TV on DVD: Nancy Botwin in the ‘Weeds’ and ‘Nurse Jackie’ on Pills

Weeds: Season Seven (Lionsgate) and Nurse Jackie: Season Three (Lionsgate), two of Showtime’s most successful original series, arrive in advance of new seasons, and they make an interesting pair: Both shows are built around dynamic women who are at once seriously flawed and amazingly strong, and they take radically different perspectives on drugs.

Weeds: Season Seven (Lionsgate) opens with Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker), TV’s most misguided single mother and screwed-up role maternal model, leaving prison on early release and moving right back into the marijuana trade, without even contacting the family she sent to Copenhagen to escape the reach of the Mexican drug lord on her trail. Yeah, her criminal life has gotten complicated and this season will be no different. It’s simply relocated to the Big Apple, where Nancy immediately jumps into a relationship with the Eastern European criminal brother of her possessive cellmate while competing in a whole new market: catering to rich kids and upper-class professionals with boutique bud, instant gratification deliveries, and upscale branding.) She even goes to war with her own eldest son, all the while trying to prove that she should be given responsibility of her infant son (raised by her sister while she was in stir). Nancy Botwin is not only the worst mother on TV, she’s the most deluded.

The series remains a hit for Showtime, thanks largely to Parker’s MILF come-on and the show’s farcical approach to the criminal life, but I’m officially over the show’s winking indulgence in Nancy’s increasingly poor parenting decisions, the out-of-control antics of her sons (one of whom becomes a police intern simply to keep tabs on the competition), and impulsive actions of her erratic brother-in-law (Justin Kirk).

Nurse Jackie: Season Three (Lionsgate) finds Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco), the head nurse in a New York hospital emergency room and TV’s most functional drug addict, having a harder time keeping her secrets under wraps. “We have got to stop trying to save people who don’t want to be saved,” complains Jackie in the second episode, clearing saying more about herself than her patient. Walking out of her intervention, ducking her husband, paying more and more to get her pharmaceutical fix when her friends refuse to enable her anymore, she finds the balancing act even harder to maintain when her former lover becomes (against his better judgment) genuinely good friends with her husband.

Where Weeds plays this kind of personal crisis for easy laughs and minimal consequences, Nurse Jackie finds the humor more painful and ambivalent, and the repercussions of her actions reverberate through her marriage, her friendships, and finally (and most painfully) her two daughters. Her addiction is leaving scars.

Weeds: Season Seven features 13 episodes on two discs on both Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary on select episodes, three featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel among the supplements.

Nurse Jackie: Season Three features 12 episodes on two discs on both Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary on select episodes, two featurettes and a gag reel.

See previews from each show at Videodrone.

TV on DVD Round-Up: Nurse Jackie in the Weeds, plus more BriTV

Bless Me, Nurse Jackie

Nurse Jackie: Season Two” (Lionsgate)

TV thrives on damaged heroes and Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco), the head nurse in New York hospital emergency room, is one of the most damaged. Tough, confrontational, fiercely dedicated to her most vulnerable patients and wickedly vindictive with rude patients, thoughtless visitors and unfeeling bureaucracy, she is a professional so dedicated to her job and her patients—she spends hours talking an insurance adjuster into pushing through a claim for a deaf woman to get “inessential” hand surgery so she can continue to talk with her hands—that she can justify all of her offenses to herself. In particular a major addiction. But things are catching up with her this season. The missing drugs from the hospital pharmacy have caught the attention of the state and the Emergency Room Administrator (Anna Deavere Smith) has put in a computerized pill dispenser that tracks all transactions. Her friends and family start to see trip over her lies, her former lover and pill provider (Paul Schulze) insinuates himself into her family life and her youngest daughter’s anxieties snowball into a serious condition. “We cannot have secrets in this house,” she concludes without a trace of irony, all the while sabotaging the Pill-O-Matic dispenser, feverishly hiding her drug addiction from the world and ducking a mystery man from whom she stole thousands of dollars worth of pills.

Merritt Wever is the junior nurse coming into her own this season, Eve Best plays the flinty doctor who is Jackie’s closest friend and Peter Facinelli is the cocky young doctor cowed by Jackie’s constant challenges and fighting his own Tourette’s-like condition, while Julia Ormond co-stars as a globe-trotting TV journalist for a three-episode arc. 12 episodes on three discs on DVD and two discs on Blu-ray, with cast and crew commentaries on select episodes and interview featurettes with co-stars Eve Best (“All About Eve”) and Peter Facinelli (“Perfecting an Inappropriate Touch”).

Weeds: Season Six” (Lionsgate) – Nobody makes epically poor parenting decisions as sexy as Mary-Louise Parker does on this Showtime original series. As recklessly irresponsible widowed mother, suburban pot dealer and (starting this season) wanted woman on the run Nancy Botwin, she drags her two teenage sons and newborn infant on a road trip to outrun a murder rap. The idea is to get off the grid and they flirt with a series of jobs they haven’t the resolve or the perseverance to hold on to, but they are incapable of lying low and manage to screw up every situation without fail. While the show has gotten tired over the years, it careens right off the rails this season, shamelessly indulging in Nancy’s increasingly poor parenting decisions, the out-of-control antics of her sons and impulsive actions of her erratic brother-in-law (Justin Kirk). It used to be a nominally clever social satire but there’s very little substance to the show anymore, unless you count the rampant nudity, sex, reckless parenting and copious amounts of drug use. Kevin Nealon is back as the perpetually-baked tag-along, Mark-Paul Gossilier and Alanis Morissette make brief appearances and Richard Dreyfus co-stars in the final episodes of the season a former teacher with a sordid history with Nancy.

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TV on DVD 2/23/10 – Politics, pills and time travel: G.B.H., Nurse Jackie, FlashForward

G.B.H. (Acorn) is a savage satire of Thatcher-era party politics, a devastating drama of power and corruption and simple moral courage, and the best piece of dramatic television I’ve seen all year. Sure, it’s from 1991 and is perfectly reflective of its time, but it is so well written that the characters and conflicts haven’t aged a bit.

Robert Lindsay and Lindsay Duncan in "G.B.H."

The brilliant British mini-series, written by Alan Bleasdale and directed by Robert Young, stars Robert Lindsay as ferociously ambitious and fiercely vengeful Labour Party politician Michael Murray, who has just been swept into power in a small industrial city with the help of old-school socialists who have their own agenda. Murray is a working class guy ready to use his newfound power to take revenge on everyone who ever wronged him along the way and Lindsay plays him as both a cunning opportunist and a man whose identification with the disenfranchised ultimately sets him in opposition with his Socialist supporters. Michael Palin takes a rare dramatic role as Jim Nelson, the compassionate headmaster of a school for special needs children who lands in his crosshairs when he defies a citywide strike to care for his students. “I’m here to tell you that if you screw up this day, I’ll screw up the rest of your life!” promises Murray, and he proceeds to make it happen. Palin brings a heartfelt warmth to a fragile but morally firm Nelson, who uses humor to cover vulnerability and fear. It’s heartbreaking to see such bullying happen to such an honest and dedicated man with such an emotional fragility and crippling anxiety.

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