Friday, March 22, 2013

A Tribute to Great Television: Weeds (Showtime-2005-2012)

This past Monday I watched both the first and last episodes of Weeds, talk about an interesting development or growth (get it growing weed) in shows eight years, or seasons on the air.  The first episode follows simple suburban mom Nancy Botwin played by the brilliant Mary Louise Parker, after she deals with her husband dropping dead of a heart attack while going for a run with his son Shane (Alexander Gould).  After a lively debate of moms at PTA meeting, or something to that effect about sugary drinks, we soon see this simple suburban mom in the "hood" buying weed from Heylia (Toney Patano) and her nephew Conrad (Romany Malco).  Nancy was left broke, and she starts to sell weed in order to make ends meet.  Crazy premise, and brilliantly constructed.

The show lasted eight seasons and in the final episode jumped about seven years into the future, that tacky new trend that has gained a lot of ground because of its popularity on the show Desperate Housewives.  Yet in all honesty Nancy Botwin is the true "desperate housewife.  Without giving too much away the shows history and time jump was an emotional experience that was a pretty satisfactory ending.  The last image of the main group of characters who lasted the whole time in the show sitting out in the snow peacefully smoking a joint was a great piece of direction.

Before I jump right into the end, and how the show ended let's look at this show and how eight seasons of dealing drugs made you laugh, cry, and scream with horror.  While the show itself was not always "great" I admire the work series creator Jenji Kohan did with this show.  Ms. Kohan did a lot season after season keeping viewers on their toes with shocking deaths, diseases, prison, moving, and of course a massive fire.  Over the years season after season the show reinvented the way it felt, and this allowed for new and interesting plots to be brought to life, but also pushed characters on and off the map of the show.

Weeds would have been nothing without their supporting cast, and what supporting cast this show had.  Beyond Mary Louise Parker, the only three other characters in every episode/ or every season were Kevin Nealon's Doug, Hunter Parish's Silas, and her other son Shane.  Andy played by the brilliant Justin Kirk did not start until midway through season one.  I love the chemistry between Kirk and Park, which started in the HBO mini-series Angels in America.  There is just such fire when these two shared the screen, and their tumultuous relationship on the show made it even more interesting.

Beyond these regular cast of characters there were numerous folks who were weaved in and out of the show's history. the wonderfully blunt and funny Elizabeth Perkins as Celia Hodes.  When the show moved to New York City, and left Celia behind it was one of the saddest moments for me as a viewer I loved this character (as did many other viewers).  I understand why Kohan did not move forward with Celia, in fact the only reason she did not drop her earlier was probably because of her loyal fan base.  I was sad to not see her come back for the finale, which was a bit odd to me.  Celia's husband Dean the often underrated Andy Milder was also great.  Weeds also started the popularity of Guillermo Diaz (now on Scandal), who played the sharp tongued Latin gangster Guillermo.  Weeds also had Damien Bichir, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Albert Brooks, Richard Dreyfus, Julie Bowen, Matthew Modine, Alanis Morisette, and many many more.

This show told a rich story, and the reason I attribute this show with greatness (if you are questioning me, which should never) is because this shows theme and style was a bit of game changer.  Who would have thought to have done a dramedy about the woos of the white woman who has start dealing drugs to take care of her family?  Jenji Kohan.  The show's dark humor started a trend with Showtime series pushing forward more shows like Nurse Jackie, The Big C, The United States of Tara, and honestly eventually HBO's Girls and Veep.  Many times people are afraid to attempt to center a show on a female character, but girl power was in full swing in 2005.

Along with Desperate Housewives this show changed the face/pace of the female centered show, making them bolder, and allowing women to be so much more.  Ok, maybe being a drug dealer isn't an aspiration, but the show challenged things, and made people think.  I love that this show helped set the trend for strong female driven shows, and also the quirky off beat sensibility.

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