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A Final Apologist Post On WEEDS

About a month ago Weeds ended its eight-season run.

Despite being Showtime’s first hit series, helping the network to gain ground on rival HBO, it never got any love – and as recently as last week I am still listening to my friends complain about it.

For most of its run it’s been attacked for having jumped the shark and gone on way too long.

So here’s why everyone is wrong about Weeds.

Weeds is a “father doesn’t know best” comedy – but in this case, mother doesn’t know best.

While this genre of comedy dates back to All in the Family, it was refined in the 1980s with shows like Married with Children and The Simpsons.
In these shows, not only does the head of the household not have all of
the answers for his family, but often he initiates familial conflict.

On the most basic level Weeds is about someone who is the worst mother in the world. But the show is more complicated than that – it takes the father doesn’t know best premise to a whole new darker level.

In the traditional father doesn’t know best show, ultimately the family comes together, rallies around the father, and the father’s good intentions forgive whatever wrongs he has committed (this is the formula for most Simpsons episodes).

This isn’t the case in Weeds.

Nancy is not just the worst mother ever, but she is a toxic person, dragging everyone down with her.

Nancy breaks new TV ground in bad parenting because she consistently puts her needs ahead of her two children.

When her husband unexpectedly dies, she quickly realizes that she does not have sufficient funds to main her family’s lifestyle. Rather than take a job she doesn’t like, cut back on expenses, move to a smaller house, etc., Nancy decides to sell drugs – she takes a shortcut. And despite the many brushes with death, endangering the welfare of her children and eventually going to jail, she continues to do what’s best for her. She has no good intentions – nothing justifies what she puts her children through.

Where things really get insidious, is that not only does Nancy use people, but she uses her family members for her own gain. She is incredibly emotionally needy and forces her family to stay with her as her life unravels and she travels all over the country trying to escape her many enemies from the drug trade. She knows that her two sons are eager to please their mother, and she exploits that to her own advantage. The family is never reaffirmed on Weeds – it never comes together. People want to go their separate ways, but Nancy won’t let them.

The reason I give the show a lot of props for its take on parenthood is because on a lot of shows bad parents find absolution from being well intentioned.

Even on a show like The Sopranos, a lot of the bad things Tony did relating to his children were more or less excused because he was genuinely trying to do what was in their best interests. One episode that comes to mind is when Tony threatens Meadow’s black boyfriend because Tony is a racist and doesn’t want his daughter dating someone who isn’t Caucasian. Because Tony is portrayed as being genuinely motivated to protect his daughter, it prevents viewers from being completely alienated by his racism. We’re disgusted by what he did, it was well meaning in a twisted kind of way.

What seemed to bug viewers the most about Weeds is that it did not stick to its original premises of Nancy selling pot in the suburbs.

Eventually the show abandoned its suburban setting, ditched many of the characters, and season after season the stakes got bigger and bigger. While Weeds never claimed to be realistic, it would have been completely hollow if there were never any consequences to selling drugs where the status quo was never permanently broken.

The worst kind of TV is where the status quo gets blown-up, and yet, everything is able to reset and go back to normal. Breaking Bad has done the exact same thing as Weeds, moving so far away from the original premise of a terminally ill chemistry teacher cooking meth so he can provide for his family after death that it’s almost a completely different show.

So if all people really wanted was to watch eight seasons of a suburban mom’s hijinks as she sells pot to her neighbors, all I can do is insist that viewers would have been so bored with that after three seasons that there would have never been a season four of Weeds.

But I will concede that that the show probably should have ended two seasons ago. All of the themes had been worked to death. There haven’t been too many new places to take the characters.

And this was pretty apparent in the series finale where nothing really happened. While Nancy does let one of her children escape her tentacles by allowing him to go to boarding school at thirteen, she is way passed redemption and the show clearly acknowledges that.

My guess is that Weeds will not have any kind of second life on home video/streaming, that it will quickly fade away. But I wouldn’t be surprised if someone makes a show in a few years that is thematically the same – being about an unbelievably terrible parent whose actions are inexcusable – and it gets praised for its originality.

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