With Weeds returning to Showtime on August 13, I thought I'd give myself a treat and watch the first two seasons On-Demand. I'm still close to bursting out laughing over some of the scenes and characters. I would say the series is right up there with Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development as fall-down, laughing-out-loud comedy. But Weeds also has a darker side, which really kept me on the edge of my seat by the end of the second season (nice accompaniment to falling down laughing).
For anyone who's been living on Alpha Centauri or thereabouts the past few years: Mary Louise Parker plays Nancy Botwin, a suburban single mom who deals weed. Her husband Judah dropped dead unexpectedly while jogging, leaving Nancy no insurance and a load of bills. She has two sons – Silas (Hunter Parish) a high-school student and Shane (Alexander Gould) just breaking into puberty. Her brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk) moves in to help. Lupita (Renee Victor) the housekeeper doesn't do any work, because she discovered Nancy's stash and that's her price for keeping quiet.
There's hilarity in almost every family scene, but Andy is in a class by himself. He explains the ins-and-outs of masturbating to Shane, who's been gumming up the plumbing with his used socks. He provides sage counsel to both boys about girls and women. He gets involved with a sexy wacko himself as he goes to rabbinical school to avoid going to Iraq – until a dog bites off two of his toes, giving him grounds for a medical deferment if needed.
The first season is mostly laughs, as Nancy struggles to get her business going and make ends meet. But it ends with a startling scene – the first guy she has let herself romantically sleep with after her husband's death is DEA, a drug enforcement agent.
This sets up the considerably more sinister but even funnier second season. Nancy secretly marries DEA agent Peter (Martin Donovan), who says he loves her. The idea is that Peter, as her husband, can't be compelled to testify against her, and nor would he want to, since public disclosure of being married to a drug dealer would ruin his career. It's not that Nancy loves him – she certainly likes him, at this point – it's that she's willing to do anything to protect her business and her family. She's not above using sex and whatever is necessary. I actually think this makes her more admirable.
Meanwhile, her business is booming. Conrad (Romany Malco), who starts out as a low-level drug runner, turns out to be a George Washington Carver of weed, and develops a highly desirable variety. Nancy and Conrad put together a cartel of characters to run the business, including Saturday Night Live's Kevin Nealon as the pot-smoking town councilman Doug, and Andy Milder as the hapless lawyer Dean, whose wife Celia, delightfully played by Elizabeth Perkins, is Nancy's best friend and a grade-A shrew.
But something's gotta give, given that Nancy doesn't fully love Peter, and is not comfortable sleeping with him in Judah's bed — and it does. In the stunning ending of season two, Nancy is … well, I won't give it away for you, in case you haven't seen it.
I can't wait for August 13 and season three. In addition to the resumption of the story, it will be great to hear what Weeds does with its theme song. Season one featured Malvina Reynolds singing "Little Boxes". Season two had Malvina singing only in the final episode, with a different artist – ranging from Elvis Costello to Engelbert Humperdinck! – singing the theme song for each of the others. This went one better than The Wire, which has a different artist singing "Down in the Hole" each season. I like "Down in the Hole" better than "Little Boxes," but it will be fun to see what Weeds does with its boxes this season.
This side-splitting, serious comedy is clearly part of our new golden age of television and precisely what Congress and the FCC would excise from cable if they get their way. Grab it while you can.