Ding-dong, the witch is dead! That’s what the very, very few of us who still watch “Weeds” proclaimed joyously after last season’s finale, where yet another gimmicky, season-bridging cliffhanger featured the head of Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker), the pot-growing suburban matriarch of the Botwin clan, nestled squarely within the crosshairs of a not-so-distant sniper.

Weeds

Season Premiere
Showtime


If Showtime had had the guts to follow through on it’s setup, it would’ve been a welcome end to a character whose questionable judgment has managed to somehow devastate the lives of everybody she comes into contact with. But unfortunately, as “Weeds” has done time and time again over the course of its now eight-year run, the show cops out. Nancy’s left in a coma, her head having endured far less damage than bullets usually do to peoples’ skulls on TV (or in real life for that matter), and we’re left with a half-hour of typically meaningless bedside patter from the whiney, emasculated supporting cast that doubles as Nancy’s family.

The cast’s comedic flatness and undeniable group dysfunction isn’t really their fault. Like the show itself, they’ve been dragged across rough asphalt behind the highly profitable franchise that is the Botwin family car/camper/trailer, from Agrestic, to Renmar, to Seattle, to Dearborn and now, in what Showtime promises is the show’s last season, Connecticut/New York. Along the way, we’ve seen show creator Jenji Kohan take a promising premise and a cast of atypically strong female characters, and turn them into a collection of reprehensible characters who are either too rote to enjoy or so selfishly motivated that it’s not even fun to hate them.

Case in point: Nancy herself. As her sons sit beside her comatose body and wonder who could’ve put a bullet in her skull, they reminisce about the who’s who of psychotic criminal scumbags their mother has gone out of her way to offend. In addition to standard costs of doing business, like the Mexican cartel and the Armenian mob, they list “that crazy lesbian” who Nancy had an affair with in season seven, as well as “that chick whose husband Nancy banged in that trailer park.”

The list serves not only as documentation of Nancy’s numerous crimes against her friends and family, but the show’s downward creative slide. As her children list more and more scenarios, they’re literally narrating the show’s growing desperation for new material, as it stages increasingly illogical and completely unbelievable scenarios for one-off shock value: “Look, she’s dating a lesbian now, and we’re in New York! Doesn’t it feel so fresh and different?” the show seems to yell.

No, it really doesn’t, and after innumerable setting changes and contrived overdramatic conflicts, it appears that “Weeds” has finally run out of room to run. The writers string the newest episode along with desperate, lowest-common-denominator gags, and an added dose of pay-cable profanity, but none of it is fresh, or even amusing. A particularly low-flying stunt: the removal of a “vagina weight” prior to impromptu hospital sex. Another show pulled a similar gag in its final episodes, involving a fake penis used to cheat a drug test. That show was “Entourage.” When that show ended, nobody cried either.

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