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Courtesy of Maple Pictures

Weeds (Box Set)

Irreverent series offers poignant observations about family and community

By David Wilson

Weeds (Seasons 1 and 2)
Created by Jenji Kohan,
starring Mary-Louise Parker

Dad has just died. Son number one is a teenage time bomb. Son number two knows way too much for a kid his age. Live-in uncle is a slacker and a scoundrel. The neighbours are schemers, cheats and rarely sober.

Mom has no time for the luxury of grief. She’s too busy just hanging on. And the business that’s helping her do it is dope dealing — nothing hard, just marijuana and only to adults.
Welcome to Agrestic, Calif., an upper-middle class enclave of ticky-tacky houses, sun-dappled SUVs, supersized lattes-to-go and some of the most hilariously dysfunctional characters ever to populate a comedy series.

Make that an adult comedy series. Weeds pushes the boundaries of television comedy and is decidedly not for family video night. There’s abundant substance abuse, profanity and sexuality, delivered with an offhandedness that will offend some and leave others bent double with laughter.

The rough edges may be casual but they’re not gratuitous. The series is as much about the messiness of modern life as it is about the misadventures of homemaker-cum-pot dealer Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker). It peers through the tinted windows of the imported cars everyone drives and beyond the iron gates of the manicured subdivisions they inhabit to discover a citizenry plagued by alienation, anxiety and disenchantment. Small wonder Nancy’s business thrives.

The storyline careens from one over-the-top plot turn to the next. Season One chronicles Nancy’s efforts to get her business up and running — she services the neighbourhood as if marijuana were Tupperware. Things get a little darker in Season Two as she falls in love with a federal drug enforcement agent and starts to step on the toes of more professional dealers. (Season Three will be available on DVD next fall.)

But series creator Jenji Kohan is going for more than laughs. Lurking beneath the screwball surface of the series are some poignant observations about family and community today. Agrestic is no Little House on the Prairie. Traditional structures and values have crumbled or been paved over, and the characters’ shortcomings are prolific.

Yet family and community — albeit redefined along the lines of shared dysfunction — somehow prevail. The train wrecks of Agrestic may crave Nancy’s high-test herb, but affluence is the greater addiction and it’s never enough. At day’s end, all they really have is each other. The bond is primitive, almost tribal, and sweetly affirming. Weeds explores the cul-de-sacs of modern alienation and finds hope growing in the unlikeliest of places.

Author's photo
David Wilson is the editor-publisher of The Observer.
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