Mary Louise Parker: Probably the greatest actress on television

Posted by Dan June 16th, 2009 at 11:14am In Weeds

weedsseason5Weeds returned with its fifth season last week and, in the process, reminded me why the show tortures me so much. It’s like milk chocolate.

If you have a piece of dark chocolate, you can just savor it and let it melt in your mouth. When you’re done, you’re done and you can go on with your life.  Project Runway is dark chocolate — one episode is fine for me and I can deal with waiting a week. Weeds, on the other hand, is milk chocolate. It’s the kind where I just keep eating and eating and wanting more and more until I’m surrounded by Hershey and Krackle wrappers. And all of a sudden I’m filled with shame because I couldn’t control myself.

I’ve seen the first three episodes of Weeds and it seems like it’s going to be forever until I get to watch the fourth. But I’ll catch you up.

When Weeds left off last season, Nancy had just accidentally saved herself from certain death. After ratting out her (hot) Mexican mobster boyfriend’s drug operation, she presented him with the sonogram of his unborn child — thereby preventing her from an unceremonious execution. Elsewhere, the Botwin family is still highly dysfunctional. Andy realized he’s in love with Nancy, Silas is looking to expand his drug operation and freeloading friend Doug just botched a suicide attempt (which, by the way, I was really disappointed he failed at. Good lord, that guy is annoying).

People seemed discontent with the show’s fourth season, which found Nancy and company packing up and moving from the posh suburban hamlet of Agrestic (which was in the process of burning to the ground) to an oceanside town near San Diego. I think people reacted to the transition like it was a new Facebook layout — screaming and crying about the change until they realized it was a necessary transition. If they had just kept their panties on, they would have learned that it would all work out.

But the first three episodes of the season have proved to be in the traditional Weeds style — a quick and merciless wit, shocking plot twists, unbelievably bold characters.  Moving to a different town and changing up the cast a little hasn’t changed the inherent character of the show.

One of the biggest changes in the new season, though, is Nancy’s relationship to her family. After several seasons of chaos, she’s understandably found herself alienated from her brood. This is most evident in one scene from the premiere, when Nancy returns after a long absence to find her family arguing over who gets her room if she doesn’t come home.

It’s all catching up to Nancy, and Mary Louise Parker plays the role perfectly.

This is where I go out on a limb and say that Mary Louise Parker is the best actress on television right now. I’m just going to say it. Tina Fey has always been a top-tier writer and has evolved into a top-tier actress on 30 Rock. Glenn Close is icy and wonderful on Damages. But Mary Louise Parker has an original and well-rounded character in Nancy Botwin, who gives her the opportunity to deliver both killer punchlines and perform some gut-wrenching dramatic scenes.

Parker plays Botwin with an ethereal, glassy-eyed sensibility. If not for her acute ability to tell everyone what is going on, you’d swear she was constantly high. The perennial image I have of Nancy is that of her delivering a line with a California deadpan while nursing her ever-present iced coffee. She’s addicted to adrenaline and drama, prone to self-destructive behavior, and still you root for her because she seems to be doing the best she can.

I’ll always be happy when Tina and Glenn with the Emmys, but I’m going to be in Mary Louise’s corner.

Weeds is on Showtime on Mondays at 9.

3 Comments

  • 1. Teri  |  June 19th, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    I’m curious why the director chooses to dress Nancy like a 20 year old. Yes, It’s SoCal & sure, she’s got it all, but seems she’d tone it down esp for her trips to Mexico.

  • 2. sara  |  June 22nd, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    I have only watched a few episodes of Weeds, and I have found them entertaining, but that “ethereal, glassy-eyed sensibility” you refer to really grates on me. I think I have a harder time relating to shows with unsympathetic female leads than I do to shows with unsympathetic male leads (case: how much I am enjoying Rescue Me right now), because every time I see MLP ambling about with that glazed, victimy look on her face, I just want to shake her.

  • 3. Dan  |  June 22nd, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I know her portrayal can be odd at times, since she can appear to be a space cadet. But I like how she can use the sort of vacant and glassy-eyed expressions as a springboard to sometimes roll off a killer deadpan one-liner or to sometime launch into grossly self-destructive behavior. It makes her more sympathetic, if you ask me, because she’s not over-acting (which would be the worst way to play the character, since everything is already so over-the-top).


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