Lionsgate // 2005 // 283 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // July 19th, 2006
A comedy series about dealing in the suburbs.
Showtime lived up to its "no limits" slogan by producing a situation comedy about a soccer mom who deals weed in the suburbs of California. It was a show no major network in their right mind would touch. Weeds is a tough sell from the start with a recently widowed Mary-Louise Parker (HBO's Angels in America, The West Wing) desperately trying to make ends meet for her family by doing something patently illegal. It's a dark subject, but thanks to a game cast, biting satire, and excellent direction the show works despite its distasteful premise. I never thought I would be cheering for a drug dealer mom from the 'burbs, but somehow Weeds became everything Desperate Housewives promised to deliver and then some. If you've seen it, you know what I mean. If you haven't tried it, watch out because Weeds -- Season One is addictive as...well...
Nancy Botwin (Parker) faces both sudden widowhood and unexpected poverty, but she's found an ingenious way to make ends meet. Nancy has become the biggest dealer of pot in her stereotypical neighborhood called Agrestic, where everyone's grass just got a whole lot greener. She has two boys to take care of and an image to uphold. Will her bitchy best friend Celia (Elizabeth Perkins, Must Love Dogs) find out? Will her number one customer, city councilman and financial advisor Doug Wilson (Kevin Nealon, Saturday Night Live) slip up and get her busted? Will her "straight out of Compton" suppliers of the chronic take pity on her when she needs some help?
Episodes in Weeds -- Season One include:
* "Pilot/You Can't Miss the Bear"
* "Free Goat"
* "Good Shit Lollipop"
* "Fashion of the Christ"
* "Lude Awakening"
* "Dead in the Nethers"
* "Higher Education"
* "The Punishment Lighter"
* "The Godmother"
The show's creator Jenji Kohan certainly had the chops to turn in a revolutionary comedy. She had worked as a writer on both Sex and the City and Will and Grace, so she knew how to produce edgy comedy firsthand. Weeds was first offered to HBO, who decided to pass on the project because it involved kids, and they really didn't want to go there. The executives at Showtime green lit the show almost immediately, and they prepared extensively for the inevitable backlash coming from doing a show that might be seen as glamorizing drug usage. The funniest thing happened when Weeds debuted after an episode of the lesbian soap opera The L Word: nobody even blanched. Let's face it! When you follow a bunch of naked women celebrating their freedom, a little pot doesn't seem so bad anymore. The critics loved it, and a cult audience found a new show to champion.
It's hard to classify Weeds into one category. It's neither situation comedy nor night time soap, but rather a volatile mix of both in a black comedy package. It's described as a subversive satire, and it does well at skewering suburbia straight through its hypocritical heart. You'd think the show would be about drugs, but it's more an indictment of those "ticky tacky" endless rows of neighborhoods where everyone conforms to a moral propriety that doesn't exist. The show has ambition, and it could have fallen flat in a big way. Yet somehow Weeds succeeds in juggling everything masterfully.
The show does so well because the cast and producers know exactly how to balance the drama and the comedy against social satire. They know drugs can only go so far, so the drama and the comedy comes out of the relationships of the characters. This isn't a Cheech and Chong production; it's about a mom struggling to keep her family afloat and together. She doesn't even use what she sells, which is the golden rule of any dealer. So surprisingly Weeds rarely has scenes with anyone stumbling around baked on marijuana. The core of the show is the idea of desperately wanting to stay in suburbia, and doing anything you can to remain in a world where everyone seems the same. Weeds is most wicked not when it is sending up drug culture, but when it takes aim at the hypocritical world Nancy lives in. Selling pot allows Nancy to see the underworld of her seemingly perfect neighborhood, and it also forces her to realize the people on the "wrong side of the tracks" have better morals.
Mary-Louise Parker is simply incredible, and makes the lead role of Nancy her own. She took home a Golden Globe for this performance, and it was completely deserved. Hers is a brave, honest portrayal no other actress in Hollywood could pull off. The tone shifts from funny to sad on a dime, and she's right there every step of the way to make you believe. But don't think she's alone here and the only reason to watch the show. Elizabeth Perkins as Cecilia is deliciously funny and dry as the neighborhood's bitchy gossip queen with a devastating secret or two of her own. I am wrong for saying this, but Perkins looks sexier than ever as age suits her well. Kevin Nealon is hysterical as the boorish accountant with a taste for Nancy's ganja. Tonye Patano (Little Manhattan) is the matronly weed supplier, and she has her own brand of ghetto fabulous on display. Romany Malco (The 40 Year Old Virgin) is the sexy interracial love interest, which is wisely underplayed throughout the series as a friend. Justin Kirk (Angels in America) appears in this season as Nancy's lost brother who just found out his sister's dark secret. The kids who play Nancy's children and the neighborhood kids are all outstanding. The cast is one of the best ensembles on television, and they do the most immaculate acting of any situation comedy on all the networks.
The extras found on Weeds -- Season One are amazingly robust, with six full-length episode commentaries and some great short looks at behind the scenes and about pot. The featurette Smoke and Mirrors details the history of marijuana and the many uses of hemp. There is a collection of recipes that you can add pot to if you choose in the text feature called Agrestic Herbal Recipes. The behind the scenes bits are short, but there are a lot of funny insights from the cast. The centerpiece of the extras is the individual commentaries. I'm not sure why there is never a group behind the microphone, but each actor or production team member has more than enough to say to carry you through one episode gracefully.
The packaging for Weeds -- Season One is well executed with a cardboard slipcase cover and a cardboard fold out holding two discs. The only problem with this is the discs seem to pop out easily, so you may want to do the shake routine to insure you don't get a scratched copy off the store shelf. The show is presented full screen, which is true to how the series was conceived and aired. The colors are vibrant, and there's no problems with the visual presentation that isn't a stylistic choice. Directors of Weeds seem overly fond of filters, so sometimes the colors seem too amber in certain sequences. The surround stereo mix is not too aggressive, often only utilizing four speakers most of the time.
Why marijuana? If Nancy were dealing crack cocaine the series would flail, and we'd never be on her side. There's something about pot that seems benign and silly. Yet it's still illegal, and there's a certain tension to her situation. That leads us to a troubling question about whether the show truly has a moral center. A lot of people will be turned off immediately, and Showtime originally braced for backlash. That never came formally, because America (or at least that part of America that pays for premium channels on cable) is numb to the idea of recreational drugs. Still, some people will find the concept distasteful. The entire series I kept hoping Nancy would find a way to make ends meet without dealing, but then the name of the show would have to change. Honestly the drugs are the "McGuffin" to kick off the show, an element that gives us a starting point to hang the drama on. There's no need to judge, because the show satirizes any judgmental attitude. If you protest, you won't get it.
This is definitely a great show complete with excellent acting, wry scripts, and a nice production look that makes it an amazing ride. The critics and the cult followers are right about this one, and I found myself wondering why the show couldn't run head to head against Desperate Housewives. Weeds -- Season One is a great DVD package with plenty of extras to satisfy even the ardent fans who watched each episode as it aired.
Guilty and addictive, Weeds -- Season One is one set that's worth scoring from your favorite corner DVD dealer. Just be sure and have plenty of salty snacks on hand for the side effect -- hungry for more.
Review content copyright © 2006 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Golden Gavel 2006 Nominee
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 283 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode One Commentary with Writer/Creator Jenji Kohan
* Episode Three Commentary with Actor and Marijuana Activist "Craig X"
* Episode Five Commentary with Actress Tonye Patano
* Episode Six Commentary with Actor Romany Malco
* Episode Eight Commentary with Actor Kevin Nealon
* Episode Ten Commentary with Writer/Creator Jenji Kohan
* Text Feature -- Agrestic Herbal Recipes
* Showtime Original Shorts
* Showtime Original "Behind the Scenes"
* Featurette -- Smoke and Mirrors
* Featurette -- Suburban Shakedown
* Blooper Reel from Extra Features -- Smokey Snippets
* NIDA Information on Pot