Raising Weeds: A Review Mash-Up
Managed to bank away the first seasons of both Raising Hope and Weeds in the last few days while doing all the busy work of Winter Term Week One. The answer to which one I liked more might surprise you.
It was Raising Hope by a longshot. Weeds, while clever, sardonic and often-times morbid, just doesn’t have the grace, spirit and ludicrous details that makes Raising Hope much more enjoyable to watch. Weeds is bitter and skunky. Hope is happy and sentimental.
Weeds gets a small reprieve from my ire in the form of timing. The first season aired in 2005, pre housing crash, pre economic depression and pre layoffs in my immediate family. Back when times were still looking good and the upper middle class thought their bubbly gated communities would never burst or crumble to the ground.
Sadly or happily, depending on how you feel about rich folks, all that has changed for the most part. It’s no longer insane to think that a comfortable wealthy family would fall on hard times and self-destruct or turn to illegal means to maintain their plush existence.
The only thing that leaves a sour note? Many families did meet this sad end in the last four years and didn’t think that turning to crime was the best answer. They walked away from their Range Rover, McMansion, In-ground pool and live-in-maid to rebuild their lives by doing something most of us have to in order to sustain ourselves. Work.
I should love Weeds because Mary Louise Parker is so bad ass and the show revolves around a sistah doing it for herself. But I just freaking don’t. Her socio-economic status over-rides gender at every turn. There are no likable characters, they are all self-involved and self-indulgent.
There was some promise in the first season when I thought she was going to turn her business front into a legitimate enterprise. That could have been an interesting plotline a single mother involving juggling a bakery and marijuana distribution – “baked” goods. Maybe this was the dark comedic response to Desperate Housewives? Whatever the case – I finished up season one dutifully and can’t say that I’ll be returning to Agrestic anytime soon.
I don’t have sympathy or empathy for Nancy. When faced with the notion of losing her fancy house, car, and luxurious lifestyle she did not choose to sacrifice any of those things, or even trim down her budget. Sell her house. Lease a cheaper car. Do her own housekeeping. Make her teenage son get a part-time job. She doesn’t do anything that makes me care about her as a person. She is, point of fact, a negligent mother whose children desperately need some attention (hello, her youngest starts fires, bites other children and makes terrorist movies for fun).
Neither child is especially endearing either. The zany/slutty brother-in-law is shallow. For some inexplicable reason every man on the cast has a huge crush on Nancy, including all the prominent minority males. Huh. Celia, the neighbor, is only nice when she gets cancer. The single person I was rooting for by the end of the first season was Celia’s overweight, lesbian daughter. The only pleasure I could derive from this series is watching all of their lives fall apart. And that’s the lowest form of entertainment imaginable.
And then, there’s Hope. The characters, on the outside, should seem equally despicable. They are from the opposite end of the spectrum – the kind of seedy individuals Nancy rubs elbows with outside of her gated community. BAD people, right?
Not really. I found more to like in these characters who have, by and large, made “bad choices,” but then stuck around to deal with the consequences of their actions. The Chances are not high-class. They essentially squat at the home of senile Maw Maw waiting for her to gift them the house when she passes, taking care of her while working blue and pink collar jobs like landscaping and housekeeping. Hope’s father works two jobs, landscaping with his father during the day and bagging groceries in the evening.
In comedic turns – Martha Plimpton far out rivals Mary Louise Parker, but I don’t see Martha winning any awards for her work. Garret Dillahunt who many of you might remember for multiple roles on Deadwood (largely dramatic roles) is equally hilarious, with some of the best delivery of the entire cast.
Raising Hope, at times, strains a little too hard for quirky (like its big brother My Name is Earl) but is immensely more relatable than something like Weeds, which is more about voyeurism into a lifestyle few of us enjoy but are terribly curious about.
I’ll stick with my people: landscapers, housekeepers, daycare workers, grocery checkers and their like. Even when Hope makes shallow attempts at humor based on class, I can easily ignore them because ultimately, the Chances are good people. The same can’t be said for Nancy and her brood.
In Conclusion: I’ll take Hope over Weeds any day.