The part of parenthood that Dr Spock never told you about
In between pretending to finish my dissertation, I’ve discovered a low-cost summer activity that doesn’t involve going outside and sweating: catching up on half a decade of television. After 4 years of not having a TV at home, I’ve realised there are actually a few good things I’ve missed.
So I borrowed the first four seasons of Weeds off a friend, and have been working my way through it. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. If Weeds is a sitcom, the “situations” are twisted, and the “comedy” even more so. In Seinfeld, we laughed at Soup Nazis and George’s lack of luck with the ladies. In Weeds, people get shot dead and dissolved in baths of acid – and we still laugh.
Growing shedloads of pot in suburbia – what could possibly go wrong…?
In case you haven’t seen it, basically, Weeds is a show about suburban mom Nancy Botwin – after her husband dies suddenly, she turns to dealing marijuana to her friends and neighbours in order to make ends meet. But her efforts to support her family via a modest weed-pushing operation rapidly fall apart as alcoholic friends (Celia), idiot accoutants (Doug), DEA agents and couch-surfing brothers-in-law (Andy) foul her every move.
There’s something refreshing about a TV comedy that tracks the slow disintegration of a suburban family and their hangers-on. Weeds is very much a show for our time: at the end of season 3, (screened in 2007, just as the credit crunch was beginning to hit), the Botwins’ identikit suburb of easy-credit homes burns to the ground (something to do with Mexican mafia revenge, biker gangs and Nancy with a petrol can… oh never mind).
The last thing you want to deal with when you’re on the run from the Mexican mafia..
Illegal immigration, Mexican drug wars, euthanasia, police corruption, narcotics (lots), and sex (even more): life is complicated in Schwarznegger’s California. We’re a long way, geographically and spiritually from Saturday evenings with Bob Saget or the amiable but inane antics of Friends.
If occasionally the storylines lacks energy, the series is kept alive by a dynamite script. Andy spouts unlikely slacker wisdom at crucial moments, Nancy’s best enemy Celia goes postal every few episodes, and Shane (borderline sociopath and Nancy’s 13 year-old son) makes the most of being on cable with a dirtier mouth than the rest of the cast combined. And could you imagine Clifford Huxtable having this conversation (NSFW) with Theo?
Celia is actually stabbing Nancy in the back in this photo
But the show belongs to Mary-Louise Parker, who plays Nancy. Her character, who has the best of intentions but no business plan, seems only capable of digging her family into deeper trouble. Although her problems are of her own making, you feel truly sorry for Nancy, and somehow responsible for her predicament as her world teeters on the edge of the abyss.
So, Weeds has been well worth staying inside for. Maybe TV isn’t completely useless. I’ve heard The Wire‘s worth seeing too – anyone have some DVDs I can borrow?