Weeds: The Most Overrated Show on Television
The Showtime hit series Weeds has garnered lots of attention, including right here by our very own JessB, more so than other Showtime series like Huff and Brotherhood. Perhaps it is the central conceit of having a suburban white women sell marijuana, giving twenty-something white kids the pleasure of both the familiar (moms) and the unfamiliar (moms dealing weed). “Weeds Nights,” where, surprise, surprise, mostly white, twenty-somethings get together to watch a new episode when it airs are becoming increasingly common. I can understand if this is just an excuse to get together with friends to get high, but if that were the case, don’t be so literal. Either go with something classic like dropping LSD and renting El Topo or think obliquely and snort coke while watching The Wire. While Weeds is not atrociously bad, it does not deserve the level of praise it is getting from the general public (i.e. my friends). Here are three reasons why it is overrated:
1. Critiquing suburbia is boring and unoriginal. Weeds takes place in an idyllic development called Agrestic which, SPOLIER ALERT!, hides something sinister! What would really be radical is to create a show that does not expose the hideous underbelly of suburbian existence. At this point, film and television have squeezed every iota of interest out of the suburbs. We get it, suburban people are two-faced. The last time this overused trope was successfully implemented was in the opening shot of Blue Velvet by David Lynch and that was over 20 years ago (and, no, I did not forget the equally overrated American Beauty). A poststructuralist critique of the Peloponnesian War has more relevance than this show. Weeds is the television equivalent of the phenomenon where someone yawns because they see someone else yawn. And just in case you are very, very slow, Weeds helpfully clues you in to its abundantly obvious premise in the opening credits, where it shows carbon copies of suburbanites doing typically surburban things, like shopping and running. Get it? Do you get it? In fact, Weeds assumes the viewer is a cretin who cannot figure out the underlying context without being pummeled over the head with a schtick. Get it? Do you get my little joke? It is a play on words. Homophones? Get it? Let me know if you don’t.
2. Weeds trafficks in cliched stereotypes. The creator of Weeds, Jenji Kohan (disgression: the creator’s name, whether given at birth or invented later, evokes a level of loathing unseen since BoingBoing egoist and man-woman, Xeni Jardin nee Jenny Gardener, hit the scene), is convinced she is exploring new territory with her show. While she may be delusional on that front, she sure has a knack for reproducing racial stereotypes. The black mother is a large, domineering woman who rules the roost with pithy snark, the black daughter is a young, unwed mother with a surly attitude, the black son is a drugdealer, the Hispanic woman is a maid, the Hispanic man is a drugdealer, the young Indian guy is a neutered, clueless naif, the young white son is a smart but awkward loser, the Jewish uncle is a conniving parasite, and the Jewish uncle’s love interest is a pretty, but masculine, militaristic Israeli. I am looking forward to next season where they will introduce a mincing gay hairdresser and a studious Chinese student. I can’t tell if this is a groundbreaking new comedy or a KKK pamphlet. Regardless of intent, this is at the very least lazy and offensive hack writing. The only character who can’t be summed up in three words is the middle class, white woman protagonist. Hmmm, I wonder how Jenji grew up?
3. The opening theme music and the various songs that close each show are annoying and obvious. This is really two complaints and I’ll address the second one first. Each episode “dramatically” closes with a song. There is nothing necessarily bad about that, Deadwood does the same thing to great effect, even when they employ tunes that are jarringly contemporary. But Weeds, in keeping with its holistically terrible approach to scripting, tends to choose the most obvious possible song to close out each episode. Are we supposed to feel bad for a meanspirited character? I know, let’s use “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones. Get it? Seriously, do you get it? If you corraled ten people with a modicum of music knowledge and showed them the final scene in a Weeds episode, 8 out of 10 could guess what song will be played over the closing credits.
My problem with the opening theme music has more to do with its repetitive use over time. The “Ticky Tacky” song is, when encountered for the first time, fairly amusing. It is quirky, catchy, and original, everything that Weeds wishes it was, but is not. But upon hearing it for the 1000th time, its idiosyncracies become grating and cloying. The second season attempts to mitigate this by using different covers of the song each episode. While a valiant effort, this ploy backfires because it highlights the many ways in which the theme song is obnoxious and obvious. Please play this GooTube clip loudly twenty times in a row to get a taste of what I mean:
While there are far worse television shows, Weeds seems to have a lot of cultural capital at the moment. In reality, its coffers are empty and it stays solvent only by employing an array of deceitful accounting tricks. And just like Enron, this piece of shit show will implode, leaving a lot of very unhappy viewers in its wake. When that day comes, the epitaph will read: “Here Lies Weeds, a Show that Always Asked the Question: ‘Get It???’”Written by Todd M
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