Judge Victor Valdivia is the tantrum-throwing diva in his family. Where's his sitcom?
Two sisters. One roof. No way.
Hope & Faith: Season 1 compiles the entire first season of the lightweight family sitcom, and anyone looking for an agreeable time-filler could do worse. However, despite the presence of some talented people both in front of and behind the camera, it's certainly not any sort of landmark.
Facts of the Case
Hope (Faith Ford, Murphy Brown) is a happily married suburban housewife in Ohio. Faith (Kelly Ripa, Live with Regis & Kelly) is her narcissistic actress sister who has just been fired from her job as a soap star. She moves in with Faith, tormenting her, her husband Charley (Ted McGinley, Married…With Children), and their three kids with her diva antics and lack of sophistication.
Here are the episodes collected on this set:
• "Remembrance of Rings Past"
• "The Un-Graduate"
• "Summary Judgment"
• "About a Book Club"
• "Hope Has No Faith"
• "Hope and Faith Get Randy"
• "Phone Home for the Holidays"
• "Anger Management"
• "Silent Night, Opening Night"
• "The Wedding"
• "The Diner Show"
• "Charley's Baseball"
• "Almost Paradise"
• "Jury Duty"
• "Faith's Maid"
• "Faith's Husband"
• "Jack's Back"
• "Trade Show"
• "Daytime Emmys: Parts 1 & 2"
As you may already guessed by now, Hope & Faith is, to put it mildly, repetitive and slight. True, it is at least entertaining. Faith Ford and Kelly Ripa are appealing and attractive leads with reliable comic timing, McGinley is a solid comic actor, and the kids are all agreeable moppets. The premise, while hackneyed, is at least sturdy enough to build a show around, and there's no shortage of physical comedy and undemanding jokes.
Hope & Faith, however, isn't much more than a lark. You'll crack a smile a few times during an episode and even chuckle once or twice, but frankly, it's hard even to remember anything noteworthy or affecting here. The show has been watered down pretty heavily to remove anything that could be truly daring although, strangely, there are a quite a few surprisingly explicit sex jokes for what's clearly intended as a family sitcom. There are no lasting storylines and the episodes are all interchangeable, since the characters never change or grow in any way. That means they constantly repeat the same mistakes and get into the same misadventures, often just in slightly different settings. Although it is mercifully a bit less saccharine or corny than most family sitcoms, viewers shouldn't expect much of lasting quality.
For an example of just how generic Hope & Faith is, take the episode "Jury Duty." Actually, it could just as easily be any of the other episodes, since they all follow the exact same formula almost to the letter: Hope attempts to do something, Faith gets in the way and acts like an extremely sheltered and petulant diva, there's a classic sitcom mix-up and some physical comedy, and then everything turns out OK. In this episode, Hope tries to fulfill her civic duty on a jury, Faith acts like being chosen for jury duty is the same as winning an audition, then (for reasons too silly to explain) she winds up being mistaken for a judge and is dragged kicking and screaming from a courtroom. It's all OK in the end, though, because Hope realizes that Faith is her sister and she loves her. Also, the husband and kids get some minor B-story as well, though no one really cares. By the next episode, the whole incident is completely forgotten, never to be mentioned again, and Hope once again makes the mistake of trusting Faith's judgment. If that kind of hackneyed sitcom writing is your cup of tea, then you'll love this DVD set. Regular viewers of 30 Rock, on the other hand, will find this show just short of insufferable, although there are a few undeniably amusing bits here and there.
Strangely for such a forgettable show, Lionsgate has gone all out with this DVD package. There's a nice-looking 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that displays everything perfectly. Really, this looks sharper and more vivid than some of Lionsgate's recent theatrical releases. The show also comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix that is much less effective. It's not just that there's not much use for the surrounds, it's that the mix is so echo-laden and soft that the dialogue is hard to hear, which is a real mistake for a sitcom. A loud stereo mix would have been a much better idea. The extras are surprisingly extensive. Four episodes come with commentaries from cast and crew and they're startlingly detailed. Who knew there was this much effort put into such a mild little show? There's a comprehensive featurette, "Family Dynamic: Creating Hope & Faith" (30:07) that explains in detail how the show was created and filmed. Again: Really? There are a few honest yuks here and there, but this is hardly the kind of groundbreaking show that merits such in-depth dissection. Finally there's a blooper reel (5:34) that's good for a few more laughs.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
In one sense, Hope & Faith is instructive: it shows just how much showrunners set the mold for the writing staff, no matter where else they've worked. The story editors for this season of Hope & Faith were Kat Likkel and John Hoberg, who later became the story editors for My Name is Earl. Despite the fact that the same team worked on both shows, however, Earl and Faith couldn't be more different. As much as Hope & Faith is conventional and safe, Earl is scabrous and unusual. It goes to show just how different the sensibilities of each show's creators were that the exact same writing duo working in the exact same position created nice gentle comedy for Hope & Faith's creator/showrunner Joanna Johnson and much more raunchy and outrageous humor for Earl's Greg Garcia. You're just not going to see human organs grilled and eaten on Hope & Faith, although given some of the dull storylines seen here, that might have been an improvement. If nothing else, aspiring TV writers might find this DVD set valuable as an education into how TV writing actually works.
Hope & Faith blends I Love Lucy-style farce with Full House-style treacle into a show that's mildly amusing but isn't anything more than that. If you're looking for an agreeable time filler, you could do worse, but then you could also do better, too. Unless you're a hardcore fan of either of the leads, you don't really need this set.
Hope & Faith: Season 1 is guilty of providing nothing more than lightweight entertainment. Lionsgate is acquitted, however, for putting so much effort into a DVD set that really doesn't deserve it.
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