Initially, Burt and Virginia Chance paint a rather dismal picture of the “American dream” – they live in a small house that belongs to Virginia’s grandmother, Maw Maw. This humble dwelling has been their home for the past 24 years, according to the show’s website.
The couple had their son, Jimmy, when they were in high school (on prom night, to be exact). And Jimmy grew up to repeat the cycle of young parenthood, fathering a child after a one-night stand.
The mother of Jimmy’s daughter, Hope, is a convicted serial killer who narrowly escaped execution (no worries – she got hers in season 2 when she was chasing Jimmy’s girlfriend with a butcher knife and got hit by a bus).
It gets better
Jimmy works at Howdy’s Market with a colorful cast of characters, including his girlfriend Sabrina, who passes time drawing faces on cantaloupes.
Jimmy’s dad, Burt, has a gambling problem, dreams of being a rock star, and owns Better Lawn Service & Pool Cleaning.
Jimmy’s mom, Virginia, is a recovering hoarder who collects pig figurines and works as a maid at Knock Knock Knock Housekeeping.
Maw Maw suffers from Alzheimer’s and frequently appears on screen without her shirt.
Hope, for the most part, is just an adorable and innocent bystander amid the chaos.
You're laughing about what?
The story lines on the show touch on not one, but multiple, sensitive issues: teenage parenthood, parental abandonment, murder, incarceration, Alzheimer’s, disability, gambling, and financial hardship.
But amazingly, when the story line of the show revolves around one of these issues—like when the Chance family ends up eating a blind man’s guide pig for dinner—you don’t feel offended or repulsed by the crass comic portrayal of the blind man’s plight.
And equally surprising, you don’t pity the characters for their less-than-ideal circumstances, and you don’t even feel like yelling at the screen to get them to stop making bad decisions.
You just smile, chuckle, and find yourself admiring the characters for their good intentions, the support they show each other, and their ability to make bacon when life gives them an accidentally butchered guide pig. (This play on the when-life-gives-you-lemons adage, although in poor taste, was too hard to pass up. But in all honesty, I loved Mr. Curly Tail—especially when he wore a Snuggie to watch TV with the Chances).
Could be worse
I’ll admit that when I watch the show, I feel better about my own life. I don’t have raccoons living under my front porch; I don’t mask my desire to boss people around by posing as a faux tarot card reader; and my family doesn’t get their jollies from acting out the Sunday comics.
But when I watch the show, I also feel like I’d be lucky to have some of the Chance Family’s qualities: Virginia and Burt are still passionate for each other, Maw Maw is well cared for by her clan, Jimmy is dedicated to being the best possible father he can be, and everyone in the family is skilled at making the best out of their somewhat depressing circumstances.
So even if this is as good as it gets for the Chances, when all is said and done, I think they’re doing alright when it comes to raising hope (and Hope too).