What a Tangled Web We WEEDSBy Michael Karol Posted: Jun 23, 2009
Showtime's summer series have kicked into high gear, and the cable net is determined to push the envelope…even for nighttime, adult (R-rated) soaps. When WEEDS began in August 2005, the show was set in a tidy Southwestern desert suburban development called Majestic, and recently widowed Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) was dealing drugs because she had no other way to support her kids.
By the end of the third season, Nancy's out-of-control drug dealing resulted in Majestic being threatened with total destruction, courtesy of a wildfire set by her pissed-off drug partner, Guillermo (Guillermo Diaz). Her former best friend, Celia (Elizabeth Perkins), had muscled into Nancy's drug trade and was running the pot grow house, so she got arrested. Nancy, her boys, her brother-in-law, and their accountant got out of Dodge using the fire as a, well, smoke screen. They relocated to Del Mar, CA, and pretty much immediately began dealing again, this time with even higher stakes, heading across the border to Mexico.
Cut to WEEDS' fifth season, which began a few weeks ago: Nancy is pregnant via her Mexican drug lord business partner/lover, Esteban (Demián Bichir); her oldest son, Silas (Hunter Parrish), trekking deep into the woods with former accountant, now slacker, Doug (Kevin Nealon) to begin his own marijuana growing business, stumbled into another dealer's crop, almost getting shot (the dealer, admiring the kid's moxie, merely took his pot and sent the two scurrying); younger son Shane (Alexander Gould) was shipped off in the care of randy uncle Andy (Justin Kirk) to aunt Jill (Jennifer Jason Leigh), because it's simply not safe at his mother's house anymore (Esteban has one of his men guarding Nancy at all times); and pariah Celia was being held captive in Mexico by estranged daughter Quinn and her revolutionist lover, Rudolpho (Kevin Alejandro), who wanted to ransom her, except…everyone hates Celia so much no one would pay.
Whew! So far this season, mortified and terrified Nancy is a virtual prisoner in her house; Esteban has one of his thugs constantly guarding her. But she knows it's a good thing she's pregnant — since she informed to the Feds on Esteban's smuggling operation last season, she'd be dead if she weren't carrying his baby-boy-to-be. And she might yet become part of a nearby landfill once she gives birth. (You think your life is stressful?!) Silas and Doug have hit on a scheme to use what they know best (growing, dealing and smoking pot) in a legal, medical marijuana storefront; the one thorn in their side: They need the permission of local law enforcement, and he wants a cut. Andy immediately hit on the married Jill, and they had sex minutes after her hubby and twins left the house for business and school; Shane videotaped it because, well, it was interesting to him and he had nothing better to do. When Rudolpho ditched Celia's controlling, abusive daughter, Celia took over, trying to manage the revolution for him by, for example, arranging the guns in order of size and magnitude of destruction. Rudolpho had her kidnapped and shipped back to the States, stat.
I love WEEDS because the characters are so fractured and damaged, yet, as if unaware of their demons, they keep going, and going, and going…. Many of them actually mean well, they just have no idea how to behave well. Some are just plain evil. And the central themes — single motherhood, relationships between parents, children, siblings and friends, the sexuality of teenagers, even the centrality of marijuana to Nancy's life and livelihood, are extremely relevant, especially in California, where the buying and selling of medical marijuana is serving as a kind of litmus test for the rest of the country (13 states currently legalize the drug for medicinal purposes and at least three more are considering it).
The network (daytime) soaps are constricted by advertisers, censorship and the time of day they air. WEEDS and other cable shows can be more true to life, showing both sides of Esteban, for example: the loving and caring side, and the vicious, Godfather side. Unlike GENERAL HOSPITAL's mobsters, who are involved in illegal activities but never would be allowed to, for example, shoot two witnesses in the head in front of other characters and blithely continue discussing their business, WEEDS can capture the real nature of the drug trade and Mexican mafia, warts and all, and let the viewer form his or her opinion. Without constant moralizing, the show offers a more realistic portrait of humanity: the good, the bad and the ugly. Wives can cheat on their husbands and perhaps not be penalized in ways the TV viewer is used to, or penalized at all. A basically goodhearted but lost suburban mom like Nancy will do what she has to do in order to survive, not what society dictates she should do. The possibilities, played out by one of the best ensemble drama casts ever assembled, are intriguing, horrifying, funny, sad, sexy and finite…just like life.