Wednesday, August 16, 2006


(Showtime, Mondays at 10 p.m.)

Showtime has shoveled plenty of literal-minded dreck in its time, but Weeds lies beyond that trend. Transplanting a widowed suburban housemother (Mary-Louise Parker, fresh from a Golden Globe win) into the unlikely role of neighborhood drug dealer could lead to campy melodrama or sophomoric Cheech and Chong bakefests, but creator Jenji Kohan wisely avoided both extremes through a host of colorful characters featuring idiosyncrasies that toy with stereotypes without embracing them. A potent vein of cynicism lingers in every scene, treating class and age boundaries as a hazy puff of smoky irrelevance.

In a departure from last season’s classic theme, each episode opens with a fresh cover of Malvina Reynolds’ “Little Boxes,” starting off with a terrific rendition by Elvis Costello and reaching true ironic proportions with middlebrow pop treatment from Death Cab for Cutie in episode two. The song’s lyrics are a critical apparatus that introduce the show with maddening stab at homogenization.

The new installments pick up last season’s strands— meaning both plot and botanical centerpieces— in fine form. Parker, as dubious green source Nancy, continues her show-stopping performance as a wide-eyed innocent to her increasing role at the center of an expanding criminal operation. While navigating a risky liaison with a debonair DEA agent, her professional antics now encompass stoner city councilman Doug (goofy Kevin Nealon, still stealing the show), ghetto insider Conrad (Romany Malco), and legal adviser Dean (Andy Midler)— whose aristocratically psychotic wife Celia (Elizabeth Perkins) has decided to enter politics. On the outer rim, Nancy’s live-in brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk) offers his guinea pig duties when the ganja requires sampling, while college student cad Sanjay (Maulik Pancholy) continues schlepping goods at the bottom-of-the-rung. The business dynamic is excitingly uneven: While Nancy seems drawn to the operation out of financial desperation, Doug and Dean dig the free doobies.

Meanwhile, Nancy’s rebellious teenage son Silas (Hunter Parrish) plots to prevent his deaf girlfriend from leaving him to pursue college, while tween sibling Shane scores advice from his uncle on the miracles of masturbation. This bawdiness improves on the cheesy I-miss-my-dead-parent grief that hindered last season’s arc, maneuvering safely away from Full House terrain. Conversely, Andy’s attempts to embark on rabbinical training to avoid military service may worked great for a few laughs, but his current status as a full-blown Hebrew scholar with the hots for his spiritual trainer is a bit too much— the sort of contrivance that only a stoner would consider credible. So maybe it works.

Death Cab takes on Little Boxes

*A version of this review was published this week in the New York Press.


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