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'Weeds' Grows Into One of TV's Best Shows

Terry Morrow, Knoxville News-Sentinel , 11th August 2006

A second harvest of "Weeds" (10 p.m., EDT, Monday, Showtime) comes just in time to save us from the worst summer drought we've seen in quite some time.

This summer's television garden has been filled with rotten tomatoes ("Big Brother All-Stars") and lightweight peaches ("America's Got Talent") But for adults seeking more sophisticated, engaging fare, it's been an unbelievably bad crop until now.

In summers past, we've had HBO's "Six Feet Under" or "Sex and the City" to produce for us. With those gone, the entire garden is left up to "Weeds," which admirably carries on the tradition. It returns faster paced, wittier and with characters more complex.

"Weeds" is a garden of pleasures. It's oh-so-wrong, yet it manages to be the best comedy on cable. Heck, for that matter, it's also head-and-shoulders above anything on primetime network television, too.

The story picks up from last fall's delightfully teasing cliffhanger, with Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) discovering that she's had intimate relations with a man who works for the Drug Enforcement Agency. This wouldn't be an issue if she weren't secretly a marijuana dealer.

And this is "Weeds" at its best: the story of how compromised life can be for Nancy. She's a widow who reluctantly started selling marijuana to make ends meet after her upper-income suburban husband died. Her decisions are often poor, but made for the right reasons.

As she tries to keep her family together and maintain her position in the community, she gets pulled deeper and deeper into a profession that ethically nags at her.

Even as she scoots out the door after a one-night stand, she tells her DEA agent lover why she's uncomfortable with him still being naked the morning after: "Now, it's daytime, and I'm all dressed ... and Methodist."

The fallout from the encounter has more than one repercussion for Nancy. Her partner in the marijuana-growing business wants nothing to do with her. Her other associates become nervous as well.

Then there's Nancy's best friend, the brutally honest and hard-to-be around, Celia (Elizabeth Perkins), whose latest mission is to take away councilman Doug's (Kevin Nealon) seat. While Celia and Doug were woefully used as stick figures last season, they spring to life in the opener.

Perkins is a particularly ripe season stealer, especially when facing off against her grade-school daughter about the rebellious kid's weight issues (dubbing her, in one scene, "Eliz-a-belly").

Perkins is as feisty as ever, making Celia a wonderful foil for the lazy Doug (Nealon's best role ever), a man who's still stuck in an adolescent stage.

Also rounding out the appealing cast are Justin Kirk as Nancy's opportunistic brother-in-law, a grand sidekick to Doug, and Renee Victor as Nancy's maid, the best lippy servant since Rosario on "Will & Grace."

Only minor quibbles hold back "Weeds" at this point: Needless wordiness drags down the pace of some scenes, but that's a very minor flaw in an otherwise spectacular series.

With Nancy constantly having to dam up one leaking hole after another in her life, Parker has created a character that tries to do right but rarely feels as if she has.

"Weeds" has grown in a short period into a comedy-drama with unparalleled richness and engrossing layers. Now it's time to feast on it. Enjoy.

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