Tag Archives: Jenji Kohan

Showtime’s Summer Dramedy Hour is back: Weeds and Episodes premiere, part 1

10 Jul

Weeds Season 8 Promo Poster

I always like to wait a bit before I judge. I’ve spent time mulling over both of Showtime’s summer Dramedies:  Weeds and Episodes.  While Episodes can be thought of as an understated comedy that satirically examines the television industry, from concept of a series to its premiere, Weeds can be seen as a black comedy that looks at everything in the most pessimistic possible light.  It isn’t completely clear why Showtime decided to give Weeds one final season to wrap everything up since the end of Season 7 was satisfying in a Botwinesque way:  Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) gets shot and will she survive?  Sometimes it is better to leave an open ending.  American audiences hate open endings though.  They want closure.  In reality, closure is rarely something anyone gets to experience and that is most likely why the American television audience craves knowing a clear outcome. This is usually to the detriment of the storytelling process.  I hope it won’t be true for the final season of Weeds.

Shane (Alexander Gould) dealing with the neighbors after Nancy’s shooting.

In the Season 8 premiere of Weeds, “Messy,” we pick up right where we left off at the end of last season:  with Nancy having just been shot.  In the head.  Ironically this happened in her seemingly safe suburban mansion, in Old Sandwich, CT.  The title, “Messy,” comes from one of my favorite scenes of the episode, when two exceedingly old neighbors climb on ladders to snoop over the fence and see what happened at the Baldwin compound.  If Jenji Kohan got one thing right in this episode, it was the obnoxious behavior of the elderly wealthy residents of Connecticut.  I’m sure there are some very nice elderly people in Connecticut but my personal experience was almost the same while I lived in the uh, nutmeg state – I would sometimes find my landlords standing at the window staring inside trying to eavesdrop. I was brought back to that creepy experience as I watched the busybody neighbors from Old Sandwich comment on the “messy” lives of the Baldwins.  Connecticut hates messy.  Ironic that it is safer to walk around East Harlem than parts of New Haven and Bridgeport, but who am I to judge?  A disgruntled Californian, I guess.

I had pretty much given up on Weeds by the end of last season.  In fact, the only reason I watched it was because I was living in East Harlem at the time, and I could relate to Nancy’s plight of the halfway house, as I was job hunting and staying at a former friends’ condo (yes former, a story which I am sure I can relate to another cable show’s episode considering my life is surely as messy as any fictional characters’), when Weeds aired last year.  And as that bullet rang out at the end of last season, I thought it was a fitting and somewhat sophisticated way to end the series.  I will admit I was highly skeptical when I discovered there was going to be a final season of the series.

But I digress.  We quickly join Silas (Hunter Parrish) and Nancy in the ambulance witnessing Nancy make sexual references to the paramedic in front of her son while shot in the head, bleeding and possibly near death.  And that is the last we hear from her in the episode since she is put into a medically induced coma.  This episode is about Nancy’s family and friend’s reactions to her – tragedy.  Shane (Alexander Gould) at once becomes a predator and a cop, trying to chase down the gunman and then investigate the crime since he is secretly enrolled in the NYPD police academy.  I won’t reveal the shooter’s identity specifically, only to say, it is a former step-child of Nancy’s.  Someone I didn’t even remember existed and a bit disappointing for the triggerman.

Doug (Kevin Nealon) is inappropriate as always, hiding under the table after Nancy is shot (I secretly don’t blame him) and then later feeling her up while she is in a medically induced coma.  Very bad form, even for Doug.

Nancy’s sister, Jill (Jennifer Jason Leigh), inappropriately has sex with Andy (Justin Kirk) in the hospital room next to the bed where Nancy slumbers in her coma. Andy later has a conversation with a Rabbi in the hospital cafeteria.  Very Andy-esque.  Finally, Jill’s evil twin demon daughters post a picture of Nancy online after she has been shot.

Nancy’s (Mary-Louise Parker) shooter returns to her hospital room.

Nancy’s shooter comes back to the hospital to either finish the job he started or muse on his feelings about attempted murder.  Either way, he is interrupted by Nancy’s roommate’s daughter who has been walking in on inappropriate activities throughout the episode.  Nancy must sense danger as she seems to go into cardiac distress as the episode ends.

Will Nancy die? I doubt it.  Only nice people die young.  Evil people live to ripe old ages.  As my father said about one of my mother’s aunts, she was so mean, even the cancer couldn’t stand being in her.  I kind of see Nancy in the same light, though I still enjoy watching her mess up everyone’s life.

And if you think things are screwed up for the Botwins, they are not that much better for Beverly and Sean in Episodes which I will be happy to discuss in my next installment…

It’s official: Weeds gets renewed for an 8th season

11 Nov

My heart essentially dropped when I read that Showtime went ahead and renewed Weeds.  Again.  At one time, it was one of my favorite shows, but once Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) burned down the house and fled Agrestic, the show felt done.  When the Botwins and friends turned up in Ren Mar, it felt wrong.  It wasn’t the same show any more.  The whole point of Weeds was that we were watching the life of a soccer mom evolve into a drug dealer.  By the time she burned down Agrestic, well, she’d turned into a drug dealer. Goal accomplished.  Where do we go from there?

There are really two answers to that question.  One is let the show finish gracefully, and let the fans come up with their own fate for Nancy.  She could go down in TV history as a drug dealing mom who also is an arsonist among other things.  The other answer is unfortunately the more practical one if you are a Cable network who wants to turn a profit:  you shouldn’t care if a show turns to shit, you still want to churn it out cash for the bottom line so let’s ruin the strong character we created and let’s destroy the show.  For money.  And in Hollywood, you’re lucky if you get any sort of art since the bottom line is always about profit.

I slugged through life in Ren Mar half-heartedly.  It was no longer the same show I knew and loved.  Once Nancy hooked up with the drug kingpin I wondered if it would turn around.  Uh, no.  The only redeeming thing for me was when Shane (Alexander Gould) murdered Pilar (Kate del Castillo).  It was one of those moments I didn’t see coming and I thought, “Wow.  I just had to watch an entire season of this show for one great moment.  Maybe it will pick up next season.”  That was a gross mis-judgement on my part and when my now historically least favorite Weeds season (that is season 6 for any hard core fans) started, I saw it was going to crash and burn.  In fact, I had to stop watching by episode 5.  It wasn’t until Season 7 was about to start that I gave Weeds one last chance, for old times’ sake.  I sucked it up, watched the rest of Season 6 and prepared for the worst.  Strangely, I pretty much enjoyed Season 7.  Now, it wasn’t near the greatness of the first two seasons of the show but it felt as if Jenji Kohan and company had sat down and reflected on what made Nancy Botwin, well,  Nancy Botwin.

What initially made Weeds such as great show was taking an ordinary person and putting her in extraordinary circumstances and watching her struggle to survive.  What ruined this show was forgetting who Nancy was for, uh, about four seasons and just writing plots and forgetting that it wasn’t the drug thing alone that made the show what it was.  It was Nancy swimming with sharks while never quite becoming one, keeping a bit of humanity inside her somewhere, and somehow triumphing.  I realize characters need to evolve and grow.  But Nancy never felt that she organically evolved after she left Agrestic.  She reacted.  Nobody likes a reactor.  Then the character is ruled by plot.  Not their personality.  Nancy was ruled by plot for 4 seasons and the show floundered.  Yes, it still might have gotten good ratings but its watchability, at least in my opinion, took a nose-dive.  This season (7), Nancy was back to being proactive and the show felt different.  Not quite like it did, especially when teeny bopper queen Michelle Trachtenberg shows up as a spoiled drug dealer.  That’s when the show ended up having a nasty power struggle that I don’t feel paid off:  it became a question of what’s stronger?  Nancy as a character determining the show’s outcome, or the plot.  It felt like a stalemate.

I’ve got to admit (SPOILER ALERT) that as I watched the last scene of this season, I felt that it was the right time to end Weeds.  And what better way?  Does Nancy get shot?  I like to think she does.  Does she die?  I kind of think so.  Because you see, Nancy stopped struggling and in Nancy’s world, that really is death.  She needs to live for the next fix of drama.  So, sure, Jenji Kohan can now take her next 13 episodes and do with them what she may.  I hope it is something mind-blowing, not mind-numbing.  And… if Nancy does survive the gun shot, who does get killed?  Someone needs to die.  Maybe one of her children?  Now that might be interesting but I’m talking about an entirely different show.  How would Nancy survive the death of one of her kids?  Would she go out for revenge?  Again, not Weeds.  If Doug or Jill die, then that’s sort of a cop out.  So… what are they going to do?  Honestly, I’m not sure I care any more.  I would have rather seen Nancy go down in a hail of bullets.  An anti-heroine who could go down with some great criminals.  In my mind, there is nothing worse than going down in history as a Connecticut home owner (I lived in Connecticut for two years so I can attest to this).  How boring can you get?  If that’s how her life turned out, then Showtime and Jenji Kohan, I’d like my money back.  And my time.

WEEDS is back and surprisingly good. Yes. Good.

28 Jul

Nancy Botwin is back

Ok.  It’s not as great as the first couple of seasons, and it’s not as bad as the last couple of seasons.  But, I would argue, Weeds Season 7 is actually good.  Or maybe enjoyable.  Good and enjoyable.  I’ve hesitated to write about it because I’ve been waiting to be let down and disappointed.  I haven’t been. Spoiler Alert from this point:   I was a bit worried with this week’s episode when Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) returns to California to try and get custody of her youngest son, Stevie, the spawn of a now dead Mexican drug lord.  And this week’s episode, “Fingers Only Meat Banquet,” was probably the weakest so far, mostly because I don’t really care about Nancy as a mother, I only care about her as a drug dealer.  Yes, I know.  That’s part of the reason she became a drug dealer was to take care of her family, but knowing Nancy’s character, I’d be willing to bet that even if she didn’t have a family to support, she would have become a drug dealer anyway.

I’ve always felt Silas (Hunter Parrish) and Shane (Alexander Gould) tended to be secondary characters in terms of Nancy’s motivations and the show became much weaker when she tried to keep the family as a unit.  Nancy is a narcissist.  When she starts to act too maternal or caring, it doesn’t work.  I wish Jenji Kohan and her staff would keep their eyes on the prize.  Because it’s when Nancy acts out of character for plot’s sake that their show falls apart. What I liked about the start of this season is that Nancy is selfish.  Yes, she’s always selfish but she’s really out for herself and she feels like the old Nancy.  She might not be in Agrestic, but plopping her down in Washington Heights (in Queens) at a halfway house is certainly more compelling to Ren Mar and the Winnebago from the last couple of seasons.

We see the aftermath of Nancy going to prison for three years.  Silas, Shane and Andy (Justin Kirk) – even Doug (Kevin Nealon) have managed to survive without her.  Nancy is still Nancy.  Complete with checking into her halfway house, making contact with an obvious outlaw, and retrieving a suitcase full of stolen explosives from a car trunk by the end of the first episode.  No, Nancy does not become a terrorist this season as far as I know.  She wants to go back to dealing.  And if you haven’t watched yet, start watching because at the end of the ‘fingers’ episode, some of the old cast will be reunited with Nancy and Silas (who is now her partner in drug-dealing crime).  It feels like the old Weeds might be back.  I just hope it stays that way.

Watch my Vlog Review on YouTube.

Weeds Season 7 Promo:

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