Thursday, January 20, 2011

Still Failing To Resonate Weeds Season 3 Falls Flat!

The Good: Moments of character or acting
The Bad: Still largely pointless, Not funny, Not clever, Nothing great
The Basics: In its third season, Weeds continues to trudge along as a suburban woman turns down opportunities to continue dealing drugs.

Sometimes, I suspect that being a reviewer makes me a glutton for punishment. After all, I was not a huge fan of the first season of Weeds (reviewed here!), yet I suffered through the DVD collection of the even-worse second season of the show (reviewed here!). Given the opportunity recently, I decided to pick up the third season and honestly, it was only my attempt to fill a niche as a reviewer. The truth is, I was so disappointed with the second season and how the DVD bonus features had largely to do with creating one's own growhouse for marijuana, that I was sorely tempted to not even consider reviewing Weeds - Season Three. This, in spite of the environmentally responsible recycled packaging the DVD comes in.

It is virtually impossible to discuss the third season of Weeds without revealing one or two minor details about the finale to the second season, just by the nature of where the third season begins. That said, Weeds at least began with a marginally interesting concept: a woman in real need becomes a pot dealer in suburban California when she is suddenly widowed and is forced to save her family. By the time the third season comes about, though, Weeds has sacrificed any sense of the necessity of protagonist Nancy Botwin's efforts and the result is a series that is entirely lacking in any empathetic or, for the most part, interesting characters.

Facing down the barrels of guns from the black drug cartel and the Middle Eastern drug lords, Nancy and Conrad find themselves coming up empty-handed on the drugs and the money they need to save their lives. Silas, pulled over by the police for stealing the Agrestic cameras posted by Celia, finds himself with the stash and a world full of trouble. As Andy tries to find young Shane, who has been abducted by his crazy ex-girlfriend, it appears the entire Botwin family is bound to be wiped out. Things go from bad to worse when U-Turn, the black drug lord, buys off Nancy's debt to the rival cartel and Nancy tracks down her drugs . . . which Celia has dumped in her pool!

Silas is forced to do community service, where he finds a new market for regrowing his mother's business. Nancy becomes more strung out as Conrad departs to grow U-Turn's new drugs apart from her. And the politics of Agrestic become even more convoluted when the nearby planned community, Majestic, attempts to merge with Agrestic and replace their city council with their own. As the new crop of weed is regrown, Nancy and her family deal with Evangelical extremists, porn stars and the lecherous head of the Majestic church, who takes a shine to both Celia and Nancy! If that were not bad enough, bikers try to take over the local business and Shane begins to see his dead father.

In season three, Nancy once again chooses to be a drug dealer. Her dead DEA husband leaves a ridiculous amount of money behind and, even more importantly, a pension. Nancy can afford now to leave the Agrestic/Majestic community and go somewhere where she does not have to deal drugs. Where "Weeds" turns utterly ridiculous is in the concept that Nancy would feel such a powerful desire to keep her family alive and together that she would become a drug dealer, but when faced with an alternative, she would not pursue that, even at the expense of her dead husband's crazed, bratty child and ex-wife. Instead, in this season, Nancy makes the choice to help the ex-wife rather than get out of the business and this seems utterly ridiculous, especially as there is little to no reason for her to hunt down the ex-wife.

"Weeds" continues its trend of being both ridiculous and stupid, this time justifying Nancy's dealing marijuana by the fact that she isn't the one dealing the heroine! And with the appearance of Silas's Evangelical girlfriend, the dippy "god made marijuana, so it's hold and all natural and fine for us to smoke" argument enters the picture. This might well be the low-water mark of an already low series, though Andy helping his tween son lose his virginity to a prostitute in the second season might have been a bit lower. It is that kind of television series.

The thing is, by this point, the show is neither charming, nor funny. The funniest moment in this DVD set is when Andy tells off the porn director after he has been used to shoot several toe-fucking films and then is discarded by the director. Andy's missing two toes plays into b or c storylines and Weeds becomes further convoluted in this season by attempting to make political statements, like Andy's partner in basic training being killed by a mechanized drone and Andy using that to escape his army service.

The best shows often rest on how wonderful their characters are. Weeds, in its third season, has little to nothing to recommend it in this regard, but here are the principle characters:

Nancy Botwin - After saving her life by getting sold into white slavery to U-Turn, she is liberated when U-Turn's lieutenant offs him and takes over the business. Attempting to get a legitimate job, she begins working for the head of Majestic, whom she also begins having sex with. After a period of estrangement from Conrad, she finds herself drawn to him, though complications from the business pop up as do concerns about her family and their well-being,

Celia Hodes - Divorcing Dean, she sells her position in Agrestic to the head of Majestic in exchange for a house there. She remains petty, vindictive and dangerous for her self-absorption. When Dean has his motorcycle accident, she finds herself dragged back into his - and their daughter's - life,

Conrad - Bought from U-Turn by Heylia, he returns to the fold to grow, eventually taking Silas in to teach him the trade,

Dean Hodes - Furious at Doug for having sex with his wife, he gets over it by getting doped up and later buying a motorcycle. When he is attacked by bikers, he becomes wheelchair-bound and finds himself at the mercy of Celia,

Doug - Furious at Dean for revealing to his wife that he was cheating on her, Doug tries desperately to get back together with her, isolating Celia in the process. As Celia negotiates - poorly - with Majestic, Doug uses his clout to manipulate his way back onto the Agrestic City Council. His love for Celia leads him to commit acts of vandalism on Majestic,

Andy - Nancy's slacker brother, he rescues Shane and finds himself once more conscripted to military service. There, he witnesses his partner getting killed by a drone and buys his way out of the Army with his silence. Soon, he is cooking on a porn film set and getting into the pictures for foot fetishists. When Nancy seems to have crossed the final lines, Andy does his best to pull her back,

Silas - Arrested for the vandalism to try to protect his mother, Nancy, Silas becomes a part of the business. He is soon upstaged, though, by his fundamentalist girlfriend who becomes Nancy's biggest selling dealer. When the motorcycle dealers move in, he is roughed up as a warning to Nancy,

Shane - Befriended by Celia's lesbian daughter, Isabelle, he begins fighting the rampant Evangelical bent the Majestic schools take. He installs a security system for his mother and becomes convinced his father is alive and well,

Sanjay - Thrown in a closet to survive the U-Turn debacle, he comes out as gay and U-Turn essentially has him raped by one of his female cousins. He begins dealing to the gay community, which helps revitalize Nancy's business,

and Heylia - Establishing a front business in fountains, she dips into her hidden reserves to save Conrad's life and restart her business in the drug dealing.

None of the characters are particularly likable and as a result, the series is hard to get into and hard to stay attached to. Likewise, the acting is more a study in consistency than any epic of growth as performers. Mary-Louise Parker and Elizabeth Perkins show off more of themselves this season (in Perkins's case, everything) and other than that, the show is pretty much rooted in the actors playing the characters as they have as opposed to giving any new emotional depth. Kevin Nealon and Justin Kirk continue to play Doug and Andy as hapless losers. Andy Midler's Dean only gains range by the fact that the actor has to perform while restrained in the latter half of the season and Romany Malco is still the same, decent guy as Conrad as he was in the first season.

None of the child actors give the viewer anything especially new, and neither does star Mary-Louise Parker. Her big emotional breakdown moment, where she strips down in front of her family and walks into the pool, would have been powerful, had so much of her acting as Nancy not been staring off into space before this moment. Instead, Parker seems to define her character by moments when she just witlessly stares blankly and expects the viewer to care about her. Sadly, we do not.

On DVD, Weeds has several commentary tracks, which add nothing to the appreciation of the show and deleted scenes which just make the sub-half hour episodes marginally longer. There is a featurette on one of the presentations of the opening song "Little Boxes" and a season retrospective featurette. In other words, none of the bonus features are at all extraordinary and if one does not like the primary programming, this is not going to get them into it.

In fact, by this point, I am at a loss to guess who would still be getting into it. For sure, it is not me.

For other, better, quirky television shows, please check out my reviews of:
Six Feet Under
The Adventures Of Brisco County, Jr.


For other television show reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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  1. I get what you are saying about certain aspects of the show. You often refer to Nancy refusing to leave the drug business and begin a normal life? The show is titled "Weeds". It is quite obvious you just do not like the premise...and since that is the case. None of your reviews will do this show any justice.

  2. Hi!

    Thanks for the comment.

    I disagree. The premise made Nancy and her engaging in the drug business at least marginally interesting. By season 3, it is so far from a necessity that it is hard to empathize with Nancy Botwin. As the series goes on, this just is a woman making bad decision after bad decision and if she weren't a white suburbanite, most viewers would say "she's getting what she deserves" for the trouble she gets into.

    Also, I can't stand the acting.