Weeds: Season 1

Weeds: Season 1 (2005)
Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Cast: Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins
Extras: Commentaries, Mockumentary, Recipes, Featurette, Music Video

Showtime has definitely been home to some good shows over the years, "Penn & Teller's BS" and "Masters of Horror" are two that I have always quite liked. I haven't had a chance to catch "Weeds" on the network until now, as it arrives in a single disc on the Blu-ray format. Clocking in at more than five hours, I was able to watch the complete first season without ever having to change the disc or flip it over. Pretty cool!

The series starts off by introducing us to a housewife named Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) who has recently lost her husband to a heart attack. She has two kids and a huge house in an upper-middle class suburban community in California called Agrestic, and she is trying to keep things together by… selling weed. That's right, it's "American Beauty" meets "Half Baked".

It takes a few episodes to find the direction it wants to take, but once it does, we are introduced to a quirky cast of characters. We have her best friend Celia (Elizabeth Perkins), a hilariously bitter and cynical woman who has caught her husband cheating. Hers is the type of personality who always says it like it is, and it often leads to some funny moments. Nancy doesn't reveal her subversive ways of supporting her family, of course she is so wrapped up in her own problems that she barely seems to have time to notice anyone else. One of Nancy's biggest customers is a city councilman by the name of Doug Wilson, played to full effect by Kevin Nealon, who really steals the show with some very energetic and very funny moments. He is the kind of person you would want to hang out with, even if he is a dope fiend. I have never been a huge fan of Nealon's, but his appearances in this series really help save it in times of need and I was genuinely impressed with how amusing he turned out to be. Although he never really seems stoned at all, kind of like Bill Murray never seemed stoned in "Where the Buffalo Roam".

A few episodes in we are introduced to another quirky and fun person, and by this time the series needs it. Her brother in law, Andy (Justin Kirk) shows up one day out of the blue, and he reveals himself quickly to be a person of very low morals. He is another favorite of mine, as he quickly cons his way into the home; and his chronically unemployed slacker mentality is something to root for, in a Lebowski kind of way. He and Nealon quickly hit it off, and their chemistry proves to be one of the show's saving graces. We also have her two pot sources, an older black woman named Heylia (Tonye Patano) and her nephew Conrad (Romany Malco) who never misses a chance to point out how naive and out of touch Nancy is. This joke wears a little thin and gets fairly awkward as the shows wind on. In one scene the house gets shot into, this sends Nancy into shock, but they simply sweep up and go onto their daily business as if nothing ever happened. Whatever.

The first season of the show takes quite a few episodes before it finds its footing. At first it doesn't seem to know which way to go. Is it a sitcom, a soap opera, a coming of age story (Nancy has a teenage son and a charmingly dysfunctional and warped 8 year old), or a druggy satire? Originally what I had hoped the show was it turned out not to be (at least in the first season), I was looking for something a little more edgy with roots in the counterculture. But this show certainly aims in so many directions at once, that it is sure to please many out there, but sometimes I felt like it was a little self-serving. Still, by the end of the show, I found myself sufficiently addicted and attached to the people in the show to want to tune in to the second season, even if they are a little one dimensional at times and many of the plotlines are pretty cheesy, like "Three's Company" meets "Six Feet Under".

As for the image quality, it is presented in 1080p and uses the MPEG-2 codec, and I will say it looks pretty good, but sometimes it looks better than others and it never really pops off the screen like one may want it to or expect it to. This is not demo material and on quite a few occasions the image appears quite 'soft'. But I was never distracted by any flaws, it was just a little short of spectacular. I'm sure it is a world better than the DVD version, but I haven't had a chance to compare the two yet. Still, Lionsgate has put the whole first season on one disc, including the special features, and for that alone I am quite impressed, because it looks pretty good.

But the sound is where this disc really stands out. We are treated to not only Dolby Digital EX 5.1 but also what they advertise as DTS HD 6.1. Both of these tracks sound very good, and I really enjoyed all of the music. Very well done in the sound department, especially when we don't really expect it out of such a show. Wonderful sound and the surrounds are actually quite active. You will be impressed.

In the special features department, all of the features from the standard DVD edition have been included and there are a couple of real gems. One is a 'mockumentary' called 'Smoke and Mirrors' (13 min.), which is very entertaining and educational; marijuana certainly seems to be very useful and quite interesting. I was surprised at my lack of knowledge of this mysterious plant and all of its benefits. Fascinating stuff, I wish they would have expanded it more.

There is also a short featurette called 'Special On Suburbia' with interviews by some of the cast members and other notable figures about the seedy underbelly of suburbia. What is our obsession with these perfect little boxes and the problems that dwell within? 'Smokey Snippets'' is a useless but sometimes funny three minute segment of comments from the cast.

None of the special features is in high def, by the way. We also have a music video, a promotional Showtime feature about their other programs, A recipe text feature called 'Agrestic Herbal Recipes' that you can try at your own risk. It appears we also have six commentaries.

But the real special feature here is the price, the suggested retail price of this release is $29.95, which means you can find it for even cheaper, and we all know what a bargain that is for a Blu-ray release!

All in all, it's up to you if this show suits your tastes, to be blunt, it is kind of a mixed bag.