The realism trend probably began with shows like Survivor. See, for a time, TV shows were becoming incredibly predictable. You always knew exactly what was gonna happen, you knew every punchline to every joke, it was just the same old stuff time and again, and people just didn’t care anymore. It wasn’t hard for shows like Survivor and Top Chef to steal viewers away by the thousands.
So, while reality TV may be, at times, crass and artless, and not to mention, they often rearrange events with editing to make situations seem more dramatic than they really were, the fact remains that they had some appeal in their unpredictability and real human situations which stole a lot of viewers away from the fictional television shows which were really not offering anything new, and really hadn’t since Seinfeld and Drew Carey went off the air.
With fictional television, the first to really catch on was The Sopranos, which could have been just some mob show twenty years ago, but post-Survivor, it became much more, a show about a real character, Tony Soprano. In Goodfellas, all the characters have to worry about is mob stuff, who’s gonna get whacked and so on. In Sopranos, Tony has to consider that, plus where is his daughter going for college? How does he deal with his own and his son’s panic attacks? How does he make his wife happy? This was real life seeping into a fictional scenario.
Weeds follows a suburban widow and her two sons as they deal with family issues and… The family business. It follows Sopranos in a way, in that the family business is… Well, she’s a weed dealer. She sells pot to all of the local yuppie potheads. A constant source of humor is the fact that she doesn’t always fit in with the shallow vapid people of her neighborhood, being a weed dealer amidst investment bankers and soccer moms.
The show is both real and funny, and full of great characters like The Candyman, actually a woman, a fitness nut who runs a bakery and refuses to sell to anyone who won’t promise to exercise regularly to burn off the fat they get from her delicious cupcakes and brownies.
The show follows two primary plot threads: One following the mother’s journey in building her criminal empire, and one following her family issues and the local gossip. Watching how the two stories affect one another is always worth a laugh.
Be warned, it’s addictive. Like Lost or The Sopranos, you can’t just watch one or two episodes. Each season is structured as a single story separated into chapters by each episode, so if you’re going to download one, you may as well download a dozen or you’ll find yourself waiting for hours between episodes to see what happens next.