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Case Number 16581

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Weeds: Season Four

Lionsgate // 2008 // 362 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // June 10th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Adam Arseneau has a green thumb.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Weeds: Season One (published July 19th, 2006), Weeds: Season Two (published August 1st, 2007), Weeds: Season Three (published June 11th, 2008), Weeds: Season Four (Blu-Ray) (published June 25th, 2009), Weeds: Season Five (published January 19th, 2010), Weeds: Season Five (Blu-Ray) (published January 21st, 2010), Weeds: Season Six (Blu-Ray) (published March 2nd, 2011), and Weeds: Season Seven (Blu-ray) (published February 17th, 2012) are also available.

The Charge

A new season of fresh buds.

Opening Statement

Showtime's sensational substance-abusing hot show Weeds returns for a fourth season on DVD. Some big changes lead to a shakedown of cast and location, but the drug-distributing antics continue unabated.

Facts of the Case

Having set her life on fire (literally), Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) and her family leave the cookie-cutter security of Agrestic and head south, near the Mexican border, graduating from selling and growing weed to trafficking. A change is required, and a new life by the seashore is just what the doctor ordered. However, old habits die hard, and before they know it, Nancy is back in bed—literally and figuratively—with all manner of criminal element. She's tried selling weed, she's tried growing weed. The only thing left is trafficking weed from Mexico.

Weeds: Season Four contains all thirteen episodes of the fourth season of Weeds spread over three discs:

• "Mother Thinks the Birds Are After Her"
• "Lady's a Charm"
• "The Whole Blah Damn Thing"
• "The Three Coolers"
• "No Man is Pudding"
• "Excellent Treasures"
• "Yes I Can"
• "I Am the Table"
• "Little Boats"
• "The Love Circle Overlap"
• "Head Cheese"
• "Till We Meet Again"
• "If You Work for a Living, Why Do You Kill Yourself Working?"

The Evidence

Every show reaches a point after a few years where the writing gets stagnant, the character development peters out, and staleness seeps in. The solution is to shake things up; adding new characters, new villains, and new romantic entanglements that break the mold. For Weeds, a show satirizing the conformity and uniform nature of suburban living, the solution is obvious: leave the suburbs. Weeds: Season Four takes some big chances by moving the Botwin family out of Agrestic, leaving a significant portion of cast and familiarity behind to strike out in a new direction. Fortune, after all, favors the bold!

Whether you see it as a natural evolution of the progression of the show, or something akin to Fonzie eyeing a shark in swim trunks, Weeds commits itself to its course quickly, abandoning the 'burbs without looking back. We still get continuance of errant plot details back in Agrestic, but only for an episode or two before the characters find themselves in Ren Mar for various reasons; all the Botwins arrive, along with Doug Wilson (Kevin Nealon) and Celia Hodes (Elizabeth Perkins). Everyone else still in Agrestic gets left behind. In exchange, we get beachfront properties, cross-border Mexican smuggling, and a surly and sardonic Albert Brooks for a four-episode run. It's a fair trade. To pad out the now-diminished cast, we see roles expanded like Guillermo (Guillermo Díaz), a drug player who gets more screen time in this season.

The change in locale hasn't changed much for the Botwins. Nancy continues to push the boundaries of her own identity, both financially and sexually, while her two children continue to self-destruct in spectacular fashion. Andy (Justin Kirk) and Doug keep themselves busy by starting up a coyote business, which is as hilarious as it is improbable. As for the rest of the cast, why they haven't taken Celia and locked her in a refrigerator, then chained up the refrigerator, and then thrown the refrigerator into the Pacific Ocean is beyond me. Weeds manages to shake things up quite nicely, but it can't quite shake the reoccurring (and redundant) plot device of having quiet moments disrupted by Celia @#$%ing things up. Then again, you can't take all the familiar out of Weeds. I do like Andy's development into a mature and (relatively) reliable responsible adult. Since no one lives in Agrestic any more, the excellent theme song and rotating musical performances also get left behind in Weeds: Season Four. No more little boxes made of ticky-tacky. It's kind of sad.

As the season concludes, things get unnecessarily complicated for everyone involved, which is par for the course. Unlike the Mexican standoff situation that boiled down in the previous season pitting Nancy against gun-toting gangsters, her problem this time around is one of conscience. By moving from selling weed to partaking in wholesale international drug trafficking, the floodgates of her conscience tear open. Weeds has always wrestled with its moral ambiguity, but it comes to the forefront here in a way not seen before. Before, Nancy did what she did to protect and provide for her family; she took the necessary steps to survive, and justified it thusly. Now, flush with cash and in a no-rent situation, her argument flies out the door. The further into Guillermo's organization she gets, the harder it gets for her to justify her own actions. Nancy was able to get out relatively scot-free in past seasons, but Weeds: Season Four gets intense, and her carefree attitude and parenting decisions come back to haunt her fiercely. There are some genuine consequences this time through, and the added gravitas is as welcome as a cold drink of water. Early episodes are good, but not particularly satisfying; the uprooting from Agrestic disorients viewers and writers, and it takes a few episodes for everyone to find the rhythm again. By the midpoint, the show finds its rails again and barrels towards another cliffhanger finale, leaving viewers hanging for another season.

Visually, Weeds: Season Four is splendid, with a vibrant, detailed, and high-quality transfer. Colors leap off the screen, almost oversaturated, with deep black levels and nicely balanced color tones. A small amount of grain is detectable depending on the sequence, but nothing distracting. For standard definition transfers, this is about as good as television gets on DVD. Audio is as impressive with a full-on Dolby Digital 5.1 EX presentation, rich and meaty and clear as can be. Rear channels are balanced and active, springing to life as required with punch and ambient detail. Bass response is strong and balanced. The only drawback to the aggressive audio treatment is the dialogue, which while clean and detailed is mostly in the center channel, and can get drowned out by the other channels. A stereo channel is also available for those without the gear, and it sounds pretty darn good all things considered—a little less punchy and substantial, but certainly good in a pinch.

Extras get spread throughout the three-disc set, consisting primarily of seven commentary tracks featuring creator Jenji Kohan and various cast and crew. The ones with Kevin Nealon are fun, but the rest are snooze-fests, to be perfectly honest, with nothing substantial or interesting to sink the teeth into. Some small scattered featurettes round out the rest of the material, discussing the changes in title sequence ("Little Titles by Jenji Kohan"), interviews and discussions with actors Guillermo Díaz, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould, Allie Grant, and Hunter Parrish ("Moving Weight," "I'm A Big Kid Now," "The Real Hunter Parish") and go behind-the-scenes with set designers and crew to discuss the new changes in location ("Tour of Bubbie's House," "One Stop Chop Shop," "The Weed Wranglers," "Burbs to the Beach").

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The biggest problem with Weeds: Season Four isn't the relocation per se, but the absence of significance in the relocation. Agrestic wasn't just about making a theme song seem clever; it was a delivery device to biting social satire and critique about suburban living. Weeds thrived in the little boxes, pointing out again and again how foolish and ridiculous the modern rat race has become. Take the show out of its planned development and Weeds is still Weeds, but the absence of profundity is noticeable. What steps up to fill the gap? A subtle modern critique of cross-border Mexican travel?

Closing Statement

Despite the changes, Weeds: Season Four delivers another entertaining and solid season of the show as good as fans could hope for. A new locale brings new challenges and a refreshing change of scenery for the Botwins, but the dysfunctionality and the drug dealing remain perfectly intact. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Oh, and the possession charges have been dropped.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 95
Audio: 95
Extras: 60
Acting: 88
Story: 86
Judgment: 89

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 362 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Comedy
• Drama
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Episode Commentaries
• Featurettes
• Gag Reel

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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