|Weeds: Season One (2005)
Starring: Mary-Louis Parker, Elizabeth Perkins, Tonye Patano, Romany Malco, Kevin Nealon, Justin Kirk, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould
With HBO gradually putting all of their landmark programs to rest, and Showtime finally jumping into the game with a couple good shows of their own, the battle for the spot as Top Premium Channel should begin to heat up over the coming months. Already showcasing such critical darlings as “Queer as Folk,” “The L Word” and the recently-cancelled “Huff,” Showtime has finally found their first big hit in Jenji Kohan’s latest series about dealing in the suburbs. More of a “Desperate Housewives”-styled satirical drama than the half-hour sitcom it was originally billed as, “Weeds” not only features a stellar class led by Emmy Award winner Mary-Louis Parker, but those skeptical about watching a series regarding marijuana will be pleased to know that there’s a whole lot more to the show other than getting high.
Recently widowed and financially unstable, Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louis Parker) will do whatever it takes to preserve her family’s suburban lifestyle, even if it means becoming the neighborhood dealer; a job she’s most certainly not cut out for. And when she isn’t off learning the tricks of the trade from her wisecracking suppliers, Heylia James (Tonye Patano) and Conrad Shepard (Romany Malco), Nancy struggles to run her own household – including her two boys, Silas and Shane (Hunter Parrish and Alexander Gould, respectively) and her lazy brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk), who puts the show’s many other antics to shame when he has cybersex with Silas’ sixteen-year-old deaf girlfriend. Rounding out the ensemble cast is Elizabeth Perkins as Nancy’s slightly psychotic neighbor and incredibly neurotic PTA chairlady, Celia Hodes, and Kevin Nealon as her pot-smoking accountant and city councilman, Doug.
The first season of the series follows Nancy on her rise from small-time dealer to city-wide businesswoman, and while she struggles with the decision to create a cover-up bakery for her drug peddling, she still has to play super mom to her two kids. One is experiencing a sudden craving for sex and drugs, while the other has reverted to causing trouble (like starting fires, writing explicit rap lyrics, biting people and shooting mountain lions) in an attempt to deal with his father’s death. Oh, and did I also happen to mention that Nancy gets conned out of $14,000 worth of marijuana by a community college rent-a-cop looking for a quick score? Yeah, well, she does. And those are just some of Nancy’s problems, let alone the many other characters dealing with some life-changing crises of their own, like Celia, who is diagnosed with breast cancer, and Andy, who’s drafted by the U.S. Army to go fight in Iraq.
The writing is merciless, and just when a character has finally dealt with all of their problems, a new one is slapped across their neck like a leash restraining them from having any fun – namely Nancy and Celia, who share the title of main character, despite the fact that this is clearly Parker’s vehicle. The series also has an amusing habit of referring to other vices as drugs, while marijuana is played off as nothing worse than a bottle of aspirin. For instance, upon completing a sale with Nancy, Josh (played by guest star Justin Chatwin) notices several Starbucks cups piling up in her car and remarks: “Take her easy on the lattes, Ms. B. Don’t kid yourself, caffeine is a serious drug.” In fact, Justin does a wonderful job as the pot-selling teenager, and it’s a crime that they weren’t able to coax him away from “War of the Worlds” in order to become a series regular. The rest of the guest roles aren’t even close to being as entertaining, though Jane Lynch stops by as the weed-baking Candy Man, and Martin Donovan plays a possible love interest for Nancy, who she discovers actually works for the DEA in the finale.
The DVD release for the first season isn’t a complete disaster, but it’s filled with a lot of filler material that doesn’t make the final product any richer. Presented in the two-disc box set are all ten episodes, transferred to DVD in the originally-broadcasted 1.33:1 video format and featuring a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. The first disc of the set includes four audio commentaries (with creator Jenji Kohan (#1), director Craig Fisk (#3), and co-stars Tonye Patano (#5) and Romany Malco (#6)), and while the first track is an utterly boring commentary made even more miserable with a crying baby in the background, the other three tracks are worth checking out. Director Craig “X” Fisk (whose past credits include “Alias,” “Scrubs,” and “Entourage,” and who also served as a consultant on the show) is amusing to listen to, while Malco’s track is more about trivia than anything else.
The second disc of the set features more of the same, including two commentary tracks (with co-star Kevin Nealon (#8) and creator Kohan (#10), as well as a couple short featurettes on the fact/fiction of marijuana (“Smoke and Mirrors”) and the making-of the series (“Suburban Shakedown), four-minutes worth of cast interviews, a quickie gag reel (of mostly promotional material) and 12 herb-infused kitchen recipes. That final special feature is only for those brave enough to completely ruin their dinner by adding weed. The rest of us will have only the first season to keep us entertained, but it’s more than enough until the second season debuts in August. You may not be that interested in the world of marijuana, but honestly, it proves to be quite fascinating at times. If nothing else, “Weeds” is worth watching for Parker’s performance alone. The world of Nancy Botwin is disturbingly humorous and sad. At the same time. Now, if that’s not enough to make you want to get high – or at least make some cash off people that do – I don’t know what is.