August 21, 2006 12:00 PM

Showtime (Mondays, 10 p.m. ET)



The first season of Weeds didn’t give me a buzz. The premise—a recently widowed suburban mom sets up a marijuana dealership so she can pay the mortgage—seemed contrived and too cute, like a kitten batting at phantom butterflies after too much catnip. The second season is a much better trip, light-fingered but more assured at teasing out the mundane absurdities of life. The widow-dealer, Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), settles into what seems like a workable, if dicey, dating relationship with a handsome DEA agent. (An Elvis impersonator proves instrumental in getting them together.) Nancy’s poisonously sarcastic friend Celia (Elizabeth Perkins) runs for city council, but her family dislikes her so much she appears alone in campaign posters, clutching a neighbor’s dog in a gesture of companionship.

But the best thing from Season 1 remains the same: Mary-Louise Parker. With her pale skin and haunted eyes, she could be one of those doomed girls consigned to the tomb in Edgar Allan Poe stories. But she’s freed by a strain of slouchy, offbeat humor. It’s her own naturally stoned charm.

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