High Anxiety

  High Anxiety

Posted by CN Staff on August 06, 2005 at 16:36:41 PT
By Noel Holston, Staff Writer 
Source: Newsday 

USA -- Nancy Botwin's husband dropped dead jogging. He left her with two boys to raise and more debt than she had any idea they had, including the mortgage on a big, white-stucco house in a cookie-cutter California development like the one E.T. was staying in when he phoned home.What's a desperate housewife to do? Sell the SUV? Find a less pricey neighborhood? See if Wal-Mart needs a greeter? All of the above? No, Botwin - as played by Mary-Louise Parker - turns to drugs. Not as a user but as a dealer. And thus we have "Weeds," the buzz show of the summer in more ways than one.
"Weeds" begins with a sneak preview Sunday night at 11 on Showtime. Thereafter, each episode will be shown Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 p.m.Created by Jenji Kohan, whose writing credits range from "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" to "Sex and the City," "Weeds" is the latest embodiment of the hottest trend in cable entertainment and, increasingly, in broadcast TV as well: moral ambiguity.Pushing The EnvelopeIn TV series about such nontraditional "heroes" as an alcoholic, philandering firefighter (FX's "Rescue Me"), a ruthless federal agent (Fox's "24"), drug-addicted surgeons (FX's "Nip/Tuck") and mobsters who rub out rivals but can't get respect from their own spoiled kids (HBO's "The Sopranos"), a grumpy disposition, a la "Lou Grant," is not enough. The protagonists have serious flaws, criminal behaviors even, that can make it difficult for viewers to know where to invest their sympathy. Showtime actually has a series coming in the fall that will put viewers in the thick of a group of Islamic jihadists hiding and plotting in Los Angeles.At least until "Sleeper Cell" is ready, "Weeds" is likely to be the new lightning rod attracting the ire of viewers who think television is pushing the envelope too far. And that's somewhat ironic, considering the focal character of "Weeds," unlike Tony Soprano or rampaging Det. Vic Mackey of "The Shield," couldn't kill a mouse. She just sells marijuana to her suburban neighbors, among them a city councilman."I think what strikes a chord is, this is a mother," Kohan said in a recent telephone interview. "She has children and she's doing something illegal. We have a history of the father doing what he needs to do to support his family. Mommy is not supposed to take these kinds of risks. She's supposed to be at home nurturing. But I guess you weigh your options and do what you think is gonna work."Kohan said FX's high-voltage cop show, "The Shield," was a "huge inspiration" to her. "No one was black and white," she said. "Your main characters were deeply, deeply flawed, which I loved. It's so rarely allowed on [broadcast] network. You have to have your good guy and your bad guy, and the bad guy has to have a comeuppance. I watched 'The Shield,' and these people are so complicated and so human, and they did such wonderful things and they did such horrendous things. It was all about the gray areas.Moral Quandaries"It was also about the notion of creating your own moral code when you're operating outside the confines of society's moral codes," she continued.She believes "Weeds" presents similar moral quandaries, though Botwin's motivations may appear shallow."She's trying to maintain the trappings of what a happy family and happy lifestyle looks like and taking big risks for it," Kohan said. "But we're living in the most material time ever. Things tend to take on a lot greater importance these days. Can't be happy without your stuff."Certainly not in Agrestic, a perfectly manicured community where the houses don't so much seem constructed as cloned. In the series' opening credits sequence, set to Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes" (the folk classic about all those houses "made of ticky-tacky"), mornings in Agrestic are a ballet of identical SUVs and joggers in the same shorts and caps. Gossip is the cottage industry. Mothers of Nancy's kids' classmates tsk-tsk about the mess her husband left her in and speculate on whether her designer purse is original or a knockoff.Skewed MoralityNancy's illegal livelihood notwithstanding, she appears to be a good person whose head seems to be screwed on pretty straight. No one would call her a permissive parent. She's doing her best, for instance, to forestall her 15-year-old son, Silas (Hunter Parrish), from becoming sexually active.Parker ("Angels in America," "The West Wing") is a marvelous actress who combines an adorable "That Girl" quality with a hint of wildness. You believe her earnestness when she gets up at the PTA meeting to campaign for the removal of sugary soft drinks from the school, but you also believe she'd drive into a vastly poorer neighborhood to buy pot from Heylia James (Tonye Patano), a black wholesaler whose kitchenette is a dope depot.The family-business scenes in Heylia's kitchen are some of the show's best, crackling with tension between black and white, between lower-middle class and upper-middle, between experience and naivete, and between people who have no illusions about what they're doing and someone whose idea of "street" is Wisteria Lane.Parker said she took the role because she liked the world Kohan created. "It was unapologetically dark, and the morality of it was skewed from the beginning, so you can't necessarily make judgments on the characters," she said. "To me, it was just all these - these really standard archetypes that, over the course of the show, they kind of dismantle themselves. Suddenly, the person isn't who you thought she was in the beginning. And that's really interesting to me, because a lot of times on TV, the person is the same at the end of the show as they are at the beginning. It doesn't really ask you anything, you know what I mean?"Light, Dark, Shades of GrayWhat Parker was saying, or trying to say, is explained more clearly by the first couple of episodes. Sunday's opener is fairly lighthearted. Nancy has poignant moments with her young son, Shane (Alexander Gould), who's having difficulty accepting his dad's premature death, and there's a fierce exchange when she catches one of her high-school customers reselling marijuana to a younger kid. But generally speaking, the episode is a lark, poking fun at the hypocrisy of upright suburbanites who have plenty of secret vices, getting high being just one of them.But the second episode, though still humorous, suggests that Kohan isn't going to make things any easier for Nancy than for the audience. Her "heroine" finds herself needing more product to sell to meet unexpected bills. Her supplier doesn't extend credit. Heylia James expects collateral. First it's Nancy's car, then her wedding ring.The initial season will have 10 episodes. Without giving the plot away, Kohan said "Weeds" watchers can expect Nancy to change. "She gets bigger," Kohan said. "She gets deeper. And it complicates her life. She begins to wonder why she's gotten into this in the first place." Note: 'Weeds,' Showtime's new series about a drug-dealing mom, is already hot - and sure to ignite controversy.Source: Newsday (NY)Author: Noel Holston, Staff WriterPublished: August 7, 2005Copyright: 2005 Newsday Inc.Contact: letters newsday.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Showtime's Weeds Mom Brakes for Drug Deals a New Series, The Suburbs Light Up Television Characters Are Going To Pot

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Comment #11 posted by FoM on August 07, 2005 at 21:42:04 PT
I haven't ever seen Willie but his new CD is good. I think Willie Nelson is a wonderful person. He's an icon and loved by so many people. I hope he has many more good years ahead of him. I only have seen Neil Young in the last 30 years and I sure hope he tours at least one more time again. If his health makes it to risky for him to do a big tour like Greendale that's understandable and ok if he would quit touring heavily. Getting his new CD Prairie Wind and other DVDs he's releasing will make me happy for months!
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Comment #10 posted by John Tyler on August 07, 2005 at 20:42:17 PT
Never saw the bus
Just read about it. Willie is amazing though.
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Comment #9 posted by Hope on August 07, 2005 at 12:16:41 PT
I've seen Willie.
Love does seem to surround the man.
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Comment #8 posted by Hope on August 07, 2005 at 12:15:33 PT
I think it's rather commonly known as
"Have you been to Willie's bus, and felt the love?"
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Comment #7 posted by John Tyler on August 07, 2005 at 07:51:44 PT
I love Nancy Botwin
I don’t get Showtime either, but I would love to see this show. I hope it comes out in a DVD version before too long. When some activity is presented as normal (which it is) and people don’t turn into ax murders or worse the public perception changes and the politicians change also. We need some “I love Nancy Botwin.” T shirts or bumper stickers or blogs or something. How about this, a Nancy Botwin fan club? The best way to sell something (idea, product, or service) is to show attractive articulate people using it, doing it, or otherwise enjoying it. It makes it socially legitimate.…And speaking of Willie,…I was looking at an entertainment mag. at an article about the making of the “Dukes of Hazard” movie. The article said that after a hard day of shooting, Willie’s bus (a Greyhound bus size bus) was the place to gather for relaxation.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on August 07, 2005 at 07:10:37 PT
I would love to see this new show but I can't justify paying more on a satellite bill right now. I'm sure it isn't going to be perfect but neither was Saving Grace. Check this out!He’s On The Road Again: Nelson Just ‘Having Fun’***By Steve Penhollow, The Journal GazetteAugust 7, 2005Willie Nelson advocates the use of vegetable oil as automotive fuel, the use of stem cells to unravel ancient maladies and the judicious or non-judicious use of marijuana in medical or non-medical contexts.
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Comment #5 posted by kaptinemo on August 07, 2005 at 05:57:48 PT:
FoM, the media is part of the key
In the late 1990's, when British Home Secretary Jack Straw's son was outed by a reporter as having sold some hash to that reporter, things in Great Britain began to change in favor of decriminalization. Several prominent newspapers there began pointing out the hypocrisy endemic in Britain's cannabis laws, taking the government to task for such stupidity. From that point on, momentum began to build for calls for debate on why cannabis was being classed with dangerous drugs. It didn't hurt the cause any for Prince Harry to also have ben outed as being no stranger to cannabis. The British media, less prone to fluffy lap-dog fawning over public figures than our own, realized it had some juicy red meat, and began biting into it.
After that, we witnessed the downgrading of cannabis there, to the point that the vast majority of the public thinks it is no big deal. (I consider this more proof of my theory that when the laws meant to 'whup up' on the lower classes are applied to the middle and upper ones, the laws get changed.)The movie "Saving Grace" was a product of that sea-change; it came out as a result of the film producers realizing a public trend and taking advantage of it's interest. Here in the States, after Raich/Monson, the same kind of reaction began to take place. Media outlets across the country were overwhelmingly supportive of the case and critical of the government in it's boneheaded jihad against cannabis.Now, a TV show seen by millions will once more bring the subject up, and in a way that cuts very close to home in these hard economic times: how many 'Nancy Botwins' there might actually be in this country is speculative, but the odds are there are quite a few, and very idea that they exist AT ALL is sufficient to get the public thinking. And, as I mentioned, the writer and producers HAVE to, sometime during the season, talk about the legal implications of the issue, namely, those incredibly harsh sentences so lovingly bestowed on far too many by the Prison/Industrial Complex. The 'Nancy (or John) Botwins' of America face the loss of family, home, possessions, prison rape and death by disease or mistreatment at the hands of a callous (ha-ha) 'justice' system, etc. for trying to survive in a world where a decent paying job is an endangered species.As was predicted here long ago, when the media 'discovers' what the rest of us have known and lived with for so long, and begins to call attention to it, a large part of the battle will be over. But it won't be without some gut-grabbing and screaming from the antis for making 'Nancy Botwin' so much like her neighbors; the drug laws have always depended upon stereotypes ("Cheech & Chong", shifty Mexicans, uppity Blacks, crafty, evil Asians, etc.) to empower their legislation against these substances. For 'Nancy Botwin' to look JUST LIKE THEM will have the antis foaming at the mouth. I can't wait. 
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on August 06, 2005 at 20:40:30 PT

Please remind me again. I miss good shows alot these days. I've been watching building and remodeling home shows on tv. We built our house in 79 and it's time for a major facelift. It was really hard for me to think of tackling this and we put it off and put it off but it is time. We have a very good construction crew and the kind of people I am comfortable being around. Once we are done with the addition and siding and windows and doors we will stop and try to work on the inside next year. We are putting stone on our porch which is really oversized. It's 10 by 20 feet and under the roof. We figure all the money we are putting into our house and our rentals is smart. We don't put money in the stock market just in our property. We have a new family moving in to our one rental and they also are my kind of people. For living in the country we are really having lots of people around these days. Here's the stone for the porch. We can get it locally. It's almost like building the house all over again and it is fun since we both like building. PS: We finally had our place paid off! Ha! Not anymore! LOL!
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Comment #3 posted by BGreen on August 06, 2005 at 20:14:40 PT

Here's a show you should watch, FoM
Next Saturday on the Travel Channel at 10 P.M. eastern time is a show called Five Takes Europe, where five young film makers are going to different cities in Europe each week, and next week they're going to Amsterdam.They're in Paris on tonight's show, and it's repeated at 1 A.M. eastern time.The commercial shows them in a coffeshop in Amsterdam called de Dampkring, a superb coffeeshop where they filmed a scene from the movie, Oceans Twelve.One of the women comments on the great music and great vibe, and that's exactly what I've talked about.I'll remind you again, but this will be a great chance for you to get a glimpse of something many of us have personally experienced.The Reverend Bud Green
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on August 06, 2005 at 19:20:27 PT

I hope it is a good show. We don't get any pay movie channels and I hope some people here do and will tell us how it is. Saving Grace was a cute movie and if it is fashioned like I read after Saving Grace it will be entertaining and thought provoking.
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on August 06, 2005 at 19:04:58 PT:

The biggest controversy of all - the hypocrisy
I can just hear the antis screaming already, and none of them have seen it yet. But they'll scream loudest of all (while hypocritically swilling the drug called alcohol and puffing on their nicotine drug-laden cigarettes) over one basic idea: the vast majority of users are anything but the drooling, snivelling, dirty, unkempt dumpster divers that the antis hold us to be. In fact, as has been pointed out here times beyond count, we are their neighbors. Short of being forced to wear a 'scarlet letter', they wouldn't know that their neighbors of so many years, the ones they visit for 'tea and sympathy', the ones they borrow tools from to fix the mower, the ones they call when they need a lift when their own car is broken down, etc. are so-called 'criminals' for their thoughtful choice of intoxicant. Oh, yes, expect the Joyces of the opposition to begin screeching any day now. Because this series will, whether it intends to or not, present one of our arguments in such a way as to frame the hypocrisy of cannabis prohibition in stark, satiric light, indeed. And should the writer and producers begin to cover the Draconian penalties involved (how can they not?) in possession and trafficking, there'll be no dissembling and lying afterwards that will erase the legal facts the show will expose the largely clueless public to. 
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