snopes comedy,  it's a throwback to the Three Stooges, which is a throwback to the Keystone Kops. It's the bastard child of slapstick and William Faulkner, and it's not for all tastes. But then again, neither were Wacky Clackers.

*For those of you who only know the word "snopes" from the urban legend debunking website, my use of Snopes goes back to a trilogy of novels by William Faulkner and is our family shorthand for bascially ignorant, ill-bred, trashy people. Think of the Bumpasses, Ralphie's next door neighbors in A Christmas Story.

We actually had Snopes-next-door not that long ago. The kind of people who burn their old lawn furniture in the yard, even though it's plastic. They weren't actually next door, but around the corner, so that their back yard abutted our side yard. Instead of backing out of their driveway, they would drive through their back yard into our side yard and then across our front yard to use our driveway. The S/O repeatedly accused the kids' friends of driving on our lawn until one day he came home unexpectedly and found the Snopeses actually driving their pickup truck (Snopeses always have at least one pickup truck) through our front yard. Caught red-handed, with their means of egress blocked, the Snopeses did not apologize, but merely did a donut  on our lawn and went back the way they came. Eventually they were evicted by the sheriff's department, which I imagine is an end quite a few Snopeses come to.

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