Release Date: June 3, 2008
Starring: Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins, Tonye Patano, Romany Malco, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould, Andy Milder, Allie Grant, with Justin Kirk and Kevin Nealon, and guest appearances by Matthew Modine and Mary-Kate Olsen
Series Created and Executive Produced by Jenji Kohan
“Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside, 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...”
Weeds: Season Three is a 3-disc DVD collection of the recent third season of the Showtime dark comedy starring Mary-Louise Parker as suburban mother Nancy Botwin, who traffics in marijuana. Each half-hour episode features the latest mishaps and escapades of her family and associates as they deal in more ways than one. A wry and intelligent sense of humor underlines the whole affair, and there are a lot of situations that can take the viewer from a gasp directly to a laugh and back. For the third season, the series begins with the standoff cliffhanger of the second year and then, impossibly, builds the tension as Parker’s character finds herself in debt to one shady character after another while trying to stay one step ahead of the police and the bill collector. A major subplot of the third season is the absorption of the show’s suburb by another, larger suburb, as represented by guest star Matthew Modine. By the end of the season, the main family is again faced with an extreme situation, leading directly to the new season, which starts airing this coming Monday night. As an added bit of fun, every episode appropriately starts with a different singer performing the first two verses of Malvina Reynolds’ song “Little Boxes.”
Lionsgate has released the third season on both standard definition and Blu-ray. This review only covers the standard definition release, but don’t let that dissuade you. This release is reasonably loaded with special features, including commentaries, trivia tracks, a gag reel, and multiple featurettes. And then there’s the 15 episodes, which receive sparkling transfers.
As with my earlier series reviews, I will take the discs in order, detailing what episodes and features can be found on each. THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE, in the interest of letting fans of the series know where they can see key developments.
This disc contains the first five episodes of the season and several special features:
“doing the backstroke” – The cliffhanger of the prior season simply continues and becomes more outrageous, building to a closing shot of a suburban backyard pool with many packets of marijuana pleasantly floating in it. This episode features a scene-specific commentary by series creator Jenji Kohan.
“a pool and his money” – The cliffhanger is finally resolved, sort of. Nancy is effectively forced to work for U Turn, the dealer who held her at gunpoint until she can pay off the value of all the chlorinated and waterlogged pot. This episode features a subtitle trivia track.
“the brick dance” – Nancy is forced to perform a “brick dance” as part of her messenger and delivery work for U Turn, in this case picking up a package from Guillermo, a powerful and charismatic Chicano dealer. Carrie Fisher guests as a divorce attorney. This episode features a subtitle trivia track.
“sh*t highway” – The primary subplot of the season kicks in as Matthew Modine introduces the plans for a referendum to merge the show’s Agrestic suburb with the larger Majestic suburb – with a special plan of where to reroute the sewage. This episode features a scene-specific commentary by Mark Burley.
“bill sussman” – Andy Botwin goes AWOL from the military to avoid being sent to Iraq and assumes the title identity. This episode features a scene-specific commentary by Justin Kirk.
Special Features –
Gag Reel - (5:57, Anamorphic) – An anamorphic gag reel is included here. The usual flubs and profanity are included, although there is a lot of fun to be had watching one character trying desperately not to break up while addressing a naked woman’s chest...
Little Boxes Music Montages - (under a minute each, Anamorphic) – Four of the renditions of “Little Boxes” are included here, with montages of still frames and graphics. (The versions are sung by Kinky, The Individuals, Man Man and Persephone’s Bees) They can be viewed individually or with the “Play All” function.
Soundtrack Sampler – Here we have a screen that allows the viewer to click on various songs from the second soundtrack release for the series. Roughly 30-second samples of the songs can be heard.
Trailer - (1:08, Non-Anamorphic) – A brief non-anamorphic advertisement for SHOWTIME is presented, including ordering information.
On the second disc, we find five more episodes, and more special features:
“grasshopper” – Silas, the older Botwin son, encounters a new girlfriend, played by Mary-Kate Olsen. U Turn is killed by his lieutenant, Marvin, who takes over his business. This episode features a scene-specific commentary with Hunter Parrish and Alexander Gould.
“he taught me how to drive-by” – Nancy finally gets out from under the debt to U Turn, as Guillermo intimidates Marvin into submission. This episode features a subtitle trivia track.
“the two mrs. scottstons” – Nancy discovers that her lover from the previous season had a prior marriage, and spends the episode following the woman. Andy Botwin tries his, er, hand in the porno business. This episode features a scene-specific commentary with Craig Zisk and Michael Trim.
“release the hounds” – Nancy gets to know the other Mrs. Scottston. Dean Hodes discovers that motorcycles cannot fly, and then is befriended by many forest animals while he waits for rescue. This episode features a scene-specific commentary by Ernest R. Dickerson.
“roy till called” – Nancy is confronted by a DEA investigation, and is badgered by the other Mrs. Scottston for the life insurance money she has just inherited. This episode features a subtitle trivia track.
Special Features –
Uncle AWOL - (6:59, Anamorphic) – This is a mock featurette with Justin Kirk discussing the role of his character, Andy Botwin, in the third season. Scenes from the episodes are intercut with mock interview footage of Kirk and his two “assistants”.
Weeds: one on one with Mary-Kate Olsen - (2:46, Non-Anamorphic) – This is a quick look at the career of Mary-Kate Olsen and her contribution to this series.
Little Boxes – Randy Newman - (2:31, Non-Anamorphic) – This is a quick look at the covers of the song “Little Boxes” done for the series, and the specific recording made on piano by Randy Newman for the first episode of the this season.
On the third disc, we find the final five episodes of the season, and the final special feature:
“cankles” – Doug Wilson finds that the successful referendum absorbing Agrestic into Majestic has cost a bunch of jobs and heads up an angry response at the city council meeting. Nancy is trailed and blackmailed by a PI hired by the other Mrs. Scottston. This episode features a subtitle trivia track.
“the dark time” – Nancy has to move her “grow house” into Celia’s empty property, when the fire department is about to inspect their premises. Doug steals a giant cross from Matthew Modine’s character as revenge. Nancy and Conrad become a lot friendlier. This episode features a subtitle trivia track.
“risk” – Nancy tries to sell pot from a group of bikers, but the customers complain and she cuts it off. Unfortunately, the bikers have other ideas, as they vigorously explain to Silas. The younger Botwin son, Shane, starts seeing and talking to his dead father. This episode features a subtitle trivia track.
“protection” – Nancy agrees to pay Guillermo half her pot income for protection against the bikers, the PI’s and anyone else who wants to come after her. Guillermo responds by burning down the biker’s crops, and starting a wildfire that threatens to burn down Majestic and Agrestic as well. This episode features a scene-specific commentary with Roberto Benabib.
“go” – As the fires get closer, the suburbs are evacuated. The cops discover both the giant cross and the pot in Celia’s “grow house”, leading to questioning that points directly to Nancy. Guillermo offers to make Nancy his “navigator”. Nancy finds that fire is a great way to clean the slate and start again. This episode features a scene-specific commentary with series creator Jenji Kohan.
Special Feature –
g.m.a. – good morning agrestic! - (5:35 each, Non-Anamorphic) – Six non-anamorphic mock public-access programs are presented here, featuring characters from the series in a wake-up show that features the usual interviews and cooking segments, with the twist that the characters are usually at odds before each segment ends. Ostensibly, the segments are directed and produced by tech wiz and younger Botwin son, Shane (at the age of 12)... The segments can be viewed individually or with the “Play All” function.
There is also a series of screens showing the credits for the team that assembled this DVD set, and the various companies that contributed to the process.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3 ½/5 ½
Weeds: Season Three is presented in a colorful anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that is appropriately warm for the “grow house” scenes, but still shows off an accurate range of fleshtones and a remarkable amount of primary colors when the opportunity is presented. The overhead shot of the pot packages floating in a blue-green pool is a great example of this.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5
Weeds: Season Three is presented in an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and an English 2.0 mix. The 5.1 mix mostly lives in the front speakers, with the rear channels being used for the songs and background music. There are some atmospheric and directional effects used in the rear speakers from time to time, such as car horns and other specific cues.
Each disc comes with a full set of menus and an episode guide. The episodes each broken into 6 chapters, but there is no chapter menu per episode. The episodes themselves are available with English and Spanish subtitles, but the special features are not subtitled.
IN THE END...
Weeds: Season Three is a pleasant discovery for me, and should be a great DVD package for fans of the series. Having never seen the show before, I was able to pick up the story very quickly and enjoyed both the episodes and the special features. I am pleased it to recommend it for both rental and purchase.
June 14, 2008