Category Archives: Weeds

Notes on an Unintentional Cultural Hiatus

It is natural for people who write about television to write less during the summer: the number of shows on the air dwindles, meaning that the overall sense of activity within the industry is less conducive to the kinds of near-daily analysis that I might otherwise be engaged with.

Or, rather, this is what I tell myself as I return to the blog after an unintended two-week hiatus. In truth, a number of things have happened since that point which I could have written about, and the very point of the Cultural Catchup Project was to help fill in the gaps during these warmer months. However, a combination of a trip home to Canada and the recent holiday weekend have created enough distractions that writing about television just hasn’t seemed like a priority…or, rather, it hasn’t seemed like a priority here.

When I started writing for The A.V. Club, I knew that it would mean writing slightly less here: because I was writing about The Office on a weekly basis, and because those reviews were time-sensitive, it did mean that I wrote about shows like Community and Parks and Recreation less often than I might have otherwise. This time around, meanwhile, it’s resulted in a situation where I’ve felt fairly busy in terms of writing even when the blog sits largely dormant.

On top of a few drop-ins (including a review of the premiere of ABC’s Expedition Impossible and ABC/Global’s Rookie Blue), I’m covering two ongoing series for The A.V. Club.

The first was something entirely new, which has actually been a major reason for a lack of blogging: while BBC America’s U.K. import The Inbetweeners only had twelve total episodes in its first two series, catching up on them felt somewhat necessary given that I’m covering the third series for the site. I’ll admit that I’ve found Series Three a bit uneven, and parts of the show remain a bit broader than I would like, but the first two series have a real charm to them which has made it an enjoyable experience. Mind you, it is somewhat odd to be covering a series (or season) that the majority of commenters have seen in its entirety through YouTube and illegal downloads (since it aired in the U.K. last fall), but that’s sort of given it a TV Club Classic vibe that I’m not entirely opposed to.

The Inbetweeners | TV Club | The A.V. Club

The second, meanwhile, picks up on something I wrote last fall. I’m among those who felt the sixth season of Weeds marked a creative turnaround for the beleaguered Showtime series, and said as much in my review of the finale. While the jury remains out on the seventh season, the show has returned to The A.V. Club lineup after a year-long absence, and I’m quite pleased with the response from readers. There are very few sites covering the show week-to-week, and while the show may be inconsistent I don’t think it has stopped being interesting since the reboot back in Season Four. I’ll be tracking the season’s ups and downs, however they might fall, in the weeks ahead.

Weeds | TV Club | The A.V. Club

Of course, things are not going to stay quiet at Cultural Learnings forever: the Cultural Catchup Project will return early next week, Breaking Bad reviews will return on the 17th, I will at least offer some preliminary thoughts on Torchwood: Miracle Day (and may review it consistently if there is both demand and personal interest), and the Emmy nominations are now only eight days away. However, if there’s anything that’s happened in the last two weeks that you want me to comment briefly on, feel free to leave a comment/question below and we’ll see if we can’t get a conversation started.

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Season Finale: Weeds – “All About My Mom”

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“All About My Mom”

August 31st, 2009

“Something happens today, something else will happen tomorrow.”

That’s really the motto of this show, isn’t it? Shane, in his numbed and disconnected state, is the poster child for the series, accepting of the idea that if something goes bad today, you might as well just shrug it off and move onto tomorrow, when something similarly terrible is going to happen. Shane got shot, a shot meant for Nancy, but rather than send him into some sort of depressive state it seems like he sees this world (if not reality, which we know has little to no connection to this sensationalist fable of sorts) clearer than he’s ever seen it before.

Whereas Nancy Botwin, she has never seen this world clearly. She is impulsive and in over her head at every turn, making decisions that she knows she will eventually regret but struggling to stop herself, to really right herself on this particular journey. At the end of this, the show’s fifth season, Nancy finds herself surrounded by people who are suddenly seeing the world in a different light. Andy has grown up, purchased a minivan and proposed to Audra. Celia has decided she’s set on doing what Nancy did, and looks to regain power of her drug dealing future. And Shane, young and formerly naive Shane, decides to take matters into his own hands when it matters most.

What separates this finale from every other is that it seems as if the show has accepted its identity: it, like Shane, accepts that something happens today and something else happens tomorrow, and that this season’s cliffhanger will not be the last for the show. While this season has had its quirks, and has been perhaps the most different of any season, where it succeeds is in its clarity: the actions undertaken in the finale are cleaner, more precise, than they’ve ever been before, but with an opportunity for consequences as complicated as the show has ever dealt with.

Which, if not quite what drew me into the show into the first place, at least feels like a consistent and effective dramatic purpose for the aging series.

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Weeds – “Perro Insano”

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“Perro Insano”

August 10th, 2009

Ah, the false finale.

In many ways, “Perro Insano” operates as a finale would, giving every character a climactic moment or climactic decision and leaving them hanging as we move on in a new direction. In the events of this episode, there are moments of resolution, moments wherein you are seeing an entire season’s of storylines reach a particular apex. The problem, of course, is that this is a false conclusion: while Celia may appear to have reached that deluxe apartment in the sky, and Nancy has finally convinced the man she loves to marry her, one can’t help but believe that things can only go downhill from here. And, unfortunately for Nancy and Co., there’s still two episodes for that destruction to take place.

It’s an awkward point for Weeds, really, because we as an audience are conditioned to the point of numbness to these types of events, and for every bit of false resolution we’re given we can’t help but resist, pushing back as if in defiance of Jenji Kohan and her writing staff. It creates an odd bit of tension that I think the show wants to thrive in, but here there’s been too little definition in the supporting storylines, and too much sensationalism in the major ones, for it to feel like an example of the audience being manipulated rather than the storylines being contrived. It’s a difference between consistency and repetition, in a way, and I think the show is falling at least slightly too much on the latter point.

But not so much so as to discount the show’s overall quality too greatly.

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Weeds – “Suck ‘n’ Spit”

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“Suck ‘n’ Spit”

August 3rd, 2009

What I’ve always found interesting about Weeds is that it has been very careful about limiting the consequences from Nancy Botwin’s actions. Yes, bad things have happened, but they have always seemed to happen to people who are only indirectly related to the Botwin family: sure, her once husband was amongst those who fell victim to being in Nancy’s presence, but for the most part (outside of perhaps Silas’ broken arm and a few minor run-ins) the amount of crossfire that her family and friends have seen as a result of her actions has been limited.

In “Suck ‘n’ Spit,” we have a serious bit of consequence, perhaps the most serious we’ve seen yet. To get to that point, the episode didn’t particularly go anywhere all that interesting, investigating to varying degrees the total loss of normalcy (or, in some instances, the characters’ ability to engage with a new definition of the term) in their lives.

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Weeds – “A Distinctive Horn”

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“A Distinctive Horn”

July 27th, 2009

As you’ve no doubt noticed as of late, things have been a touch slow around Cultural Learnings when it comes to summer programming reviews. This is due largely to a combination of extra-special T.V. events (Last week’s Torchwood: Children of Earth blogging, for example) and some personal academic commitments that have been particularly demanding on my time (or, more accurately, my sanity). But in many ways, I think it’s because each summer show (Royal Pains, Burn Notice, Nurse Jackie, etc.) have fallen into a pattern that hasn’t really changed. When an episode is good it’s good, but as fun summer fare as opposed to meaty content worth sinking my teeth into. I’ve shared a few thoughts on Twitter here and there, but it’s been a slow summer when it comes to television to really analyze in a critical framework.

However, what I find really interesting about Showtime’s Weeds is that the reasons I haven’t been blogging about it this year are fundamentally different than last year. Whereas usually Weeds struggles to have something to write about in each individual episode, as its plots tends to be fairly easy to choreograph but almost painfully drawn out, this season the show has the exact opposite problems: due to a newfound unstable temporality that saw the show leap into the future a few weeks back, the show has gone further than I expected them to go all season. I’ve been tentative to write about it simply because I’ve been waiting to see when the pace will slow down, and when things would go back to normal. At this rate, part of me thinks that the kid is going to a toddler by the time we get to the finale.

Ultimately, the end of “A Distinctive Horn” is probably the point where the pace begins to slow, but I figured a “State of the Weeds” address was probably in order.

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Weeds – “A Modest Proposal”

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“A Modest Proposal”

July 13th, 2009

Weeds is often a show that tends to drag things out, so I think there were more than a few collective jaw drops at the sight of a “Six Months Later” chyron early in “A Modest Proposal.” It isn’t that last week’s episode, which was quite good in its depiction of Nancy deciding for the tenuous safety of Esteban over Andy’s promise of safety, didn’t lend itself to skipping over the less interesting months of Nancy’s pregnancy, but rather that the show has never made this leap before and to do so seemed quite sudden.

In the end, it’s one of those decisions that allows them to skip ahead to where you could tell the storylines were going rather than having to build there gradually. It’s a narratological shortcut, and for a show that often tends to drag along I’d argue it’s probably a smart idea. I have some concerns over how things don’t appear to have actually changed, and how in some instances the eventuality of storylines were not nearly as interesting as the buildup would have been, but the show is in a better position to be more interesting with the current setting.

It’s added a healthy level of mystery and intrigue to the proceedings at the end of the day, and no one is really going to argue with that development.

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Weeds – “Super Lucky Happy”

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“Super Lucky Happy”

June 29th, 2009

Known for its rather glacial pacing (I was reading in Todd’s review from The A.V. Club last week that the show arguably has only taken place over the course of a year or so, which is probably accurate if often ignored by the show itself), Weeds has been operating at a pretty decent clip this year. However, that was bound to change, and we have our first bit of a thematic pause in “Super Lucky Happy.”

Now, let’s be clear: this isn’t a bad thing. Personally speaking, I’m a fan of Weeds episodes that try to capture a mood or a particular point of view, rather than those which feel like they’re being particularly sensationalist. What struck me about this episode, though, was that it arguably wants to have its cake and eat it to. The actual events in the episode are pretty major, but the show’s current milieu means that there really isn’t anything abnormal about Nancy taking people hostage, and so her reaction after the fact seems less like a major event than a necessary moment of reflection.

It has the show in a holding pattern, either way, but it’s ultimately a position that the show can manage thanks to the skill of Mary-Louise Parker and the need to place Nancy’s predicament into a slightly different light.

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