Thanks to the one-two punch of NCIS and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Tuesday nights at 8/7c have become pretty crowded. Which is why Raising Hope's new showrunner, Mike Mariano, isn't all that worried about the show's move from Tuesdays to what was once believed to be the death timeslot of Fridays. "I'm thrilled by it because I think the Tuesday-at-8 timeslot is one of the toughest on television," Mariano tells TVGuide.com. "I'm not as intimidated as I would have been in other years going to Fridays. ... But it's also really out of my control. I'm thrilled to be on the air."
After a slightly extended time off the schedule, Raising Hope returns Friday (9/8c, Fox) with two new back-to-back episodes and a slew of impressive guest stars including Arrested Development's Jeffrey Tambor and Saturday Night Live's Molly Shannon. Mariano previewed what's coming up for the Chance family this year:
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Virginia's daddy issue: As first revealed by TVGuide.com, the season premiere will introduce a very important character from Virginia's past — her father (Tambor), whom she had believed to be dead. "We were just looking at little ideas for stories, and we just had this idea of this guy who Virginia sees every now and then watching her. But no one else ever sees it so he's this enigma. She calls him déjà vu man," Mariano says. "We had never told the story of who her dad was. We had known it was something that was always out there for us. We said, 'Alright let's see if it's her dad, what happens?'" Although there are no official plans for Tambor to return this season, Mariano is optimistic. "We're working on it," he says. "He wants to come back, and I would love to have him back."
That other daddy issue: In addition to meeting her character's long-gone father, Martha Plimpton will also get to share screen time with her real-life dad, Keith Carradine, who will guest-star this season. Mariano says the idea of having Carradine on the show had been discussed in the past, but "we never had the right thing." But the writing staff found just the part for Carradine when the Chances travel to a dude ranch and meet an "over-the-top" cowboy. "It's a comical bit of a dude ranch, and we thought, well this would be a perfect one for him. He was amazing. It was everything we could have hoped for," Mariano says. "He plays a guitar and sings a song. He rides a bunch of horses and does all this great cowboy stuff."
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Is there another baby on the way?: Mariano confirms that "there will be talk of another baby" between Jimmy (Lucas Neff) and Sabrina (Shannon Woodward) this upcoming season. "They start deciding if they want to have another baby, and we play that out in an episode to a conclusion," he says. However, the (semi) newlyweds will also be dealing with another big change as they settle into their new place and living apart from Burt (Garret Dillahunt) and Virginia. "Now they're married and living in their own house, the show does shift a little bit. Originally, it was three idiots raising a baby: Burt, Virginia and Jimmy and now really the baby is being raised by Jimmy and Sabrina now. We've tried to do some stories where it's more about them and what they go through with parenting and the other two are grandparents, albeit more involved grandparents," Mariano says. "We've separated them a little."
Romance is in the cards for Barney: When Shannon comes to town as Maxine, the new owner of Howdy's, she'll also take proprietorship of Barney's heart. After sharing a sweet moment with Barney (Gregg Binkley) at the end of her first episode, Maxine comes back to embark on a relationship with Howdy's sweet, if not misguided, store manager. "They go on a double date with Burt and Virginia," Mariano says. "It's a very fun episode where they want them to be their sort of love gurus and teach them how to have a great relationship."
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Get ready to see Howdy's in a whole new light: Aside from romancing Barney, Maxine will oversee some major changes to Natesville's beloved grocery store. As part of Maxine's mission to "maximize corporations" by finding ways for them to make more money, Howdy's will be at least partly transformed into a community center hosting an art gallery and a grandmother-granddaughter pageant. (So will Virginia go with her granddaughter, Hope, or her grandmother, Maw-Maw?) "So Howdy's will just be this place that can become a community center essentially for any kind of crazy event we dream up to put in it," Mariano says. "There's been talk of a roller derby episode happening in Howdy's, but they haven't quite sold me on the specifics yet."
Hope's new (old) mom: As the macaroni necklace proved last season, Sabrina is Hope's mom. However, she will go the extra mile to cement that connection this year when she files to legally adopt Hope as her daughter. "They won't let Hope go on a field trip when Sabrina goes to sign the form because Sabrina is not her real mother. For all intents and purposes, she is the real mother except this one thing so they have to go through and legally get it done," says Mariano, who also teases a "rebirthing ceremony" Jimmy plans to help mark the occasion.
Maw Maw's new man: It sounds like Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman) and Virginia will be at odds a lot this season. First, when Virginia's cousin, Delilah (Amy Sedaris) returns to fight Virginia for Maw Maw's house. However, it's when Maw Maw gets a new man that grandmother and granddaughter may really come to blows. "We have a fun role reversal where Maw Maw is sort of acting out and dating a bad boy, and Virginia doesn't like it, and they have an argument," Mariano says. "Virginia realizes: 'I'm the lame one now.'"
Raising Hope airs Fridays at 9/8c on Fox.