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Wednesday, February 21, 2007 


Her Highness & the New Nacirema Dream

WEEDS, next to since-cancelled ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, just might be the smartest and funniest thirty minutes on television. After being sent the first four episodes of the second season last year weeks before they even aired on Showtime, I immediately ran out and bought Season One on DVD to catch up on all the story arcs and character history I had missed to ready myself for the remainder of the second season. Like AD, it really is just that addictive and while it’s a bit more accessible to new viewers than AD, the amazing continuity and ingenious plot twists will keep you entertained and more importantly, telling your friends.

WEEDS revolves around the life of homemaker Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) who lives in the fictional, upper-middle-class neighborhood of Agrestic, Calif. Her storybook existence falls apart when her husband Judah suddenly and unexpectedly dies while out jogging with their youngest son. With the breadwinner gone, in order to maintain the lifestyle she and her two young sons, Silas and Shane, have grown accustomed to, Nancy begins secretly selling marijuana to the other colorful and well-to-do residents of her picturesque suburb.

Leave It To Beaver this ain’t.

It didn’t surprise me to find that the series’ creator Jenji Kohan was inspired by a few of my other favorite shows like The Shield and The Sopranos, where we’re conditioned to root for characters who work outside of the law (how on Earth can you dislike a woman who just lost her husband and only wants to provide the best for her remaining family?). The difference between WEEDS and those other shows, though, is that WEEDS is a half-hour dark comedy with the occasional hint of drama where Kohan’s inspirations are just the opposite, dramas with a subtle dash of humor. But like The Shield and The Sopranos, every character, main and supporting, is fleshed out vividly and realistically and have real moral dilemmas of their own.

Nancy’s supplier is a tough and streetwise black woman, Heylia James, (I find her a bit of a stereotype, honestly; a large black woman who’s all bluster and bad attitude) who is also helped by her nephew Conrad (Romany Malco) and her niece, Vaneeta (Indigo). Malco, probably best known as Jay from The 40-Year Old Virgin, is one of the show’s brightest spots, just as he was in that movie and the sexual tension between he and Parker easily rivals that of Willis and Shepard on their best night on Moonlighting. Nancy’s brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk) arrives shortly after his brother’s death under the guise of helping her raise the boys but he likely just needs a place to live as we soon learn that Andy’s a nomadic and lazy schemer. Once he realizes how Nancy makes ends meet, he’s more than happy to offer his assistance.

Nancy tries (unsuccessfully) to talk with her youngest son Shane about masturbation:

Uncle Andy's talk goes a bit better.

The supporting cast is as strong as the main players. Celia Hodes (Elizabeth Perkins), her newly-unemployed lawyer husband Dean and their daughter Isabelle are the prototypical dysfunctional surburban family. Celia is selfish, materialistic and bitchy to everyone (well, almost everyone; she screwed Conrad in the back of Nancy’s SUV when she found out she had cancer in the first season), she and her husband are unhappily married thus both have wandering eyes while their daughter, a slightly overweight and chubby kid (and is reminded of this at every turn by her insensitive mother) who dabbles in lesbianism and models “husky” kids’ clothes, is caught in the middle. Nancy’s best customer, Doug (Kevin Nealon) also happens to be an Agrestic city councilman and her accountant who has a humorous yet antagonistic relationship with Celia. When Celia decides to run for city council (an idea sparked unintentionally by Nancy) gunning for Doug’s seat to get back at him (her spitefulness leads her husband, Dean to eventually become Doug’s campaign manager rather than supporting his wife), she wins but also ends up having an affair with Doug! And Celia’s first major undertaking, a Drug Free Zone policy, unwittingly brings her at direct odds with her friend, Nancy.

Nancy and Celia: Just Like Sisters

I think what I like best is that this show isn’t just about illegal drugs. In fact, weed plays such a small part. I initially avoided WEEDS when I first heard the premise because I thought it would be just another disposable sitcom with silly stoner humor and fart jokes. How wrong was I? Since making the decision to sell weed, Nancy not only has to deal with one rebellious older son and a younger one still trying to cope with his father’s death, she’s had to use her resourcefulness (and cute little ass; Heylia's words not mine) to fend off rival dealers, juggle her business-necessitated “marriage” to a DEA agent and her growing attraction to the nephew of her supplier (when Heylia has clearly forbidden that they even be friends) all while trying to strike out on her own and run her own grow house with Conrad behind Heylia's back.

Most amazingly, this show manages to make a skinny little white woman the most attractive single mom in the world for about a half an hour. If you watch this show, you will have a crush on Mary-Louise Parker by the time it’s over. You may believe you have a firm grasp on what the term “milf” means to you when you begin but you won’t truly understand the true definition of that word until you see Nancy Botwin widen those big brown doe eyes of hers, give her trademark smirk, which ranges from sheepish and nervous to knowing and mischievous, or throw a seductive glance, then you will finally know for sure.

My advice would be to catch up now on what you’ve missed and get onboard this one before the third season takes off. See why Mary-Louis Parker, the star of a little-known premium cable television show, won the 2006 Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Comedy or Musical, beating out the four lead actresses of Desperate Housewives, arguably the nation’s most popular network television show at the time, when no one else thought she had a snowball’s chance in hell. It really is just that good. I only hope I’m not too late in telling you about it.