Showtime, the pay-cable giant owned by Viacom, must be seeking a perfect schedule of "edgy" sleaze. They have shows for gay men and shows for the lesbians; they feature Penn and Teller's snarky show for the cocky atheists who want to use the F-word to describe Mother Teresa; and now they've added a new one, a "dramedy" series centered on a lovable suburban mom who's also a drug dealer.
"Weeds" is the new show, starring Mary-Louise Parker as a suburban California homemaker who's shocked by the sudden death of her husband. To make ends meet, the sympathetic widow with no income becomes the town marijuana merchant. Predictably, "Weeds" has earned the adoration of TV critics, who can never seem to get enough of what they call "splendid dark satire." One critic said it made "Desperate Housewives" look like "Leave It to Beaver." Parker said she loved doing the show because it was "unapologetically dark" and so "you can't necessarily make judgments on the characters."
For example, one pothead character extols a new "medical marijuana" facility nearby as better than Amsterdam, "because you don't have to visit the Anne Frank house and pretend to be all sad." Another example: Our star sells marijuana to a teenager on the compassionate condition that he not re-sell it to any younger kids.
"It seemed like exactly the right thing for us," says Robert Greenblatt, Showtime's president of entertainment. "It was something that was inherently dangerous and edgy, and we had to approach it in the right way, but we never shied away from it."
Corrupting society and championing illegal acts as harmless is all in a day's work at Viacom. It's always fun to squeeze a few laughs out of selling sandwich bags of dope. Pot is "so in the zeitgeist," claimed series creator Jenji Kohan, and "I thought of a female sort of anti-hero who did something risky, but not too offensive. She couldn't be a coke dealer." In other words, trafficking in one illegal substance is beyond the pale; in another, it's "edgy" and "exactly the right thing for us."
Kohan proclaimed to critics that she wanted to explore "postconventional morality" and is "perfectly comfortable saying that I believe [pot] should probably be legalized, regulated and taxed." But she still thinks making cute, giggly pictures about drug-dealing at the kids' soccer games isn't pro-drug, and says with a straight face: "We don't vilify. We present them as is, and I'm really proud to have remained neutral."