‘Why would a middle-aged, wealthy white woman in the suburbs ever need to sell weed?’
…is pretty much what I thought every time I heard the unbelievable premise of Showtime’s half-hour dramedy, Weeds. I’ve heard of the show since it’s debut in 2005, been recommended to watch it at least a dozen times since, and was almost tempted to when I heard that one of the Olsen twins made a guest appearance in one of the later seasons (…shut up- I grew up watching Full House, okay?).
But every time I thought of the show, I was baffled by the sheer absurdity of the show’s premise. Really, why would a white woman in the suburbs sell weed? Who would she even sell weed to?! As far as I knew, only college students and middle-aged hippies smoked weed- not wealthy suburbians.
I’m not saying Weeds is exactly a truthful or entirely believable look at suburbanite culture, but in the past 24 hours in which I’ve devoured season one of the show, my eyes have been opened.
To answer my first question, Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) sells weed to provide for her family. Just a few weeks before the show begins, Nancy’s husband has a heart attack while jogging. As he was the sole breadwinner in their household, his sudden death leaves former stay-at-home-mom, Nancy, in an awful predicament- she has no way to pay for their mortgage and keep up the extravagant lifestyle that she and her two sons, Silas (Hunter Parrish) and Shane (Alexander Gould), have grown accustomed to. A shady, albeit convenient, solution arrives when her brother-in-law, Andy (Justin Kirk), suggests that Nancy meet up with an old friend of his for a few stress reducing smokes…but Nancy ends up doing a bit more than just the average “puff, puff, pass.”
Somehow, middle-aged, wealthy, and incredibly naive, Nancy, ends up becoming a drug dealer for her neighbours and friends. Conrad Shepard (Romany Malco) and his drug-guru Aunt, Heylia (Tonye Patano), are her providers, and most of season one revolves around Nancy being way out of her comfort zone. She tries (and fails) to expand her business several times, by “employing” other people to sell for her, almost gets busted at least twice, has a few run-ins with Heylia due to her strict selling rules, temporarily loses her Range Rover and wedding rings after messing up a transaction, and has to deal with a rival dealer whose territory she’s stepped on.
Meanwhile, Nancy’s sons are dealing with the loss of their father by acting out in various ways. While ten-year-old Shane is busy shooting mountain lions in the eye and biting other children in the foot in his karate class, fifteen-year-old Silas is having sex with his first girlfriend and experimenting with some drugs of his own. To top it all off, the aforementioned lazy brother-in-law makes a surprise stop by the house and moves himself in. Nancy’s juggling act definitely isn’t an easy one.
Though I still found the plot of the show a bit unbelievable (because, we’re really supposed to believe that a family this wealthy didn’t have any money in their savings account that Nancy could’ve lived off of for a while until she got a normal job?!), I have to admit that thanks to the sharp and witty writing from the show’s creator, Jenji Kohan, I didn’t get hung up on it. Watching Nancy and the rest of the cast deal with their problems is engaging and at all times amusing. The show has an incredible mix of humour, drama, and depth that I honestly didn’t expect.
Of course, the actors play a huge part in what makes the show so likeable. Mary-Louise Parker (Fried Green Tomatoes, The West Wing, RED) is SO perfect as Nancy; she’s at all times vulnerable and endearing, with her naivety being glaringly obvious for most of the first season. However, Parker’s acting really shines through as we watch our bumbling “white girl” turn into a truly savvy drug maven.Elizabeth Perkins (Big, The Flintstones, Must Love Dogs) is delightfully bad as the cruelly sarcastic PTA mom and Nancy’s frenemy, Celica Hodes. Justin Kirk (Angels in America) plays the other love-to-hate role; Andy is possibly the worst uncle and influence in the world, yet Kirk still manages to pull it all off with a hilarious finesse.
Tonye Patano (Come What May, One Life to Live) and Romany Malco (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) add in some extra comic relief (and thankfully rise above the “ghetto black family” stereotype I was afraid they’d fall into) as Nancy’s dealers, while humorously proving just how far out of her element Nancy is in their world. Kevin Nealon (Saturday Night Live, Happy Madison) is also surprisingly funny as Nancy’s stoner friend and accountant, Doug Wilson. The child actors are also fairly good in their roles- Alexander Gould’s (who was the voice of Nemo in Finding Nemo) lack of acting experience leads to a few uneven turns, but he’s still loveable as the young troublemaker, Shane. Meanwhile, Hunter Parrish (17 Again, It’s Complicated) turns in perfectly angsty performances as Silas.
I really am surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed the first season of Weeds. Writer Jenji Kohan and a cast of rotating directors manage to inject each episode with a perfect balance of comedy, drama, and heartwarming moments, without any of it ever feeling contrived or forced. Mary Louise Parker steals the show and is absolutely brilliant in the lead role, while her co-stars (particularly Elizabeth Perkins and Justin Kirk) also manage to shine. The show’s premise might still be a bit hard to swallow for some, but after watching the ten episodes that make up the first season, you’ll be rooting for Nancy’s drug empire to rise, just as I was.