As if its premise isn’t shocking enough–suburban mom selling marijuana to maintain her privileged lifestyle–Showtime’s “Weeds” (airing 10 p.m. Mondays) seems set on pushing the envelope on just how raunchy a show can be on cable television. With such a high precedent set in its first season–masturbation references, rampant on-screen sex, and a mother secretly replacing her daugher’s candybars with laxatives to help her lose weight–the show seems to have put religion in its sights as the last line left to cross in this, its second season.
Instead of making Christians the target of its un-PC humor, the show is spending its second season taking shots at Muslims and Jews. Among the new side characters added to the show is a Muslim who despises “the white race” so much he refuses to so much as acknowledge the existence of any Caucasian character. The suburb’s biggest marijuana supplier becomes smitten with him and his way of thinking, and contemplates abandoning her drug pushing ways for religion.
Meanwhile, Nancy, the drug-dealing soccer mom played by Mary-Louise Parker, finds her hands full with her brother-in-law Andy, whose main objectives in life appear to be getting stoned and getting laid. In an ongoing storyline this season, Andy discovers that he erroneously enlisted in the military and must now find a way to get out of serving. To do this, Andy enrolls in rabbinical school, and must spend endless days slaving away on an essay explaining when he first realized his religious calling. In last night’s episode, Andy tries to pull out of rabbinical school–citing an injury sustained from his pot growing hobby–but no matter where this storyline goes, it has certainly provided an interesting glimpse at this character’s spiritual life.
Despite his cynical reason for enrolling in seminary, at some points Andy’s inspiration seems genuine enough that we wonder whether he might truly feel some connection with his Jewish faith, but the cynicism quickly cuts in before we ever can be sure.
Of course, Andy, being his usual slime-ball self, takes a shining to a female instructor named Yael, and suddenly being enrolled in school becomes not a scam to stay out of the military but rather a way to try and bed the sultry teacher. As the show goes on, Andy milks his rabbinical student status as a means to get his nephew out of trouble in school by convincing the principal of his inherent morality.
While Andy’s use of rabbinical school as an endless scam to some extent lampoons the Jewish traditions depicted on-screen, the show also takes steps to explain Judaism and its traditions. Prior to his enrollment in school, the characters displayed a generic “We’re Jews” attitude, and the show never really explored how that made them any different from their blond, WASPy neighbors in their suburban gated community.
When it comes to depicting Judaism, television rarely offers any depth or any glimpse at what lies past the Jewish label. Even viewers offended by “Weed”‘s antics–which include, most recently, an especially bizarre sexual encounter between Andy and Yael–have to admit that any depiction of modern Judaism is lacking on-screen. While “Weeds” might not provide the most sophisticated depiction of Jewish life today, it still provides something–and that’s more than any other ongoing TV series can say.