Showtime’s “Weeds” puts Buzz on Suburbia

3411Weeds_Season_1_Cover_-_NettechSmoke ‘em if you got ‘em.  Showtime has brought the chronic with its new dramatic comedy Weeds.

The story concerns Nancy Botwin, played by Mary-Louise Parker, and her fight to maintain appearances and the American Dream after the sudden death of her husband.  To make ends meet, Nancy turns to dealing high-grade marijuana to the movers and shakers of this idyllic California suburb known as Agrestic.

Life appears normal enough.  Hundreds of lovely houses lined up in orderly rows.  Expensive automobiles fill the requisite two car garages.  Diplomas flow like $7 lattes in the streets of Agrestic and the residents drink up the excess, while chatting away on their Bluetooth devices.

But all is not happy in Agrestic.  This lock-step lifestyle only serves to mask the hollow reality that resides behind the manicured hedges.  Concerns about cheating spouses, Botox injections and designer purses are at the forefront of Agrestic’s residents, and creator Jenji Kohan serves up this American tragedy for all to see.

The intoxicating part about Weeds is how familiar this all feels.  In a similar way The Sopranos made Mafia life accessible to the masses, Weeds allows for a window into suburban dysfunction, with a wry sense of humor, and a bong hit to go.

This isn’t your 1950’s Happy Days.  The kids are definitely not alright.  Most are already jaded in grade school and astute enough to recognize their parents’ unhappiness and cheating ways.  Nancy’s older son Silas, played by Hunter Parrish, and his younger brother Shane, played by Alexander Gould, are self-absorbed in failing to acknowledge the loss of their father Judah.  Copious amounts of television watching, and some adolescent sex on Silas’s part, help suppress these feelings.  The dysfunction is palpable.

By design the viewer is ingeniously dropped directly into these peoples’ lives at real-time speed.  No formal introductions are given of primary cast members or friends.  Instead viewers are treated as new residents of Agrestic, left to figure things out on their own and identify who is naughty and who is nice.

Nancy’s main accomplice and possible friend is Celia, played by Elizabeth Perkins.  She’s the paranoid, prudish type, who is coming to grips with the fact her marriage is ruined and her children despise her.  Through Celia’s eyes it’s a war between her and the kids.  They are habitually up to no good and it’s her role to spy on them and stop whatever their intentions.

Kevin Nealon has a humorous role as Doug, a city councilman who is a steady consumer of Nancy’s smokables.  Doug also happens to be Nancy’s accountant and is assisting her in setting up a front company to launder her drug proceeds.

Perhaps the most normal people in this show are Nancy’s marijuana suppliers.  They are a close-knit African American family that lives on the other side of the tracks, far from Agrestic’s polished streets.  Heylia, played by Tonye Patano, is an older motherly figure, who stands for no nonsense and is reminiscent of the Oracle character in The Matrix.  She can bake some mean cornbread and spin some serious weed.  These folks may not have a Beamer in the garage but their lives are more sincere and honest.

Weeds’ provides an oddly appealing set of story lines.  It takes on several weighty issues like suburban sprawl, hedonistic consumption, and the hypocritical facades many people wear in public life.  The writing is witty and whimsical in a demented fashion.  It’s a lighter version of American Beauty with a twist of The Stepford Wives.

The first season is weighed out and packaged for delivery in ten tasty episodes, leaving those who partake quickly reaching for the pipe until next season.

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