Character Factors

HBO takes the dislikable lead to new heights on DVD.

By Leo Charney
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Aug. 2, 2006

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Mary-Louise Parker, the gangly star of Showtime's addictive Weeds, is another misfit like Kudrow. Looking like a human put together wrong--or an animatronic cartoon--she embodies her show's oddball tone. Her teetering beanpole body seems like it can barely remain upright, her doe eyes register a permanent sense of panic, and her strangulated voice sounds like it's being squeezed out of an improbably narrow frame.

Parker plays Nancy Botwin, a suburban mom who starts dealing--but not smoking--pot after her husband unexpectedly dies. "Suburban mom sells pot" is too cute a premise, but the show quickly outgrows it--especially on DVD, where you can gulp the 10 half-hour episodes straight down like a supersized movie.

Suburban conformity is the theme here, beginning with the '60s folk theme song that mocks "little boxes on the hillside." But as on HBO's latest hit Big Love, the heavy-handed irony just provides a frame for an idiosyncratic ensemble of characters--from the kookiness of SNL's Kevin Nealon as a closet stoner accountant, to the sexy sleepiness of Justin Kirk as Nancy's slacker brother-in-law, who plays with both his nephews and the neighborhood moms.

Like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, the show pivots on family, not just Nancy's but also the vividly imagined African-American clan providing her pot, led by fearsome matriarch Heylia (Tonye Patano), and that of Nancy's WASPish neighbor Celia, unforgettably played by Emmy-nominated Elizabeth Perkins.

Celia seems at first to exemplify the evil suburban mom, obsessed with weight, destroying her daughter with put-downs and body fascism. Yet we soon learn that Celia has mommy issues of her own, and she quickly becomes her own kind of wisecracking tragic heroine.

Over almost five hours of episodes you can see how far the show travels beyond its premise, creating a whole universe of the messed-up and messing-up. Parker's weird idiosyncrasy makes her the perfect center of this imperfect world, on what's increasingly one of TV's richest, most emotionally complicated shows. A

Includes: Commentary tracks, featurettes, mockumentary, and more.

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