On Aug. 7, 2005, Showtime unveiled Jenji Kohan’s Weeds, starring Mary-Louise Parker. The dramedy went on to run for eight seasons on the premium cabler. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review of the first episode is below:
Last fall, Desperate Housewives became the most recent TV series to establish that not everything is what it seems when you peer behind the safely smug facade of middle-class suburbia. Now along comes Weeds with a different variation on that theme, one that is bleaker, less comedic and far less hopeful. Truth is, most characters in Weeds are more desperate than any of the Wisteria Lane wives ever thought of becoming, and not without good reason.
Gifted actress Mary-Louise Parker stars as Nancy Botwin, who might have led the only idyllic existence in suburban Agrestic, at least while her husband was alive. When the series opens, though, Nancy is newly widowed, her husband the victim of a heart attack while jogging. Subsequent episodes indicate he was a wonderful dad in possibly all ways but one — he didn’t have an abundance of life insurance. To keep the mortgage paid and the Range Rover operating, Nancy began selling marijuana to friends and neighbors.
Her new career is no secret to her accountant, Doug Wilson (Kevin Nealon), a city councilman and one of many clients, but she somehow has managed to keep her two sons and her best friend, neurotic PTA president Celia Hodes, from finding out.
Hodes, wonderfully portrayed by Elizabeth Perkins, is one of many shallow, frightened and hypocritical residents of Agrestic. Over and over again, creator/writer/exec producer Jenji Kohan tells us that it’s the so-called normal folks who are nuts and it’s the people who seem twisted that really have their heads on straight. Indeed, the most level-headed, straight-talking and practical character in the series is Heylia James (Tonye Patano), the matriarch of the black, urban family from which Nancy buys her inventory.
The opening theme song, “Little Boxes,” is a modest condemnation of the sameness and social conformity of suburbia, but in this suburb just about the only things residents have in common are their distressing situations and their hopes of concealing them. Nancy’s friend, Celia, has a teen daughter who is promiscuous and a younger daughter who commits the even greater sin of being overweight. Her husband is having an affair with the tennis instructor. Doug’s son is a rival marijuana dealer. Even Nancy’s kids spend most of their time tormented by their situations.
Whereas the Desperate Housewives characters have fairly clear ideas of the ideal life to which they aspire, the residents of Agrestic just hope to keep the lids on their secrets for one more day. Good fortune and joy elude this community almost as if prohibited by municipal ordinance. Showtime is pitching Weeds as a comedy, and though it does have some darkly humorous moments, the overwhelming theme is a struggle for survival.
As part of a new scheduling strategy, Weeds also can be seen at 10 and 10:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and, starting Aug. 14, at 10:30 p.m. Sundays. — Barry Garron, originally published Aug. 5, 2005.