RAISING HOPE Series Finale: Mike Mariano on Reaching the End, the Episode That Never Was, Favorite Memories, and More - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

RAISING HOPE Series Finale: Mike Mariano on Reaching the End, the Episode That Never Was, Favorite Memories, and More

April 3, 2014 by  


RAISING HOPE — always a quirky, underrated gem — will air its final episodes on Friday, April 4th, and fittingly, the hour is full of heart, laughs, and moments that will remind viewers why they fell in love with the Chances (and the show) to begin with.

In honor of the show’s end, I spoke with showrunner Mike Mariano about crafting a series finale (without knowing if the show was canceled), his favorite memories of the show, the episode they never got to, and more…

How is your mood as we approach the RAISING HOPE series finale? Has it dawned on you that it’s really ending?
Mike Mariano:
A little bit at a time. Every week as I watch one [episode] tick off, it becomes a little more real that it’s not going to happen again. So it fluctuates between selective remembering of what our situation is and reality.

But we wrapped on January 31st, so as a group, we went our separate ways not knowing our fate and hoping for the best. I talk with Martha [Plimpton (Virginia)] and some of the cast, and I see my crew in various places. And on Facebook! Because this is the first time I’ve been on a show that ended in the Facebook era, kind of. A little bit with MY NAME IS EARL, too. But we all communicate daily with quips, and quotes, and links to stuff on Facebook…It’s obviously not how we wanted it to happen, but it is what it is.

As you mentioned, you wrapped not knowing if the final episode would be a season finale or a series finale. At what point did you make the decision to end season 4 with an episode that really does work as a series finale?
MM: I walked in and my sons were watching MY NAME IS EARL, and they had never seen the whole series, and they were binge-watching it on Netflix. And they got to the finale of MY NAME IS EARL — which was meant to be the season 4 finale — and it was a cliffhanger, and it says, “To be continued.” And [the MY NAME IS EARL writers] said, “We’ll do this, because then they’ll never be able to cancel us.” And then they did [cancel it]. So [my kids] were binge-watching and at the end of it, they were like, “Really? That’s it? That’s the end of it?”

I knew this was a possibility, because that’s just the way the business works. After four seasons — they’re not going to cancel you after three, because that’s just a horrible thing to do to a studio and leave them with 66 episodes of something, and not be able to syndicate it. [But] once you get to that [syndication] number [of 88 episodes, which is where RAISING HOPE will end], it’s a little harder to get a season 5. That’s why you see a lot of shows wrap up around this number. And our ratings were really not very good at all. So I knew this was a possibility. I knew that someday people would binge-watch this show, and if this turned out to be the last one, I didn’t want them to have the same reaction my sons had when they turned to me and said, “That’s the worst way to end anything ever! We want to know what happens.” [Laughs]

So I decided to look for something [with the final episode] that would be both a beginning and an ending [in case we got renewed].

Since you only for-sure found out about the cancellation once production wrapped, were there any episode ideas you really wanted to do but never made the air?
Not really. Though, the one thing I wanted to do for our 100th episode [if we got there], was I wanted to do our original pilot as a musical.

I have a friend who writes and produces Broadway musicals, and he’s won Tony Awards, and he has a show opening this week, and I talked with him about it, and I was like, it’s as if you’re taking a book and making it a Broadway show, take our pilot and make a musical from our pilot. I think it would have been great. Never got the chance. But that was the one big idea that I had that I never got to do.

Looking back at the year, was your time as showrunner what you thought it would be like?
MM: It was as challenging as I expected it to be, and we had a great, great, great group of people in every single department that wanted the show to succeed. And that’s not always the case. Occasionally you have star actors who want out, you have writers who are angry they got passed over in a writing job, you get people who are going to show up and phone it in. It’s rare, but it happens. You have a lot of dysfunction on a lot of shows. We never had that to begin with, and there was none of that moving forward.

The ship that [RAISING HOPE creator] Greg [Garcia] gave me was in great shape and ready to sail. Everybody was completely 100% in, and we accomplished a lot of things we wanted to do, and proved our efficiency, and did some other things from a producing standpoint, and things like that.

But there were no big surprises. It’s a 24/7 job. Your mind never stops. You never stop thinking about it, you never stop worrying. You wake up every morning terrified you won’t have that next idea, but then they do: the writers have an idea, and the actors have an idea, and the set guys have an idea, and the props, and everybody, one after another, just comes up with great ideas. And Friday, I take a walk [to the set] and say, “Holy crap, we did it again!” And then go home and panic all weekend.

Do you still have those moments where you forget you don’t have to come up with new stories for the Chances?
MM: I sleep like a baby now!

Do you have a favorite memory from the show’s four season?
MM: I don’t know that I do. I have so many specific ones with different people; these people really are all my friends. Just making shots with our cameramen — our two cameramen are fantastic. Walt [Fraser], the DP, who has been the DP on every episode of television I’ve directed, both here and MY NAME IS EARL. When we were shooting the big Christmas episode [“The Chance Who Stole Christmas”], Walt was on a giant lift trying to find angles to shoot the town square scene.

Garret [Dillahunt (Burt)] directed his first episode, and going through that experience with him. Working with Martha who I have absolutely loved for a long, long time, and have proudly gotten to work with these past four years. And the writers I’ve known all these different times. When we’d light on an episode, and everyone got excited. There’s just been very many of them over the four years. It’s been a wonderful job.

Series finales can often be a hot topic with fans. Are you going to be looking online to see what people said about RAISING HOPE’s final episodes, or will you try to avoid the chatter?
MM: Oh, no, I read absolutely everything people write about it. Are you kidding me? [Laughs] I’m not avoiding it at all. I’m proud of it. If people don’t like it, you’re not going to please everybody. And sometimes, I read a review, and I’m like, “Eh, they have a point.” We’re not always the greatest, most perfect thing we can be. But I’ve never been ashamed of a whole episode or anything to that extent.

One of my mantras is every episode is somebody’s favorite. The whole totality of our audience, if you asked them their favorite episode, every one from this season would be mentioned at some point. Ones I didn’t like so much, or that I thought, ooh, I don’t know if this one as great as another one, people say to me, “I love that one, that was my favorite one!” And so they’re all somebody’s favorite. They’re all a little bit different. And none of them are embarrassing to me.

Right. And it’s bittersweet, but probably nice to go out when the show’s quality hasn’t dipped, versus people thinking it lasted too many seasons.
MM: Yeah. That’s true. We certainly didn’t run out of things to do, that’s for sure. But we’re forever in syndication, starting next fall!

RAISING HOPE’s one-hour series finale airs Friday, April 4th at 9 PM on Fox. And check back for after the finale for more from Mariano.


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2 Responses to “RAISING HOPE Series Finale: Mike Mariano on Reaching the End, the Episode That Never Was, Favorite Memories, and More”

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  2. Chris on April 16th, 2015 7:13 pm

    I just wanted to say that I loved the show so much. I just wish that they could of focused on the whole ” Jimmy doing the art and Sabrina writing kids books.” It seemed like it would of given the show a good ending for their family.