Wednesday, July 26, 2006

WEEDS: FIRST SEASON SERIES

Mary-Louise Parker WEEDS Created by Jenji Kohan
Reviewed by Byron Merritt

BIG THUMS UP!

BIG THUMBS UP FIRST SERIES SEASON REVIEW!

WEEDS is a complicated series currently airing on the cable network SHOWTIME, the same corp. that brought us DEAD LIKE ME and other controversial television. And WEEDS certainly is wonderfully bizarre.

Mary-Louise Parker (THE WEST WING) stars as Nancy Botwin, a recent widow with two children and a cash flow problem. She lives in the fictitious town of Agrestic in Anywhere Suburbia, America. In fact, the shows lead-in goes through great pains to show us how common an area she and her family live in. This is vital since most of today’s drug culture tends to live right under our proverbial noses. And the drug, as the title intends, is marijuana, often considered shameful by some to be considered "illegal" while others throw tantrums about its gateway significance. But Nancy has to feed her family and she’ll do whatever it takes to ensure their survival.

In the midst of this seemingly benign town we have a troop of old and new pot smokers. The older generation is exhibited by none other than Kevin Nealon (ANGER MANAGEMENT) whose character, Doug Wilson, is a bored and immature accountant. Self-centered and completely useless in terms of assisting his neighbors, his character is absolutely fantastic. You could easily picture him still in high school if it weren’t for his extremely receding hairline and the family minivan he drives. The newer generation is brought to light by Nancy Botwin’s brother-in-law, Andy, played by the excellent Justin Kirk (FLANNEL PAJAMAS, 2006). He has no direction in life and is now firmly entrenched in Nancy’s home. His failings at life are mirrored through his careless attitudes toward women or growing in any meaningful way. But once in a while — just occasionally — he’ll make a remark of wonderful profoundness that blows Nancy away. He also is a much needed father-figure (although a VERY screwed up one) for Nancy’s two boys, Shane (Alexander Gould, FINDING NEMO) and Silas (Hunter Parrish, RV). It is Silas, the high schooler, whom we get to see experiment with the emerging drug culture that surrounds his household. Although initially unaware of his mother’s "business", he quickly reveals to the viewer that he’s "not stupid" about what’s happening under his own roof.

Nancy’s friends are a mixed bag. Celia (Elizabeth Perkins, BIG), is a member of the PTA, has a child who suffers with being overweight, and recently found out her husband had an affair with the local, and beautiful, Asian tennis instructor. As the series progresses, we learn that Celia has breast cancer and this comes as devastating news for someone so infatuated with one’s appearance (as seen through the mother-daughter relationships). The Shepard’s, a black family that live in a "bad part of town", act as Nancy’s suppliers of the green leaf. They battle finances versus keeping their business strictly business whenever Nancy comes around (which fluctuates as her business expands and contracts).

The wonderful thing about this series is that it puts a mess of moral material in the viewer’s lap. What is wrong with marijuana when Percocet and other heavy narcotics are readily available via a doctor’s prescription? Is it wrong for a person to support their family by dealing in something as shady as drug trafficking? Can a woman be both a loving and compassionate mother while at the same time selling something potentially addicting? Is it hypocritical for someone to sell "the stuff" while at the same time punishing their kids when they catch them doing some of it? Quite a moral quagmire, I’d say.

The other thing that makes this series work is it’s sexy. Mary-Louise Parker has that ...something about her that makes her both a respectable looking woman and just a tad slutty. She’s a sexual being who struggles with life in the shadow of her husband’s death and has to decide what’s best for her, her kids, and her husband’s memory; most times these things are in direct opposition of each other. Elizabeth Perkins mirrors much of Parker’s character in that she too has that respectable/slutty look but also some uppityness ...until her cancer rears up. Then she becomes more introspective and the slut takes over, for a while.

The series producers also put in a deaf and sexually promiscuous girlfriend for Nancy’s son, Silas. This added an entirely new dimension to Silas’ character as he’s forced to grow-up without a father to guide him through this teenage sexual minefield and he finds solace with the deaf girl’s household more than with his own whenever internal family problems arise.

This first season took about two episodes to get rolling, but once it did there was no stopping it. You really need to open your mind to the possibilities surrounding this show. It’s not JUST about drugs. It’s about the people that are shoved into this niche group for the sake of survival, and it’s captivating to watch how their flawed lives intermingle. Pot smoker or not, these characters are headed for interesting days. Season two has already been purchased by SHOWTIME, which would indicate WEED might be picking up speed and continue smokin’ for some time.

Click here for the Weeds series trailer!

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