Up in smoke?

Bummer: the fourth season of Weeds is a comedown

SPOILER-LADEN TV RANT What's wrong with Weeds? The Showtime dramedy about a pot-dealing MILF is in its fourth season, and was recently renewed for two more — but who's gonna keep watching? A few choice moments aside, the once-mighty Weeds has pretty much sucked this season. To recap: at the show's start circa 2005, recently widowed suburbanite Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) "put the herb in suburb," per Showtime's cheeky coinage, by dealing greenage to well-off clients, including her sleazy accountant, Doug (Kevin Nealon). With her ever-present iced coffee in hand, Prius-driving Nancy slurped her way into a new routine: keeping her two growing sons in line, butting heads with neighbor nemesis Celia (Elizabeth Perkins) and troublemaking brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk), doing business with local suppliers like no-nonsense Heylia (Tonye Patano), opening a bakery as a pot-shop front, and dating a single dad (Martin Donovan) who turned out to be a DEA agent.

Season two followed a similar shenanigans-amid-McMansions plot, throwing in a Snoop Dogg cameo and thickening tension surrounding Nancy's DEA dude and her ever-growing (ha!) business. Season three teetered ever-more on the edge of believability, and Nancy's cushy community was eventually consumed by a wildfire that could only have been the result of arson and a desperate push to give the show new life.

Weeds creator Jenji Kohan and company aimed for change by moving the Botwin clan south, from Los Angeles suburbia to a beachy town near the Mexican border. Fresh scenery has allowed the show to introduce new characters like Esteban (Demian Bichir) — the suave mayor of Tijuana who happens to be a drug kingpin running pot, weapons, heroin, and god knows what else through a hidden tunnel beneath Nancy's strip-mall maternity store. (Naturally, Nancy begins sleeping with him almost instantly.) Some of Weeds' familiar touchstones remain, like Celia's destructive presence and Doug's sleaziness, but there's a sadness to coke-sniffing Celia and a creepiness to Doug (now obsessed with a beautiful illegal immigrant) that's become increasingly less fun to watch. The show's quirkier moments — like the priceless season two episode when Andy explained to Nancy's youngest son about the wonders of jerking off into a banana peel — have all but vanished. What's it gonna take to bring Weeds back? Did the magic flame out when "Little Boxes" ceased to be the theme song and suburbia faded from view? And how does a show called Weeds get away with showing so little actual pot smoking? Parker's oft-awarded performance is still the best thing about the show. Pretty soon, though, it'll be the only good thing.

WEEDS airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.

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