Stoned in Stepford: Suburbia on High

Stoned in Stepford: Suburbia on High
Posted by CN Staff on August 15, 2005 at 06:33:39 PT
By Andrew Stuttaford
Source: National Review
USA: When the New York Times refers to a new show as "transgressive," it's a bad, bad omen, and when the theme song of that new show, Showtime's new series Weeds, a satire of suburban life, is Malvina Reynolds's antique, condescending and trite "Little Boxes," the signs are even worse.Little boxes on the hillside,Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes all the same,There's a green one and a pink one And a blue one and a yellow oneAnd they're all made out of ticky tackyAnd they all look just the same.Oh good grief, not another attack on the suburbs, not again. The supposed horrors, concealments, conformity, and emptiness of suburban life have been the targets of scriptwriters with a grudge but no clue since about the time that the first construction truck rolled into Levittown. And they still are. Beneath the Botox, the wildly over-praised Desperate Housewives is a show about suburban ennui. In the even more wildly over-praised American Beauty, life in the 'burbs was portrayed as being so awful that the movie's whiny hero was still grumbling on about it after his suicide. Weeds begins in very much the same vein. There's that theme song (Malvina Reynolds was seemingly unaware of the irony implicit in a leftist writing lyrics that attacked conformity), and a clever, if predictable, title sequence of identical SUVs, identical commuters, and shots of the sort of upscale suburban community that you can find across this nation from Nashville's Green Hills to Updike's Connecticut to Fox's OC.And truth to tell, there's much about Weeds, which is set in the affluent suburb of Agrestic, California, that continues in this all-too-predictable vein. We have the alcohol, we have the Ambien, we have the bored, bitchy, and — let's admit it — desperate housewives, the usual villains of such pieces, and we have their bored, desperate, and hapless husbands, one of whom, needless to say, is enjoying an understandable affair with Helen, his foxy tennis pro. The only family in the show that appears, at least initially, to have any warmth or, even, any honesty is the Jameses, a family of African-American drug dealers.Drug dealers? In a show set in an upscale suburb? Ah yes, the central conceit of Weeds is that the only way that the recently widowed Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) can support her big house, SUV, two kids, and insatiable craving for iced latte is by selling pot to her neighbors. The Jameses are her wholesalers. And if you think that the economics of Nancy's plan are ludicrous, you'd be right. Gas is at $2, iced latte is at $3. Selling a few baggies of grass to the feckless dads of Agrestic is not really going to sort out the financial mess in which Nancy finds herself. And then there are those pesky legal risks...But all this is to miss the point. The idea of a pillar-of-society pot-selling mom (which owes more than a little, incidentally, to the delightful British movie, Saving Grace) may contribute to what the New York Times's Alessandra Stanley described, rather sternly, as Weeds's "amoral underpinnings," but, in reality, that naughty plant is little more than a handy plot device, of no more real significance than the moonshine in Hazzard County. Not so coincidentally, however, it's a plot device that comes with other advantages. It has attracted plenty of publicity and has also semaphored Showtime's supposed sophistication, edginess, and, most potentially lucrative of all, freedom from the restrictions imposed on luckless broadcast media by the Comstocks at the FCC.And if the drugs are not too much worry about, nor is the show's somewhat stale critique of suburban life, bourgeois hypocrisy, WASP repression, and all the rest of the routine liberal blah, blah, and liberal blah. Yes, Agrestic (the word "agrestic" actually means rustic, rural, or uncouth, but its suggestion of aggression, majesty, and witless pomposity makes it a believably bogus name for a place such as this) looks pretty nice to me, and characters saying that there is "not enough pot in the world to get these people stoned enough to forget where they live" are both irritating and ungrateful, but these flaws don't really do very much to detract from Weeds's agreeably dark and splendidly dyspeptic comedy. It's not necessary to agree with a satire to enjoy it.Besides, although the foibles of designer suburbia take a drubbing in Weeds, so does the behavior of that family of drug dealers (not as loveable as it first seems). The scriptwriters enjoy poking fun not just at McMansions and those who live in them, but at just about everyone else as well. This refreshing cynicism paves the way for some nastily entertaining jokes, not all of them in the best of taste (one of the funniest, I fear, indirectly involves Anne Frank) and the wholesale mockery of, well, just about everyone — from over-censorious evangelicals to those who take unseemly advantage of California's medical marijuana laws to treat their "arthritis" — or is it "anxiety"? When the laughs dry up (as they do from time to time: The scriptwriters are not quite as witty as they clearly imagine themselves to be), there's always the skillful soap operatics of the plot to keep viewers engrossed. Weeds is Soap, and it's Knots Landing too. But any successful drama needs a strong cast, and in this respect Weeds does not disappoint. The delicately pretty Mary-Louise Parker is compelling as a Nancy Botwin who is never too far from the edge, and may, indeed have already crossed over it, but the real scene stealer is Elizabeth Perkins as Celia Hodes, the best friend that Nancy only likes "mostly."Celia is an uptight controlling bitch, Mrs. Robinson rather than Stifler's mom, who appears to delight in making life miserable for all those around her. One daughter is exiled to boarding school, the other, Isabelle ("Isabelly"), is repeatedly taunted by her mother for being overweight. At the same time, this Mommie Dearest never descends into caricature — Weeds, and Perkins, are too smart for that. There's a sadness — and an intelligence — about Celia that we sense early on and then see fully revealed in the course of later episodes, not least when she dons her old roller-girl duds and wistfully remembers the cheerful hedonism of her life way back when.Weeds also benefits from its strong supporting cast, notably Saturday Night Live's Kevin Nealon (who knew?) as Nancy's dryly amusing, but hopelessly lost, stoner accountant and Tonye Patano as Heylia, the Jameses' tough matriarch, but above all there's Justin Kirk as the late Mr. Botwin's errant brother Andy. Andy, a handsome Harry Connick Jr. look-alike, at first appears to be a free-spirited charmer of a type generally used in TV drama to show up the emptiness and hypocrisy of the more staid members of his conventional bourgeois family, but that's not how it turns out in this show. Andy is the snake in Agrestic's neatly manicured grass, a louche grifter who shows up to mooch off his widowed sister-in-law, and then distinguishes himself with a bout of cyber-sex with his young nephew's 15-year old girlfriend. Oh yes, the poor girl is deaf as well as underage. Later this paragon tries to muscle in on Nancy's business. And you thought that your in-laws were bad guests?It's too much of a stretch to see the worthless Andy as some sort of backhanded endorsement of the proprieties that the upper middle class try so hard (if not always successfully) to sustain, but his appearance in Weeds is yet another reminder that, despite its slips into stereotype, the show's writers understand that there's rather more to suburbanites than the usual clichés would suggest and that, no, Malvina, the inhabitants of those little boxes are "not all the same."Time for a new theme song, I reckon.Source: National Review (US) Author: Andrew StuttafordPublished: August 15, 2005Copyright: 2005 National Review Contact: letters Website: Articles & Web Site:Showtime's Weeds Goes Up In Smoke Infested By 'Weeds' US Braced for Drugs & The Suburbs
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Comment #19 posted by FoM on August 16, 2005 at 21:49:34 PT
I watched Weeds last night and it was good. I thought Celia was funny when she noticed that Nancy didn't have on her wedding ring but didn't notice she wasn't in her own car. Celia is a woman that makes you think of there's nothing worse than an angry woman's scorn.
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Comment #18 posted by AlvinCool on August 16, 2005 at 21:19:28 PT
Just watched it
Interesting to see how Weeds protrayed how quickly someone can drop materialistic standards when they have people to support. How quickly material things don't mean as much. This should help people to understand that selling/pawning something of great value to yourself for an oportunity to support your family is what anyone would do, regardless of drugs. Maybe this will make it harder to have someone look from the outside with that tired old "They just sold that to do some drugs" crap.
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Comment #17 posted by FoM on August 16, 2005 at 10:50:54 PT
Weeds Might Just Change Things
CraigX's television debut on Showtime's new hit series "WEEDS" is August 22, 2005. CraigX plays the owner of the medical marijuana club on the show.Showtime's Weeds:
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Comment #16 posted by FoM on August 16, 2005 at 10:17:42 PT
Press Release from CraigX
Press Release Source: CraigX Republican/Presidential Candidate Publishes Book, '9021GROW'Tuesday August 16, 1:00 pm ET HILLS, Calif., Aug. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- 9021GROW is sure to be one of the most controversial publications of 2005. CraigX has worked with Star magazine and written for High Times magazine and this book, 9021GROW (ISBN-0-9747110-0-4) is a combination of the two genres with a prophetic message. As the owner of America's premier hemp store, 2000B.C., CraigX was arrested standing up for his Free Speech rights. He went to court with attorney, Eric Shevin, and won the right to call a water pipe a "bong." 
Shevin says in the "Foreword" of 9021GROW: "We are lucky that CraigX and those like him are not afraid to speak out against the incredibly unfair marijuana laws in our country, which seek to demonize this herb."*(Caption: Book jacket for 9021GROW by CraigX.)In 9021GROW, CraigX explains how to end the drug war and generate billions of dollars for our economy without destroying the American way of life. The story is an autobiography of CraigX's life as a Beverly Hills proponent of marijuana. 9021GROW features interesting stories regarding CraigX's relationships with some of Hollywood's most famous stars.This book is a call to the "420 Nation" to create global change. In it CraigX explains "Peak Oil" and elucidates a hemp solution. He expounds the Christian and Native American prophecy of an "herb of understanding" that will be for the "Healing of all Nations."In a style similar to that of American Beat icon, Jack Kerouac, CraigX writes from his soul humorous anecdotes from his early days as "Hollywood's Wizard of Weed."CraigX speaks authoritatively about the hemp plant's Native America connection. He has presented the economic hemp solution to a Lakota Tribal Council. He has encouraged other tribal leaders to follow President Bush's advice about being sovereign and treated as sovereign nations.In one adventure he takes the reader to the bottom of the Grand Canyon which has a special relation with the Havasupai Nation (the only place where the U.S. mail is still delivered by horseback). As a result of this close relationship with traditional tribal leaders CraigX has been one of the few outsiders to participate in Havasupai rituals and he has an intimate knowledge of their culture and prophecy that he shares with readers.   - CraigX's hemp store and "Bong Canyon," were featured on Tom Brokaw's
   "Nightly News."   - CraigX made international news as the first-ever legal cannabis dealer
    to sell taxed marijuana at Super Bowl XXX.   - CraigX restarted the "Free Speech Movement" on UC campuses during the
    1990s.   Book Summary:
    9021GROW By Craig X Rubin
    ISBN-0-9747110-0-4 Hardback; 6 x 9; 304 pages; $24.95
    Publisher: 2000B.C.
    264 South La Cienega #468, Beverly Hills, Calif. 90211
    Distribution: and  About Craig X Rubin:CraigX is a leading advocate for ending prohibition of marijuana, a capitalist, a member of SAG, is often a guest on radio, a graduate of UCLA majoring in History, and a stand-up comedian. Additional information is available at http://www.CraigX.comCraigX's television debut on Showtime's new hit series "WEEDS" is August 22, 2005. CraigX plays the owner of the medical marijuana club on the show.   See CraigX in person at:
    "Seattle HempFest" (8/20 and 8/21/05)    Comedy Underground (8/20/05)
    222 S. Main St. Seattle; 206-628-0303    Walter Payton's Roundhouse (9/1/05 thru 9/4/05)
    205 N. Broadway, Aurora, IL
    CraigX performs comedy, signs books and helps introduce a new private
    label beer, "The Stoned Hemp Beer." 630-264-BREWThis release was issued on behalf of the above organization by Send2Press(TM), a unit of Neotrope®. http://www.Send2Press.com
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Comment #15 posted by FoM on August 16, 2005 at 07:00:21 PT
Thank you. I think it is a really good series. I really like the characters. Celia is a trip. She has to be my favorite character so far.Do you think I can take two Ambien.Sure take the whole bottle! 
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Comment #14 posted by whig on August 16, 2005 at 02:09:47 PT
Comment #3
I've watched the first five episodes, and I don't want to give too much of it away, but the reviewer apparently has watched all of them as well.With that said, I love the show. I think the pilot was considerably weaker than the subsequent episodes, so stay tuned.
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on August 15, 2005 at 20:55:20 PT
About Weeds
I thought the new episode was good. It wasn't as funny as the first episode but it still was well worth watching. I can see where this is going better now. 
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on August 15, 2005 at 17:52:39 PT
I'm really looking forward to tonights new episode. Little boxes on the hillside,Little boxes made of ticky tacky Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes all the same,
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Comment #11 posted by AlvinCool on August 15, 2005 at 17:03:09 PT
I too look forward to Weeds
Actually Celia Hodes is representative of the public. Don't ya get it? She see's that everyone is smoking and/or dealing weed, but ignores it when it's convient and see's it when it's convient. In real life you see your buddy down the street and walk into his garage and smell the smell, you just grin at him. You see an older kid selling to younger kids and you hate it and want to do something about it.Isn't that what she did on the playground? :)I bet there are going to be so many hidden doubles it will astound people years after the show is over
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on August 15, 2005 at 13:22:42 PT
I hope it is as good as the first episode. It should be. The different characters are great and Elizabeth Perkins as Celia Hodes it one you love to hate. She's too much! Isabelly! LOL!
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Comment #9 posted by Dankhank on August 15, 2005 at 13:14:52 PT
Yes ...I am eagerly waiting for tonight, also ...great links ...I. too, hum "little boxes.":-)
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on August 15, 2005 at 11:29:01 PT
I am really looking forward to tonight new episode. I just think it is so good. I find myself humming Little Boxes. LOL! keep reading the forum and there are really good comments. Here's a picture of Country Joe from way back when with Malvina Reynolds who wrote and sang Little Boxes.
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Comment #7 posted by Dankhank on August 15, 2005 at 11:12:04 PT
The lesson of "Weeds" is simple ...Cannabis consumers populate all strata of society ...Pre 9/11 my honey, two granddaughters and I were in battery park on vacation.The World Trade Center was right there and we walked by to the parking garage and I observed two suited young men passing a doobie on the sidewalk outside.They obviously, to me, had just left work, it was about 5 PM, and were "mellowing" before heading home.
Hope they got out ...
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Comment #6 posted by Hope on August 15, 2005 at 11:04:37 PT
Hey, Mamawillie!
Good to hear from you. You've been too quiet.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on August 15, 2005 at 10:57:01 PT
Little Boxes
If anyone wants to hear a short audio clip of Little Boxes that doesn't get Showtime you can click on this link and hear it.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on August 15, 2005 at 10:13:45 PT
I never saw any shows on Showtime because I just subcribed so I can't answer your question. I'm looking forward to the new episode tonight.
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Comment #3 posted by mamawillie on August 15, 2005 at 09:51:42 PT
Who in American Beauty killed himself? The main character was murdered.Also, the nephew's 15 year old girlfriend is not deaf. That's a different girl only mentioned in passing.Did I catch 2 major errors in this article? Or am I mistaken? Someone please let me know.Thanks.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on August 15, 2005 at 07:40:39 PT
I am hopelessly addicted to Weeds. I laugh everytime I see it. The characters are great. I have no regrets buying Showtime. I love the song too. Little Boxes is an adorable song. I sing a long! LOL!
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Comment #1 posted by afterburner on August 15, 2005 at 07:33:35 PT
I Find It Funny, Not 'irritating and ungrateful'
Although I haven't yet seen the show:"characters saying that there is 'not enough pot in the world to get these people stoned enough to forget where they live' are both irritating and ungrateful"Suburbs have no real culture, yet. Country has the tradition of agriculture and trap-lines even though the number of farmers and trappers has dwindled precipitously. The city has the Industrial Revolution and its order of participation. Having lived in rural, urban, and suburban 'newy-newy land,' I found that the lifestyle of the sub-urbs was the pinnacle of 'rootless rationalism,' a cultural disease that started with the killing of kings and the loss of the root language of Latin. This is the source of most of the mental illness of Western Civilization, unlike the Eastern culture that still links to language roots of Sanskrit and to unity of mind and body. "Pot" (cannabis) provides a healing social bridge, an education in wholeness and community, sorely lacking in the suburbs, those sprawling developments with no central focus, or only a manufactured one. It's not really a matter of "forget[ting] where they live." It's a matter of building community and making "where they live" a place worth living in.
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