Weeds: Season Two (US - DVD R1)
Gabe is pleasantly surprised by the series, and is hungry for some reason...
After her husband's unexpected death and subsequent financial woes, suburban mom Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) starts dealing pot to her apathetic suburban neighbors. Though the money is good, drug dealing isn't exactly a safe job. Nancy is faced with keeping her family life in check and her enterprise a secret from her friends. In season two Nancy's problems multiply as she finds herself in bed with a DEA agent and steps up the amount of weed she's selling.
It never fails to throw me for a loop when I'm asked to review the second or third acts of TV shows I know nothing about without a chance of seeing the original episodes. Weeds is a show I never caught previously because I don't have Showtime, not because it sounded like a particularly bad idea for a show. The premise isn't entirely original, anyone that saw Saving Grace would know that, and the show's tone is a little too Six Feet Under, but it was an entertaining way to waste 280 minutes.
Like so many decently-to-well written television shows Weeds comes down to arc and character. The odd moment of inspiration can't guarantee a good show. They can make for good quotes, but they can't make for good shows. To that effect, I like most of the characters, but the arc was only okay.
Usually I favor supporting casts over leads, and this one is pretty sparkly. My favourite character, much to my surprise, is Elizabeth Perkins' Celia Hodes, the stereotypically bitchy and snobby 'best' friend. This is normally the character I hate in modern comedy - for example, that horrible beast Megan Mullally plays on Will and Grace, but Perkins manages to be funny, even (or especially) when she's berating her child and her weight. Kevin Nealon also manages to nothing-but-net it each time his neglected character steps up to the line, as does Justin Kirk as the nutty live-in uncle.
The only characters I don't like are lead Mary-Louise Parker's kids. Her youngest son is written like every kid on TV, only with a slightly R-rated edge. He's harmless, but not exactly enthralling. Her older son is a jerk, and so full of asinine angst I wanted to strangle him. When he starts poking holes in condoms to ensure his deaf girlfriend won't go away to Princeton I was officially done feeling sorry for him.
The writing varies - sometimes it's laugh out loud funny, sometimes it's tired. Comparisons to shows like Northern Exposure are easy because of the built in 'quirk' content, though this is often forced. Really forced. The Six Feet Under and Dead Like Me comparisons are found in the 'dysfunctional family' moments, which overflow with malaise and oh-so-hip angst on several occasions. The plot twists are easy to see coming, but the characters and those odd moments of inspiration I previously spoke of bump the series above the 'average' category.
I shouldn't be surprised with good-looking television shows in the post-laugh track and studio audience era (I know they still use them, but they're a lot less common), but I am. Weeds is very pretty. It's suburbia through the eyes of Tim Burton pops with colour. The DVD does its job, and the bright colours don't bloom or bleed. Blacks are deep without absorbing too much of their surrounding colours. Skin tones are a little greenish and dark spots tend to be the home of noise, but nothing too bad. Overall a very nice transfer, but probably not as good as the Blu-Ray release that comes out the same day.
The 6.1 Dolby Digital EX track is nice, but pretty unnecessary. The show is all talk and music. I can probably count the surround effects on one hand. The few times surround effects i noticed (barking dogs, sirens, birds) were well balanced and effective enough to scare the cat. The surround mix really only benefits the music, which does sound very nice. The music itself is one of the show's biggest selling points, and is pretty far above average. The theme song is performed by a different group or artist every episode, and some of theme are downright great.
Both discs in this two-disc set have a few commentary tracks with several participants. Disc one features creator/writer Jenji Kohan solo (a little slower than her second track, but still solid), consultant Craig X (really obnoxious, but informative if you really care about pot culture), and producer/writer Matthew Salsberg with director Lev L. Spiro (a little awkward, but informative). On disc two we have actor Romany Malco solo (pretty sparse, mostly just watches the episode), actor Kevin Nealon solo (he seems to think this is a descriptive track for the blind, until he just stops speaking), producer/writer Roberto Benabib and producer/director Craig Zisk (lively and fact-filled), and another track with creator/writer Jenji Kohan solo (the most consistent and the best at filling in the behind the scenes cracks).
We've also got a few 'trivia tracks', and though they have a habit of stating the obvious ('Narc' is slang for Narcotics Agent), they're a lot more active than I expected. The cast back-stories and factoids are probably my favourite, though I suppose I could get the same info from the web. There are three episodes with adorning a track per disc.
Other extras on disc one include a gag reel, an uncut 'Huskeroo' commercial, in English and Spanish, a trailer, and two featurettes that really push the limits of legality. The first, Conrad's Grow Room is a step-by-step Hydroponics how-to. Hydroponics is apparently a successful way of grown plants indoors, which is mostly utilized in the pot trade, though the featurette is sure to refer to the plant in question as 'tomatoes'. The second, Cream of the Crop is a short look at consultant Craig X's top five favourite pot crops. Both featurettes are pretty silly, verging on obnoxious, but well made and anamorphically enhanced.
Disc two also features A montage of marijuana slang, an extended performance from a featured band called Jammin' Nation (or maybe that's the name of the song), four different versions of the opening title song "Little Boxes" set to Flash montages of images and quotes, and a montage of 'tools of the trade'.
Weeds is the kind of thing I strongly recommend for Netflix and Blockbuster online members. The two-disc set is a nice way to fill out a rental queue, and watching the 30-minute episodes is an entertaining breeze. No blind-buy recommendation here, but the DVDs are finely crafted, featuring some excellent A/V, and more extras than most TV sets on the store shelf.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 24th July 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX English, Dolby Surround English
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Extras: Commentaries, Trivia Tracks, Featurettes, Huskeroos Commecials, Montages
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Nealon, Romany Malco
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Length: 283 minutes
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