Monday, June 29, 2009

The Dollars Don't Add Up (Several Premium Channel Reviews)

Having finished The Wire, my wife and I decided to give another premium channel show, Showtime's Weeds, a try. And having sat through the first six episodes, I have to say I'm more than a bit disappointed. I get that I'm supposed to be watching a comedy (Kevin Nealon gave that away) and I get that it's supposed to be a satire. But what I don't get is what exactly the show is trying to say about it's namesake, marijuana. As someone tangentially familiar with marijuana culture, much of what I see in Weeds just doesn't ring true. I don't tend to associate drive by shootings, turf wars, and money laundering with marijuana, but that's precisely what I've seen in the first half of season one. And beyond all that, I can't even tell whether the show thinks pot is a big deal or not. Early on, our heroine Nancy's brother-in-law is arrested on a minor pot charge and forced to attend marijuana-anonymous, an organization I'm fairly certain does not actually exist. Creating such an organization seems to be a light-hearted attempt at humor, but it's rather poor satire to poke fun at the way the real world treats marijuana use by creating a reality where marijuana use is more serious and the marijuana trade is more dangerous than our own.

I've got two other big problems with Weeds, one of which is that the show plays in racial stereotypes that border on offensive and are all the more noticeable after finishing the Wire. I cringed when the pot dealing black family, Big Mama included, all pulled out their guns immediately following the previously mentioned drive by shooting. My other problem is more about how the dollars and cents literally don't add up. Nancy is shown selling pot to a group of relatively well off suburban male acquaintances, but beyond that we're never given much clue as to the extent of her business. But what we are told is that 1- She doesn't have enough money to buy new pot so she has to leave her new car with the aforementioned drug dealing black family as collateral and 2- She's encouraged to set up a bakery as a front business to launder her drug money, taking over a very large space from what had been an Indian restaurant. Money laundering is for the Marlo's and Proposition Joe's of the world, not for pot dealers who can't pay for their own resupply. As I said, the dollars and cents just don't add up.

Speaking of dollars and cents that don't add up, my wife and I also caught HBO's new series Hung, another a show about a character pushed into the black market to make ends meet. Notice a theme here, only this time, as the title would indicate, the black market in question is male, how do we say, services. Our hero in Hung is Ray Drecker, a divorced school teacher and basketball coach, who turns to the world's oldest profession after his insurance-less house burns down and his kids move back with his ex-wife. But once again, we have a real monetary issue. The burned down house was Ray's parents- meaning no mortgage- and it's prime real estate on a lake that's clearly in the midst of a real estate boom. What the show never explains is how this guy is so broke he can't even give his son $50 bucks to go to a metal concert.

Programs on HBO and Showtime tend to get all the credit in the world for being edgy, but oftentimes that edginess comes across as rather manufactured. I haven't even mentioned True Blood, which my wife enjoys, but I find to be rather dull, and, well, manufactured. The whole idea of vampires comes out of the closet is just a bit over-the-top for my taste and I never buy that what I'm watching is supposed to be taking place in Louisiana. I believe Big Love as taking place in Mormon Utah, I believe the Wire takes place in Baltimore, and I believe Californication takes place in L.A., but the rest of this stuff ... I just don't buy it.


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