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June 2005 (Bill Keveney, USA TODAY) - 'Weeds' is a metaphor for instant upscale communities sprouting all over the country. It describes the hidden ugliness that accompanies outwardly perfect lives. And, of course, it refers to marijuana.
Showtime's new comedy-drama, which premieres on a special day and time (Sunday, 11 p.m. ET/PT), covers all those bases, centering on a pot-selling mom in the idyllic Southern California community of Agrestic.
With no marketable skills, Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) stoops to drug dealing to keep up an affluent lifestyle for herself and her two sons after the death of her husband.
"Pot is a vehicle for the show," Weeds creator Jenji Kohan says. "It's so in the zeitgeist. It's talked about in the news, in the courts. It's a morally ambiguous narcotic (and) the universal rebellion drug."
It's also something the broadcast networks wouldn't touch, says Kohan, who also wrote for Mad About You and other broadcast shows. Weeds, which moves to its regular slot Monday at 10 ET/PT (and replays Wednesday and Friday), also dives into race relations, the latter through Nancy's drug suppliers: a black family that gives her a sense of belonging.
"We're throwing everything in" — the 10-episode series has no sacred cows, Kohan says. "I think Showtime's mandate is to make some noise. And this is a pretty noisy show."
Weeds' cast includes Elizabeth Perkins (Big, Must Love Dogs) as a perfectionist neighbor, Kevin Nealon (Saturday Night Live) as a pot smoking accountant and Justin Kirk (Angels in America) as Nancy's brother-in-law, a character of "pure id," Kohan says.
Perkins says her character, Celia Hodes, is overly concerned about appearances, a condition that afflicts many and can be a great source of humor. She must endure infidelity and illness, but a daughter's weight problem is "the biggest crime of all."
Perkins interprets "weeds" in relation to fast-growing developments such as Agrestic, where "everyone's striving for a pristine, I-am-perfect-on-the-outside look so they can all keep up with each other."
Nealon, whose character, Doug Wilson, helps Nancy set up a business to launder her drug money, sees a more direct metaphor: "If people can't deal with their problems, they numb themselves a little bit."
What It's About: Mary-Louise Parker plays a widow who sells marijuana to support her affluent suburban lifestyle while keeping her two sons in the dark.
Why You Should Watch: Sophisticated, smart and subversive, it's better than Desperate Housewives (the inevitable, but sudsier, comparison) and so good that we're including it in our fall programming preview, even though it premiered this month (it wraps up Oct. 10). Weeds is less about the drug dealing than how the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. A great cast, including Elizabeth Perkins and Kevin Nealon, adds to the fun.