All About My Mother

Mary-Louise Parker in Weeds.

Indigo (left) and Mary-Louise Parker in Weeds 

Like many a harried soccer mom, Nancy Botwin, a widow living in an impeccably generic California suburb, is forever looking for something. There’s the matter of finding a mate, of course, and establishing a reasonable facsimile of a stable home life for her two sons. Being the marijuana-selling protagonist of Showtime’s very fine Weeds (Mondays at 10 p.m. ET), Nancy must also hunt for solutions to all manner of odd business matters. Sometimes the threads of these quests even converge: In the last episode of the show’s first season, Nancy discovered that the great guy she’d just met—the meet-cute had involved her son biting his at a karate tournament—is a DEA agent.

But because Mary-Louise Parker, who plays the dame, is blessed with eyes lit with restless smarts, it really does seem that Nancy is incessantly looking for something. At any given moment, she could be searching for the answer to a philosophical riddle that only she noticed had been posed—or maybe just her car keys. This season’s second episode begins with her holding a phone to her ear and waiting for the DEA guy to pick up while she idly looks into a mirror. It’s typical of Parker’s nonchalant inventiveness that’s she squeezed a character-defining joke into these two seconds, checking out her own ass as if it were a mildly interesting billboard she was passing on a Sunday drive.

Later, when Nancy struggles to herd her sons and slacker brother-in-law together for a family dinner, one of the men snarks that he’ll be eating two suppers that night. “Eat seven times—I don’t care,” she exclaims while grinning theatrically. Why should the harried mother choose this moment to unleash her Julia Roberts smile?

When Nancy’s supplier, pressing Italian sandwiches, asks what kind of cheese Nancy wants on hers, she gives the words smoked Gouda an enunciation that’s indecently ripe. What is this naughty thing thinking when she should be contemplating the merits of Gruyére? Is it even naughty at all?

Weeds is a peculiar kind of comedy—a muted domestic screwball—and it only makes sense that its heroine should be a madcap sphinx. Parker takes the show’s vision of the contemporary organized criminal a few further subdivisions out past The Sopranos. Like many a gangster, she’s got a mind that moves quickly because, being on high alert, it has to. She’s taking care of business at all costs. She may look, around the eyes, a bit like your mother.