Desperate, Dealing Housewives

How I spent my summer: watching television.

Specifically, I spent a lot of time making up for the shows that I missed the first time around, including the best show on TV, The Wire, and what might be the second or third best show on TV, Weeds.

Weeds is what people really want Desperate Housewives to be: a subversive, biting look at upper middle class, suburban, cul-de-sac culture. Housewives has little glimpses of brilliance, but for the most part its nothing more than a campy soap opera, and an annoying one at that. For every attempted murder or deep-rooted secret (oh my god, beneath the suburban veneer there lurks...screwed up teenagers!), there are ten scenes of Terry Hatcher yelling "ooops" and making that plastic surgery enhanced, squinty-eyed, Jimmy Fallon "I'm so cute and I don't even know it" face.

The opening credits of Weeds are more subversive than an entire season of Desperate Housewives. Here's a sample of the theme song:

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All go to the university,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
And there's doctors and there's lawyers
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

Now that's the way you start a subversive suburban drama.

For those of you who don't know, Weeds follows the trials of Mary Louise Parker (who seems to be taking the same pills as Diane Lane, the ones that make you get hotter as you get older) as a suburban mom who, in the wake of her husband's death, is forced to deal pot in order to keep her family in the style in which they are accustomed.

Like Housewives, Weeds attempts to pull back the curtain from its upper-class community, revealing the dirty little secrets behind the manicured lawns and mcmansions. Like the fact that half the town council is stoned half the time. Or that in order to look like you're doing as well as everybody else, you have to look like everybody else, even if that means berating your chubby, perfectly healthy young daughter to lose weight.

Unlike Desperate Housewives, Weeds shows us the underbelly without resorting to camp. The characters are believable, although not always likable, including Parker's Nancy, who is in seriously murky ethical waters and always on the verge of totally losing it. Elizabeth Perkins steals the show as a profoundly bitter housewife, machiavellian PTA president, and breast cancer survivor who is either on the verge of a breakdown or a spiritual resurrection.

"You're a much nicer person when you think you're going to die," says her daughter.

And that's a nice summary of what I like about the show: it's funny, sad, and, despite the initial conceit (pot dealing mom, gets a little bit much), actually does a good job of revealing what's not so nice, but pretty real, about suburban America.

Now...why we care so much about upper-class suburban America is another question. As is, what about the people who do not live in cul-de-sacs? And we'll probably have to wait until season 4 of the Wire, which will deal with the Baltimore school system, to get around to that one.


Mike said...

You'd better be careful with your Terri Hatcher barbs, Dave. That's TMC's #1 Girl.

I love Mary Louise Parker. I think she's always been beautiful, but she is aging particularly well.

TMC said...

Man, I knew Mike would be on here with a Teri Hatcher comment.

Just for the record, she is not my #1 girl.

Pete said...

That theme song is an old one--I remember my Mom singing it when driving past some poorly-constructed houses in my hometown.