If you’re one of the more ravenous followers of this little site we have here, you may have noticed that I’m the lowest-cultured of the Culturatti. While they’re out there writing about art exhibits, poetry, or the legitimate theatre, I’m bringing you articles about comic books, video games, and Ninja Turtles. I’m really dragging this place down.
Well, this one won’t be any different. I’m here today to talk about a TV show. Not a show about politics, not something from the BBC, and not a nature documentary program. This is a sitcom. It’s a sitcom about pot.
Weeds is aired on Showtime (though I tune in on Channel Bittorrent), and since Showtime is cable, in addition to regular displays of people getting quite thoroughly baked, we also get swearing and nudity. It’s the trifecta of network evils.
Weeds isn’t really all about pot, and if I’ve set it up as juvenile, that was just to give me an excuse to use that snappy opening. Created by Jenji Kohan, its setup is about a recently-widowed suburban mother named Nancy who sells pot around the neighbourhood to keep her family in the lifestyle they’re accustomed to, but that’s just a launching pad; from there it spreads into a cornucopia of cynical-liberal social comedizing. Nancy’s late-20’s brother-in-law is a stoner-horndog-mooch trying to find a way to dodge what he sees as an inevitable draft to Iraq; her xanaxed-up neighbour is as shallow and vindictive a cunt as possible, even more so after she was diagnosed with breast cancer; her teenage son seemed like a nice guy, until the episode that just aired, where he did something to his deaf girlfriend which I won’t recount here, but which was a nasty, nasty move.
This sounds like a lineup of cliches, and it is, and maybe that’s part of the point — the show’s theme song is “Little Boxes,” a 1960’s hippie folk ditty about conformity; Weeds is certainly another entry in the “seamy underbelly of the suburbs” class of satire, but it doesn’t feel unoriginal at all, because these characters are so well-written and well-acted that their impact is sympathetic, realistic, and very funny. In terms of humour, the brother-in-law in particular, played by Justin Kirk, is remarkable — a scene he had in the most recent episode where he “explains” masturbation to Nancy’s sock-flushing preteen son had me laughing harder than anything in a long time, based on his performance even more than the lines he was given.
Mary-Louise Parker holds it all together as Nancy — a woman too young to have a kid already in highschool, and way too young to be a widow — trying to find a balance between being a cool, understanding mom and a good mom, dealing with the stresses that come from having an illegal source of income, still reeling from the sudden death of her husband, but never having had a chance to really mourn him. She’s basically a woman trying to keep calm, cool and in control when constantly overwhelmed by her life. Parker’s skill in this role and her appeal really make this show possible. (And some points to Elizabeth Perkins as the medicated neighbour, for making her such a likable cunt.)
The show is completely a liberal wank, but it’s far from PC — every colour of the rainbow is represented in the supporting cast, and each one takes their fair share of potshots (Guess which group this one’s aimed at, as casually spoken over lunch by Kevin Nealon: “A lot of you name your kids Jesus. It’s a thing with you people.”). But for all of its not-quite-idealized brotherhood of humanity setting, for its depictions of honesty about sex and drugs, for its displays of consequence-free marijuana use, it never gets outright preachy. You know its stance from the stories and characters; chances are, if you are watching, you more-or-less agree already. If it’s a show out to make change, it’s taking the subtle approach. As it is, I think it’s just out to make a funny, modern, character-driven show for an adult audience (one not afraid to laugh at the occasional bodily fluid joke).
Before I finish, I’d like to point out that I did not use a marijuana pun in my title, or anywhere else in this article on Weeds. Check around on the internet; I guarantee you it’s the only one. The second season just started a few weeks ago on Showtime, and the first is out on DVD (as well as you-know-where). The first season has only got 10 episodes; it’s a great way to spend less than 5 hours.
Hey, looks like I’m not alone in my opinion. Someone thought to post that masturbation heart-to-heart scene I mentioned on YouTube. laebmada