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What Happened to the Ticky Tacky Little Boxes?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 17, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 17, 2009 |

What the hell happened to “Weeds”? It is an absolute shit show. It’s terrible now. It jumped the helicopter hovering over the shark two seasons ago, and now it’s in a free fall. When the inevitable SRL comes out ranking the five shows that were once good but have lost it, “Weeds” may get the lifetime achievement award. It’s depraved bunk, a vile misogynistic sitcom that’s more about showing Mary Louise Parker’s bare ass than anything else. Nancy Botwin used to be a likable, sympathetic, well-developed character. Now she’s just a pair of legs and a hidey-hole for abusive pricks.

Five seasons ago, “Weeds” debuted with a novel concept: A widower, Nancy Botwin (Mary Louis Parker), with no real marketable skills, attempts to keep her family living the lush suburban life by selling a few ounces of weed to the neighborhood blazers and a few soccer moms. Her rebellious son, Silas, was in love with a deaf girl; her younger son, Shane, was a precocious, socially-ostracized grade schooler trying to deal with bullies while coping with the loss of his father. Everybody else was comic relief: Kevin Nealon played a herb-smoking city councilor who couldn’t keep his dick in his pants; Elizabeth Perkins, as Celia, was the stick-in-her-but suburban shrew and president of the PTA; and Justin Kirk’s Andy was, as the irresponsible uncle left to watch after the kids, the best reason to watch the show. “Weeds” was a small, intimate dramedy about a dope-slinging housewife, but it was really a biting satire on suburban life, complete with a brilliant theme song, “Little Boxes,” that not only captured the spirit of the show, but provided a good deal of its thematic resonance. All in all, it was a fun alternative to “Desperate Housewives.”

Now? Nothing from the original season remains, including that theme song — the tone has shifted (it’s no longer funny, for one); the satire is nil; and the characters are the same only in name. It went off the deep end. I thought after Season Three, when the entire suburban community she was from burned to the ground, the show runners would take the opportunity to reboot the show, get it back to its roots, and focus on the difficulties involved raising a family and maintaining appearances while selling just enough reefer to keep the mortgage paid. Instead, in season four, “Weeds” just ratcheted up the increasingly unbelievable dramatic developments and sunk Nancy deeper into criminal enterprises.

The result: The prudish housewife once reluctant to sleep with anyone after her husband died has become something of a whorish drug kingpin, recently assisting in running a front for the transport of illegal aliens, and fucking the corrupt mayor of Mexico City, who wanted her dead after he discovered she ratted him out to the authorities. The catch? Nancy was pregnant with the mayor’s child, and now the mayor can’t decide whether to kill her or fuck her. Meanwhile, Silas has gotten involved in the family business, creating his own special strains of marijuana while trying to find a suitable place to grow it (this after carrying on a sexual relationship with someone his mother’s age last season). What Kevin Nealon is still doing on the show is a bit of a mystery — he just stands around and smokes up, oblivious to everything around him. Andy, who came completely out of left field and professed his love for Nancy, is now fucking Nancy vicariously through her sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a wine-soused house mom who has been left to care for Shane, who has nothing left to do but embarrassingly go through puberty on camera. Most ridiculous of all? Celia’s older daughter, who just appeared out of nowhere, kidnapped Celia at the end of last season with the assistance of a Mexican Rebel Leader, with the intent to ransom her back to her family. Now the former PTA president and city councilor appears to be falling in love with that Rebel Leader and arranging his machete’s in order of size. That’s how far this show has traveled.

“Weeds” completely strains credibility, and what’s worse is that this suburban comedy has taken a needlessly dark turn into nihilistic sex and violence. I got no problem with sex and violence, obviously. But it doesn’t make sense in the context of this show, or at least the original version of it that we were fond of. People are frequently capped, and in this week’s half-hour show alone, there were two sex scenes, one of which was cold and violent. Where’s the lighthearted and smart comedy in that? Worse: Nancy, at one time, was doing all of this for her family. Now there’s not even the pretense that she’s a decent mother. She’s not just a horrible mom, she’s a bad fucking person, the occasional crises of consciousness notwithstanding. She’s not just allowed her older son to sell dope, she’s encouraged it, and she’s basically abdicated responsibility for Shane, who has been moved to her sister’s while she waits to get capped and/or fucked.

I understood, I suppose, at the end of season two when Nancy’s DEA boyfriend got a bullet in the head, that “Weeds” would never be able to turn back. It became trapped by its own dramatic momentum, and each season since, it’s had to sink Nancy deeper and deeper into the cesspool of depravity. But it’s gone too far now — the characters aren’t relatable or sympathetic anymore. And instead of being a comedic satire, “Weeds” has become soulless and misanthropic. It’s lost its vision, and at this point, it’s too late to reclaim it.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. You can email him or leave a comment below.