Those of us who don’t get Showtime can now check out the first season of “Weeds” on DVD. The plot revolves around a young widow, Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), who deals marijuana to maintain her bourgeois lifestyle in an LA suburb called Agrestic. Nancy, who doesn’t smoke the commodity she sells, drives a leased Range Rover, employs a Hispanic maid, and pays the mortgage on a big house. She has two sons, Silas, 16, whose interest is girls, and Josh, 10, who acts out in troubling ways (shooting animals, biting another kid) and is a candidate for anti-depressants. Nancy, supposedly a good mom, pushes sports on Josh. She conceals her pot dealing from the kids, i.e., is living a lie.
Nancy’s friend from the PTA, a striver named Celia Hodes (played by a very droll actress, Elizabeth Perkins), doesn’t smoke pot, either. In the early episodes she is pressuring her 10-year-old daughter to lose weight (baby fat, obviously). When Celia finds the kid’s hidden bag of chocolates, she spikes it with laxatives, leading to the girl’s extreme humiliation in school. It’s unpleasant to watch. There’s another off-putting scene in which Andy Botwin -the younger brother of Nancy’s late husband, who arrives unexpectedly for an indefinite stay- engages in cybersex with Silas’s girlfriend. Andy is discovered masturbating by the maid, Lupita (who, in the real world, would have made an about face); convinces Silas that his behavior was acceptable; and is allowed to continue living in the house by Nancy lest he reveal her source of income to the children. Andy, a pothead, is supposedly a silver-tongued devil, but he’s just a bullshipper, a relentless come-on, and a sleaze.
Kevin Nealon plays a more likable pothead, Doug Wilson, Nancy’s accountant. Doug advises Nancy to set up a legitimate small business as a front, and she opens a bakery. We don’t see or even hear of her arranging financing, finding the location, buying fixtures, dealing with contractors or vendors or any of that mundane stuff. Although Nancy has no experience or affinity for baking, and is supposedly broke (her home phone gets cut off at one point), her place of business somehow materializes.
One evening Doug comes over to Nancy’s house, she’s not there, and he and Andy go into her personal stash, only to discover that a rat has found it, too. They get loaded and hunt for the rat, which they intend to shoot with a pellet gun. They use peanut butter as bait and get it all over the furniture. They trash the living room and kitchen, then crash in a stoned stupor. The Drug Czar’s office couldn’t have scripted a grosser caricature of Reefer Goofiness. Marijuana turns grown men into Beavis and Butthead!
In the third episode there’s a scene set in a pot club. Nancy shows up at Doug’s office to make a delivery and he tells her he doesn’t need anything. He takes out his wallet and shows her the reason why…
DOUG: It’s my medical marijuana card. I got a note from a clinic doc for a hundred bucks. Went down to the pot store and mama, I was home! It’s a weed wonderland, Nancy. It’s like Amsterdam, only better, because you don’t have to visit the Anne Frank house and pretend to be sad and stuff. See this lollipop?
NANCY: It isn’t…
DOUG: (Medium shot of Doug sucking) Yes! I’m getting high right now. You can’t even tell.
NANCY: How is it possible?
DOUG; The genius of Prop 215: medical marijuana for sick people. And seriously, who couldn’t use a little medication, right? My friend’s friend’s friend gave me the address of the clinic, I went down there, and loaded up. [From his desk he takes a baggie full of big colas.] I love California! I can’t wait to tell the poker game about it. The one buzz kill is you can only buy eight ounces a visit.
NANCY: That’s half a pound!
DOUG: Well, they allow you to make two visits a day, but you know with all the traffic on the 110 it’s practically impossible.
NANCY: Are you fucking with me?
DOUG: Uh-uh. No no. It’s all true. I don’t kid about my weed.
NANCY: I need the address.
DOUG: Nancy, you’re a pot dealer. Why would you take advantage of a medical provider when you already have the connection? That’s just greedy.
DOUG: Okay, fine. (jotting on a Post-it) As long as you’re braving the traffic, would you mind picking up a few more lollipops for me? Wild cherry.
There’s a serious gaffe in the scene transcribed above. The Keavin Nealon character uses the term “clinic” to refer to both the doctor’s office and the pot club at which he “loaded up.” You’d think somebody would have caught it. There’s another, less explicit error. Weeds is set in 2005 -Prop 215 and the existence of cannabis clubs would not have been news to Nancy Botwin. She’s supposedly the hippest mom in Agrestic, the one who wants to see the PTA oppose the sale of soft drinks. Nor would it have been news to Doug, who’s on the city council. Snappy exposition wins out over accurate portrayal of social reality.
From Doug’s office the scene shifts to the Bodhi Sativa Caregivers Club. We see a security guard in BG as Nancy enters. [How she got by the guard is unexplained. We don’t see or hear of her visiting a doctor, getting a card, etc.] She looks around in awe to the sitar-infused reggae strains of “Ganja Babe,” by Spearhead. From her POV we see cakes, cookies, tinctures, buds in apothecary jars… She is greeted by the owner, Craig X, who affects an early Elvis Costello look.
CRAIG (Bowing, hands clasped): Welcome. I’m Craig X and you are at the Bodhi Sativa Caregivers Club. How can we care for you?
NANCY: Hi, I’m kind of new at this.
CRAIG: A virgin? Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle on you. C’mnon this way. The First thing you want to do when you come to the club is check out the big board. On the big board here we have all the prices and strains, and they do change daily. (To a seemingly able-bodied young man entering the club) Hey Billy, how’s the anxiety?
CRAIG: Cool… What was I saying? I got spaced.
NANCY: The big board.
CRAIG: And on this big board we’ve got two specials today. You want to check Out the granddaddy perp, it’s actually purple. And today we’ve got a Sativa blend – the flavor, bellisimo. Second we’ve got the Here’s Johnny, the king of late night. You don’t want to be messing with this before the sun goes down, it’ll knock you out. In the other room we’ve got the clones… (To a seemingly able bodied even younger man carrying a skateboard and wearing a t-shirt with a peace sign) Hey how’s it going Robbie. I see the arthritis is getting better, Huh?
ROBBIE: Yeah, you know it
CRAIG: Cool. (To Nancy) What was I saying?
CRAIG: Oh, yeah. You hear that dial tone? My clones are off the hook. Check this out… We have the most beautiful clones. They’re ten dollars apiece and ours are guaranteed female. To get you started. And over here we’ve got the food section. Hey, Mrs. Rappaport, nice to see you, you look beautiful. We’ve got your sponge cake in back. Okay, go ahead and get that.
MRS. R: Thank you.
CRAIG: She’s got diabetes. We make it with Splenda instead of sugar. Where was I?
CRAIG:: Okay, look at all this great stuff we have: infusions, goos, kief, kief oils, hash oils, hemp oils. You look a little overwhelmed.
NANCY: Where does all this come from?
CRAIG: A combination of our patients and some very compassionate farmers. Doing God’s work.
NANCY: And it’s all legal.
CRAIG: Well, we operate under the guidelines of Health & Safety Code 11362.5…
(At this point DOUG enters, hugs CRAIG, hardly reacts to seeing NANCY)
DOUG: I love it here so much!
CRAIG: (to Nancy): He’s suffering from depression.
DOUG: Do you have any more Steven Hawking? I want to be wheeled out of here.
CRAIG: Oh yeah, I’ll hook you up…
Craig X was known as Craig Rubin when he had a store that sold bongs in West Hollywood c. 1996. In addition to playing himself on Weeds, he was hired as a consultant to the writers. He provides a commentary on the DVD in which he identifies himself as having run the first-ever cannabis club in Los Angeles. His cynicism pervades the episode (it’s called “Good Shit Lollipop”). Fortunately, Craig X doesn’t reappear as the series progresses and the BS Caregivers Club set is not used again. Making the sugar-free cake for Mrs. Rappaport was a realistic touch, and the two clerks in quasi-pharmaceutical garb looked like clerks you’d see in certain dispensaries. The clones were made from fake buds of the kind sold in High Times, and looked fake.
“Weeds” took a turn for the better about halfway through the season. Celia learns she has breast cancer, has a double mastectomy, and becomes more serious and compassionate. So does the writers’ attitude towards her and some of the other characters. In a scene possibly presaging her becoming a medical marijuana user, Doug comes by to visit Celia’s husband and chats with her in the kitchen. He admires her wig. She looks down.
DOUG: What’s wrong?
CELIA; Nauseous. Chemo.
DOUG: That sucks. Want some pot?
CELIA: That’s illegal, Doug.
DOUG: Not really. You can get a medical card.
CELIA: Well, I have pills for it, thank you.
DOUG: Ooh. What’d they give you?
DOUG: Can I try one?
CELIA: No, they’re three hundred dollars a pill.
DOUG: I’ll give you four hundred.
CELIA: They don’t get you high. It’s just for nausea.
DOUG: Wow. Three hundred dollars a pill and no fun?
As the first season ends, Nancy has decided to organize a marijuana-growing business. Her friend Conrad, nephew of a black woman who has been Nancy’s supplier, is a skilled grower and has developed a strain that will produce fast and copiously. A rival with whom she fought over turf (and had a fast fling with) will provide muscle. Doug will be the accountant, Celia husband the lawyer. Their plan is to sell to the burgeoning cannabis clubs of L.A.
Nancy’s mourning is not prolonged. Several eligible gents presented themselves. The one she’s most attracted to is the father of the kid Josh bit. (They all went out for pizza afterwards for closure.) He’s a single dad, intelligent, earnest, confident, handsome, sensitive and openly smitten with her. Nancy doesn’t reciprocate until, in the final episode, she shows up at his house and falls into his arms. In the middle of the night she goes to the bathroom and sees his DEA windbreaker. End of first season. The second season of Weeds starts next week. For all its faults, it makes a man wish he could afford Showtime.