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The lack of wit is a Weeds killer

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Previously on Weeds: Nancy Botwin's brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk) just hightailed it, in cowardly fashion, out of a dangerous situation. A fanatical, crossbow-wielding anti-abortionist is holding Andy's girlfriend, Audra (Alanis Morissette), an abortion provider, hostage in her home. So Andy's in deep doo-doo with her now.

Meanwhile, Nancy's troubled adolescent son Shane (Alexander Gould) just killed his mom's evil nemesis, Pilar, with a croquet mallet to the head.

Yep, it's time for Season 6 of Showtime's Weeds, where, once again, we get our answers to that perennial question: "How's Nancy gonna get out of this one?"

The last two seasons have found the pot-peddling suburban mom, her two messed-up teenage boys and Andy on the lam from the fictional California town of Agrestic, where Nancy first started her illicit business after her husband's fatal heart attack.

Since she literally burned the town down to hide the evidence of her crimes, Nancy and family (plus pothead Councilman Doug, played by Kevin Nealon, and alcoholic wretch Celia Hodes, played by Elizabeth Perkins) have moved the operation to a border town, where Nancy got romantically and criminally involved with Mexican kingpin Esteban.

My main problem with Nancy (played by Mary-Louise Parker) is that I always found her to be, to put it kindly, inscrutable. Were we supposed to identify with her problems? What are her motivations?

This season, the writers have apparently made the decision that we're supposed to hate the selfish beeyotch. The destruction of her son's sanity, the "bogarting" of Andy's personal life—that's all her fault. And everybody's letting her have it. Loudly.

Recriminations and stating the obvious don't solve the real problem with Nancy. OK, there's nothing there—got it. But she's the protagonist, right? Well, she's kind of boring. Typically, she's the least funny, least interesting character on the show.

That is, until now. Since the beginning, Nancy's youngest son, Shane, has been a troubled kid. For the last few seasons, whenever he has played an important part in the season cliffhanger, he's grown about a foot, and his voice seems to have dropped an octave each time the "continued" scene is aired a year later. It's a continuity nightmare that probably looks pretty funny if you're watching a Weeds marathon.

Unfortunately, in this role, Gould's acting chops haven't kept up with his bones and hormones. His blank-eyed, hey-mom-what's-for-dinner-toned act after killing Pilar doesn't come off as American Psycho as he probably thinks it does. I hate to rag on a teenager, but his choices here are the choices of a student during his first few weeks of acting classes, and any salt-worthy teacher would have cracked down on that jive real quick.

There's just no sparkle there, no wit. This is supposed to be a dark comedy, damn it! Shane casts a big pall over Episode 1, the only part of Season 6 I've seen so far. Andy provides most of the laughs, as usual, at least when nutty Doug isn't around (he's absent from the first episode) or crazy Celia isn't pulling some crap. (Unfortunately, Perkins is leaving the show.)

There's funny stuff here, to be sure, and a lot of sacred cows end up on the slaughterhouse floor when Weeds breaks out the social satire.

But when most of the fun is in the subplots, maybe it's time for Parker and the writers to come up with some real breakthrough for Nancy, and for Shane to develop some comic timing.

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