Nancy Botwin is a suburban widow and mother of two, who makes ends meet as the local neighbourhood pot dealer. Her life appears to be falling apart around her, with her youngest son Shane overcoming the death of his father in his own peculiar way, and his teen son Silas finding his life overrun by girls and hormones. She has to contend with the tedious pontificating of the PTA, the neurotic ramblings of her best friend, the weed-induced ramblings of her accountant, coming home to one child who makes terrorist home videos and writes rap songs and another who just thinks about where and when he is next going to get laid. All that and a variable client base, a feisty pot supplier and her own personal grief and loss - which tends to get put on a serious backburner while she irons out the rest of her problems.
Weeds is an often dark, at times bleak, at times hilarious look at the strained, dysfunctional underbelly of supposedly idyllic suburban life. As the opening montage sums up, everybody looks the same, acts the same, dresses the same and drives the same car out of identical looking houses. But few, if any, are happy - and those that appear to be are generally only either pretending, or too stupid to know better. Nancy is, remarkably, one of the most down-to-earth of the whole bunch, despite the fact that her life seems permanently on the point of falling apart. Rival dealers, medical cannabis stores and bad weed all contribute towards her stress, and when she tries to outsource her dealing to a bunch of college campus tutors you can just tell things are go bad. With her best friend's marriage on the rocks and her reckless brother-in-law wreaking yet more havoc in her life, it is a wonder that she holds it all together.
Nancy is perfectly embodied by the lovely Mary Louise Parker (who you might recognise from Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe or, more recently, The West Wing). She brings to life this zany, witty, vulnerable woman who has been put in a position where she is forced to be strong. Her best friend Celia, whose own life takes some pretty shocking turns across the season, is played by Elizabeth Perkins - another actress who you may recognise, but not remember what from - who is also perfectly cast. She does stuck-up but damaged very well and her character's self-realisation is one of the more interesting story arcs. The Saturday Night Live stand-up comic Kevin Nealon plays Nancy's accountant (and one of her best clients) Doug, and does well in a role where you are neither supposed to particularly like or dislike him. Romany Malco provides solid support at the nephew of Nancy's supplier, who has quite a soft spot for her. You might recognise him from 40 Year Old Virgin and Blades of Glory and he's a solid if insubstantial character in this suburban satire. It's also worth noting bit-part-player Justin Kirk, who comes in as Nancy's unreliable brother-in-law Andy, who sparks up the second half of the first season and makes the show even more watchable.
Weeds will certainly not be to everybody's tastes, perhaps because it is a little too subtly satirical to be totally accessible. It is neither Desperate Housewives, nor is it an out-and-out comedy like Friends. Still, it does have a couple of compelling characters (most notably Mary Louise Parker's pivotal widow, Nancy) and some interesting story arcs, and the all-too-brief episodes do leave you wanting to see what happens next. Worth investigating further to see if you like it.
1. Pilot: You Can't Miss the Bear
2. Free Goat
3. Good Shit Lollipop
4. Fashion of the Christ
5. Lude Awakening
6. Dead in the Nethers
7. Higher Education
8. The Punishment Light
9. The Punishment Lighter
10. The Godmother
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