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Weeds: Season One (July 9/06)

Clearly inspired by the success of edgy cable shows such as Six Feet Under and The Sopranos, Weeds casts Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin - a widowed mother of two who finds herself caught up in a lucrative yet thoroughly dangerous career as a marijuana dealer. Series creator Jenji Kohan has infused the program with a whole host of quirky supporting characters, including Nancy's scheming brother-in-law (Justin Kirk) and a pothead/city councilman played by Kevin Nealon.

Though the show is ostensibly about Nancy's escapades as a purveyor of illicit substances, Weeds is often more concerned with the inherent drama within the lives of its various characters. Whether its Nancy and her dysfunctional clan or neighbor Celia Hodes' (Elizabeth Perkins) efforts to cope with breast cancer, Kohan and her team of writers have done a superb job of transforming this disparate group of people into figures worth following. That being said, the stereotypically black family that supplies Nancy with her pot occasionally feels as though it'd be more at home in a Mad TV sketch, but there is otherwise a strong feeling of authenticity to the majority of these characters.

Season one of Weeds, consisting of 10 half-hour episodes, moves at a brisk pace and generally features ongoing story arcs that are rarely resolved right away. It's the sort of formula that most contemporary programs seem to follow, and although this does require the viewer to catch every single show, the payoff is usually worth the effort (something that's particularly true here, as evidenced by the cliffhanger that crops up at the end of episode 10 ). Parker's Nancy Botwin often remains the focal point of the show, though Kohan does a nice job of ensuring that even the most periphery figures within the cast receive appropriate doses of character development (ie Celia's overweight and depressed daughter).

Of course, the show would be entirely ineffectual were it not for the top-notch performances - with Parker's layered, subtle work an obvious highlight. The actress effortlessly steps into the shoes of an exceedingly complex character, easily and deftly carrying the series on her slender shoulders. Likewise, folks like Perkins and Kirk provide stellar support; Kohan's decision to include Kevin Nealon in the show's cast proves to be a fortuitous one, as the actor delivers an endlessly engaging portrayal of a crooked politician.

While Weeds is far from perfect - the shifts in tone are occasionally extremely difficult to overlook and the theme song is almost infuriating in its wackiness - the program has certainly established itself as a promising heir to its off-kilter forebearers.

 

About the DVD: Weeds arrives on DVD courtesy of Maple Pictures, armed with full-frame transfers for each of the first season's 10 episodes and a fair amount of bonus features. Disc one includes four commentary tracks (ie the first episode features commentary by series creator Jenji Kohan) and a Showtime trailer promoting the show. Disc two comes equipped with two more commentary tracks, a 13-minute featurette entitled "Smoke and Mirrors," a variety of marijuana-infused recipes, and much more.
© David Nusair