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Weeds

There’s a list of shows that I’ve had recommended to me over the years that, for several reasons, I just don’t watch. By the time I found out about Weeds, I was already well into Breaking Bad and the show was already several seasons in. In addition, it was on Showtime and I’ve just never had that channel. So all of these factors caused me put the show on the back burner and, this past month, I took it off.

Weeds centers around Nancy Botwin, a recently widowed suburban mother who starts dealing weed to other suburbanites in order to maintain her family’s lifestyle. She is joined by a, frankly, bizarre cast of characters: her crooked accountant Doug (played by Kevin Nealon); her fake best friend Celia (as well as her husband and lesbian daughter); her brother in law Andy; her two sons, Shane and Silas; and a constantly changing cast of gangsters, marijuana growers, law enforcement officials, and other things that you’d expect in that occupation. Nancy seems to constantly find her way into bad situations, sometime because of her and sometimes because of her friends and enemies. However, she tries to make the best of it and get her way out of it, sometimes with more gangster-like behavior and sometimes (more often than you would think would work) by just sleeping with someone, and it makes for a fun, sexy, and weird ride.

The first thing I should say about the show is that I will probably have the song “Little Boxes” irrevocably implanted in my mind for the rest of my life. The tune is the theme song of the show for seasons 1-3 and season 8 (the final season). Presumably, because the audience was being driven as crazy by it as I was after 3 seasons, leading the show runners to get rid of it only to bring it back as an indulgence for the final season. During the show the intro is performed by something like 30+ different artists and it is a fun calling card for the show, it just really sticks with you when you marathon a half hour show and hear a song over and over again.

The show itself is actually really entertaining and fun but not without some actual heartfelt moments. The writing isn’t overly complex but the comedy is constant, timely, and pretty clever. It’s one of those shows whose goal seems to be to entertain in general more than to be laugh out loud funny every moment and, in that, it succeeds with flying colors. Despite the lighter nature of the show they do have a lot of big and “shocking” moments and emotional high and low points.

If you’ve seen Breaking Bad (or heard about it) then you’ll probably make the easy comparison between the two. Appropriately, comparing the two is a lot like comparing weed and meth. The shows have similar elements: The head of the family going in to the drug trade to provide for their family after a difficult life event; the escalation of involvement and violence in the drug trade; the transition of the main character from little guy to a kingpin figure; involvement of family and friends in the drug world.

When I think about all 8 seasons of the show I can think of only one things about it that I didn’t like: Celia. She starts out as pretty much being the embodiment of the elitist suburbanite and the suburban culture that the characters are dealing with. However, as the show goes along the family sheds this community but Celia just keeps hanging on. At a certain point her stories really seem to have nothing to do with the main cast or the primary story over all. I just kept thinking, “did any one really think this character was important enough to branch off into her own stories?”

Otherwise, I enjoy pretty much everything else in the show on some level. I think my favorite thing is watching the family reluctantly grow in to a full fledged mini-drug empire with Nancy acting as the boss, Silas the grower, Shane acting as the muscle, and Andy as the one trying to hold things together. What I thought was great about it is the fact that they manage to work “together” despite almost never actually trying to. Andy’s love life is also a delightful mess. In season 8 he even self aware-ly states that he seems to have some supernatural ability to get women easily. Nancy, similarly, seems to attract a never ending string of violent lovers and love interests. The other nice thing is the way the shows shifts environments and character roles throughout the seasons. It keeps things from getting too stale, especially in the last season. Granted, the last season ends with the characters in different places than you’d expect but I think that’s what makes it work. For a show that seemed to spend its whole existence right on the edge of conventional it made sens for the characters to have a kind of abnormal ending for a sit-com.

If you enjoy Breaking Bad (or shows like Mad Men) and feel like taking a ride that’s a bit less intense, then give this one a watch.

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