Here's a theory for you: The second-season downslide of Showtime's Weeds all began with the theme song.
In season one, Malvina Reynolds' folksy "Little Boxes" (1963), the ideal ditty to illustrate suburban monotony, opened up each show. Reynolds' unique twang and the song's undeniable hook went along well with a show that gave viewers a fresh look at soccer-mom culture, following the misadventures of Nancy Botwin, middle-class widow/pot dealer.
And the first season was an appealing mix of comedy and drama; Nancy, played very well by Mary-Louise Parker, was a character who made questionable decisions, but, underneath the sometimes hapless exterior, she exhibited a real humanity. Here was a woman who obviously loved her two sons, even though they often drove her crazy, and grieved for her husband, usually in private. One scene, in which Nancy cried while watching an intimate video of her and her husband, comes to mind; it was the kind of human touch that made you care about her character.
Cut to season two. The premiere again opened with the song "Little Boxes"–this time sung by Elvis Costello. Oh, Costello–cool, right?
No. Costello's remake lacked the charm of Reynolds' rendering, and right away the words "sophomore slump" entered my mind. And the first episode backed up my suspicions. Nancy Botwin, here, was suddenly an extremely unlikable character–all ditz, no substance. And while her mothering skills in season one would certainly not win her any Good Housekeeping awards, in this first episode, she honestly seemed to hate the two little buggers. Oh, where was the humanity??
The second episode opened with a Death Cab for Cutie version of "Little Boxes." OK, and I thought the Costello version was bad. Would Death Cab for Cutie mean death for Weeds? Well, the second episode certainly seemed to signify this. I waited hopefully for Nancy to display some of her old charm, but she remained charmless, a complaining, tired, uninteresting suburban pot mommy (who thought such a thing was possible?).
Episode three–Engelbert Humperdinck. Need I even go on? This episode was the worst of the lot, veering into a screwball-comedy area that seems to bode very poorly for the season's remaining episodes.
Now, I acknowledge that some critics are praising this second season and calling it superior to the first; I find that baffling, but an opinion is just an opinion, after all.
But for me, between Showtime's cancellation of the superior Huff (thank you, Blythe Danner, for putting the network in its place for that on Emmy night) and this lower-rent version of Weeds, the network is doubling up on the disappointment.
By Rebecca Stropoli