Lionsgate // 2006 // 283 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brendan Babish (Retired) // August 1st, 2007
A comedy series about dealing in the suburbs
Weeds is an eclectic and dark half-hour dramedy created by Jenji Kohan, who had previously written for Sex and the City and Gilmore Girls. During its 10-episode, first season run, Weeds received critical acclaim and was the highest rated series on Showtime. In response, the show was renewed and its second season was expanded to 12 episodes (with 15 slated for the third). The 12 episodes are:
* "Corn Snake"
* "Cooking with Jesus"
* "Last Tango in Agrestic"
* "A.K.A. The Plant"
* "Mrs. Botwin's Neighborhood"
* "Crush Girl Love Panic"
* "Must Find Toes"
* "MILF Money"
* "Mile Deep and a Foot Wide"
* "Yeah, Just Like Tomatoes"
After Nancy Botwin's (Mary-Louise Parker, Angels in America) husband passes away, she begins dealing marijuana to keep her family -- two adolescent children and Andy (Justin Kirk, Angels in America), a layabout brother-in-law -- in the upscale lifestyle they've become accustomed to.
Though Nancy is a drug-dealing single mom, she still is probably one of the most normal people in Agrestic, her suburban community: there's Cecilia (Elizabeth Perkins, Big), the overbearing president of the local PTA; Councilman Doug Wilson (Kevin Nealon, Saturday Night Live), an affable vulgarian, and a member of Nancy's pot-growing team; and Andy, who is unemployed, but attempting to get into a Rabbi-training school to avoid being drafted into the Iraq war.
Additionally, Nancy's home life is a source of great stress: her elder teenage son, Silas (Hunter Parrish), is embarking on his first sexual relationship, and also happens to be a surly underachiever. Her youngest son, Shane, is in the throes of puberty; and as if all that weren't enough, Nancy discovers that her new boyfriend, Peter (Martin Donovan, Weeds) just happens to be a DEA agent.
In Weeds' second season, Mary makes the decision to expand her dealing operation, which not only greatly raises the legal stakes, but also ends up harming the business of Heylia (Tonye Patano), a friendly local dealer. This is especially troubling because Heylia's nephew, Conrad (Romany Malco), is Nancy's business partner. And of course, the local Armenian drug dealers aren't happy with the increase in competition. Yes, it's quite a tangled web we weave, when we try to deal weed.
I have to admit, for the past several years I've thought of Showtime's original programming as the Los Angeles Clippers to HBO's Lakers'-like dynasty. Showtime seemed respectable, but HBO was cranking out some of the best television since the medium was invented. Friends of mine would occasionally tell me about The L Word or Family Business, but I just couldn't get interested. That is, until I stumbled upon Weeds, which has got to be one of the best series on television.
Perhaps what is most initially striking is the show's range of tones, from broad comedy to high drama. On the comedic end, Councilman Doug and Andy are probably the strongest supporting characters in a comedy since George and Kramer. Kevin Nealon is especially strong in a performance that's nothing short of revelatory. After spending the past decade subsisting on Adam Sandler's crumbs, Nealon comes into his own for perhaps the first time in his career. Sure, Subliminal Man was funny, but nothing he's done will prepare you for Councilman Doug. And Justin Kirk is nearly as good as the wisecracking Andy. Before Weeds I had only known Kirk from his startling dramatic performance in Angels in America; like Nealon, I had no idea he had these kind of comedic chops. In Weeds these two provide consistent humor, and keep the tone from ever getting too heavy.
And the tone certainly does get heavy in the second season. Along with Nancy dealing more series quantities of marijuana, the emotional intensity of the show is ratcheted up in several subplots: Silas gets his girlfriend pregnant; Conrad becomes estranged from his aunt; and not only is Nancy's relationship with Peter threatened by her drug dealing, but her drug dealing, as well as her and her associates' freedom, is threatened by her relationship with Peter. There's enough conflict here to create a hard-hitting melodrama, but creator Jenji Kohan somehow keeps her show both affecting and hilarious at the same time.
This odd duality is maintained by a puerile sense of humor that would surely offend many. Of course, the most prominent example of this is the show's unabashed endorsement of marijuana use. It wasn't so long ago that the American government mandated that any fictional character smoking marijuana would have to be shown degenerating into hysterics and moral breakdowns. Weeds shows us how far we've come, as smoking marijuana is shown to only produce absurd conversations, giggling, and an increased appetite. In fact, the only detriment of smoking marijuana seems to be that it might get you arrested.
However, the show also seems to espouse a sexual freedom that is nontraditional, to say the least. In the episode "A.K.A. The Plant" Andy takes Shane -- who's only around eleven or twelve years old -- to see a prostitute. Andy does exercise some restraint, and ensures that Shane only receives a hand job, but I'm sure that's a meaningless distinction to many people. Of course, conventional moral wisdom holds that such an encounter would traumatize a child. In Weeds it's the best day of Shane's life.
Though the show is irreverent and often absurd, there is much here that comments profoundly on contemporary life in the United States -- especially suburbia. Weeds is a depiction of the tension between hedonism and family values, a struggle that is probably familiar to many Americans. But what makes the show unique is the honesty and insight with which it tackles these issues. There is no moralizing; unethical behavior is not necessarily punished, and it may in fact be rewarded. But of course, there sometimes are repercussions for unethical behavior and, as we see from the amazing cliffhanger at the end of the season, Nancy is hardly immune to a little karmic retribution.
Showtime should be applauded for, unlike HBO, both reasonably pricing their DVDs as well as providing a slew of extras. Sure, most of the extras on Weeds are negligible, sure as a mock commercial and a trivia section, but there are seven commentary tracks with varying cast and production members, as well as Craig X, the show's marijuana consultant. Though I had no use for it, in his commentary Craig kindly offers expert advice on growing your own stash at home; this was certainly the first time I had heard that on a DVD.
The only quibble I have with the show is that the episodes seem so short. With a great ensemble cast and melodramatic tendencies, Weeds feels like it should be an hour long. Instead, the episodes clock in at about 26 minutes each. With such small portions I found myself tearing through the season like a bag of Doritos, and before I knew it, the whole thing was over.
I've been an HBO loyalist since Dream On, but with the fall of The Sopranos and the ascension of Weeds, Showtime might just be the new pay-cable king of original programming.
I don't care what the federal law says about drug use, not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2007 Brendan Babish; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 283 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Seven commentaries with cast and crew
* Trivia tracks
* Four Weeds featurettes
* MILF gag reel
* Huskeroos commercials
* Little boxes montage
* "Jammin' Nation" extended performance
* Official site