Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Monday night vice

Last night began Showtime's summer lineup of women behaving badly, with the season four premiere of Weeds and the debut of the UK's Secret Diary of a Call Girl, two series that confront society's morals with a knowing wink. Both premieres, while witty and charming, kept me at a distance, like cashed pipe or a hooker with her eye on the clock (aren't you done yet?)

Weeds, for it's part, still feels as transitional as last season's crazy ride to break the series down in order to rebuild it as something new. It starts right where season three left off, with the Agrestic McCommunity up in flames, with the assumption that we'll ignore that Shane's gone through puberty in the interim hours. Nancy's moved up the chain, from dealer to runner, and she should be up to the challenge, if the the music choice is any indication. "Se Puede" from Chilean funk supergroup Los Mono, was written as a sort of mantra for someone looking at a new and difficult challenge. The song's title translates to "it's possible" and is repeated in the song, which was originally written as a theme for a children's animated series in Chile -- which is appropriate given Nancy's continued childlike naivete in the face of the danger she surrounds her family in.

Speaking of childlike naivete, did anyone else notice that the Botwins essentially moved to John From Cincinnati's old neighborhood, just north of the Mexican border? They even have their own Shaunie Yost living next door. They may call it Ren-Mar (named after the studios where Weeds and a lot of other series are shot,) but it reeks of Imperial Beach. As such, it appears that creator Jenji Kohan will pick up David Milch's side theme of immigration and border politics. One thing I look forward to is a return to the show's conceptual roots -- a family dealing with the loss of their father. Moving back to Bubbie's house, surrounded by reminders of the long dead Judah, means that perhaps the Botwins will finally confront their still-repressed grief.

Moving on from repression, SDOACG is anything but, with our protagonist Hannah (Belle) telling us through the fourth wall "first thing I think you should know is that I'm a whore." Ok, the mood is set and you've piqued my interest. Problem is, even with all the sass (and eye candy) that Billie Piper (Doctor Who) provides to the UK imported series, it still leaves me a bit cold (but not necessarily blue). Which is, I guess, kind of the point. When Hannah mistakenly gives up her name to a john, we're treated briefly to The Noisettes' "Cannot Even (Break Free)", which works it's cathartic magic as a backdrop to Hannah pulling herself together and working herself back to a proper distance from her job (and us). An episode lasts only 20 minutes long, which means SDOACG has to uses all it's wiles to try and get you off as quickly as it can, but those moans sound more fake with each glances at the clock. Still, even she left me a bit unsatisfied, almost getting there was just enough to bring me back.

Songs from Showtime's Monday Night Vice
1. "Se Puede" - Los Mono - Weeds, Ep4.01, Nancy and Guillermo look over the border
2. "You Know I'm No Good" - Amy Winehouse - Secret Diary of a Call Girl, theme song
3. "Cannot Even (Break Free)" - The Noisettes - Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Hannah has a moment of reflection after accidentally revealing her real name to a john

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