10 Facts About Weeds

Michael Desmond/Showtime
Michael Desmond/Showtime

In 2005, Showtime was an up-and-coming network with not many major hits, especially ones that captured the zeitgeist of the time. But the network took a risk when they bought writer Jenji Kohan’s concept for Weeds, a comedy-drama that goes to some dark places.

Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) lives in an affluent gated community in Southern California, but her husband, Judah (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), suddenly passes away from a heart attack. She’s raising two sons and needs to find a way to make money, so she starts dealing weed. For eight seasons and 102 episodes, viewers followed the exploits of the Botwins, from Nancy being a suburban dealer to her marrying a drug lord/mayor of Tijuana, Esteban Reyes (Oscar nominee Demián Bichir).

Her brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk) comes along for the ride, as do accountant friend Doug Wilson (Kevin Nealon), critical neighbor Celia Hodes (Elizabeth Perkins), weed grower Conrad Shepard (Romany Malco), and guest stars Albert Brooks, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Alanis Morissette. Of course a lot of weed was smoked on the show, which Bichir revealed to GQ was actually lettuce.

In September 2012 the show finally concluded, with the family remaining intact. A year later, Kohan created another female-fronted show, Orange Is the New Black. Here are 10 blunt facts about the Golden Globe Award-winning series.

1. JENJI KOHAN WAS INTERESTED IN WRITING AN “OUTLAW SHOW.”

“I wanted to do an outlaw show,” Kohan told LAist. “From there I needed to find an outlaw and a crime.” She picked pot because it was a hot topic with the passing of Proposition 215, which decriminalized medical marijuana in California. “It was the perfect vehicle because while it’s illegal, no one takes it that seriously," Kohan said. "It’s the funny drug. Plus there’s a pot smoker in every family—it crosses all social, religious, economic, political, [and] racial lines. Nancy just came out on the page.”

Inspired by The Sopranos and The Shield, Kohan wanted to explore gray areas. In 20015, she told the Toledo Blade that those shows dealt with “people who are functioning outside of society’s moral code ... How do you convince yourself that you are still a moral person if you are doing something illegal?,” she said.

2. THE TITLE ALLUDES TO MORE THAN JUST POT.

Mary-Louise Parker and Kevin Sussman in 'Weeds'
Michael Desmond/Showtime

In a 2005 interview with the Toledo Blade, Kohan explained what the title meant. “Weeds are hardy plants that pop up everywhere and survive despite desperate climate and inhospitable environments,” she said. “There is also the expression ‘widow’s weeds,’ referring to a time when widows wore hats made of weeds. Mainly, though, it refers to hardy plants struggling to survive.”

3. HBO PASSED ON THE SHOW.

Kohan had come from the writers’ room of the network sitcom world—including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Friends—but wanted to create a show for cable. Initially, she pitched the idea of a “suburban widowed pot-dealing mom” to HBO, but they said no. So she pitched the idea to Robert Greenblatt at Showtime, a network Kohan said “was looking to make noise.” “They just went with it,” Kohan told The Wall Street Journal. The success of the female-led show caused the network to commission more woman-centric shows, such as Nurse Jackie and The Big C. “It's not like we had some great strategy: ‘Let’s do a series of shows about flawed women,’” Greenblatt said. “Weeds was a great idea and it started a trend.”

4. MARY-LOUISE PARKER KNEW WEEDS WASN’T JUST A COMEDY.


Showtime

“I never treated it as a comedy. I thought it was a drama,” Parker told The A.V. Club. “It’s somewhere in between, but they said the network had bought and expected a comedy, so it was something we needed to fulfill.” She said at first they tried to deliver the comedy but didn’t want to push too hard. “I never felt like or even wanted to feel like we were trying to push to be some flat-out crazy comedy, because you lose things.”

5. TRACT HOUSING INSPIRED THE SONG “LITTLE BOXES.”

Singer-songwriter Malvina Reynolds wrote the song “Little Boxes” in 1962 and Pete Seeger covered it in 1963. The song's title refers to a housing development Reynolds came across in Daly City, California, where she thought all the homes looked the same. Because the show changed locations, the theme song evolved, too.

Reynolds’s original version is used during the first season credits, but during the second and third seasons each episode features a different artist covering the song, such as Elvis Costello, Death Cab for Cutie, Billy Bob Thornton, Joan Baez, and Regina Spektor. When the Botwins abandoned their little box at the end of season three, the theme song disappeared, too. But Kohan resurrected it for the final season, with people like Kevin Nealon, Steve Martin, and Aimee Mann covering it.

6. ELIZABETH PERKINS HOPED THAT HER CHARACTER, CELIA, WOULD BE KILLED OFF. 

Mary-Louise Parker and Elizabeth Perkins in 'Weeds'
Showtime

The actress received an Emmy nomination for playing Nancy’s former neighbor, Celia Hodes. Perkins left the show after season five, but was asked to return for the final episode. “I just felt like, no, Celia should die,” Perkins told Yahoo!. “I was actually also busy shooting a new show and couldn’t really have made it work. But, it just seemed like Celia deserved a better send-off. I always thought at least just to blow her head off or something, blow her up in a car or something. She was such a vital part of the show for so long that I was a little surprised that they didn’t do her in.”

7. PARKER AND KOHAN WEREN’T ON SPEAKING TERMS FOR MOST OF THE SERIES.

In a candid interview with The New Yorker, Kohan admitted that for most of Weeds’s run, she employed a “talent whisperer” to communicate with Parker. According to the profile, the two barely spoke, and once Parker lobbed a script at her boss. Parker yelled “My mother can’t watch this!’ Kohan shot back, ‘I don’t write it for your mother.’” Still the two managed to work around their differences.  

8. KOHAN DIDN’T THINK EIGHT SEASONS IN THE SUBURBS WOULD’VE WORKED.


Michael Desmond/Showtime

The first three seasons saw the Botwins living in Agrestic, but when Agrestic burns down, they move to a fictional San Diego suburb called Ren Mar, in season 4. “I don’t think we could have sustained eight years in the suburbs,” Kohan told TV Guide. “People’s lives change and evolve and I think we reflected that in the show.” In other seasons they find themselves in Seattle, Dearborn, Michigan, then New York City and Denmark, and then Connecticut. 

9. NEITHER PARKER NOR KEVIN NEALON SMOKE.

You’d think a show about pot smoking would mean the actors would be stoners, but that’s not the case. During a Reddit session, Parker revealed she doesn’t smoke but once ate a pot lollipop, which had no effect on her. “It was very disappointing. I’m not opposed to the idea of smoking pot, it just never seemed liked the right time, and I have an addictive personality.” 

Nealon admitted that he isn’t a smoker either, but people are constantly offering the herb to him. “I can’t tell you how much pot I’ve been offered over the years,” Nealon told CNN. “I was in Haight-Ashbury a couple of years ago and I came out of there probably with a truckload of pot that was given to me. I literally threw it in the garbage can.”

10. PARKER DRINKS ICED COFFEE LIKE NANCY.


Showtime

A recurring image on the show is Nancy’s attachment to iced coffee. In most episodes she’s seen holding at least one plastic cup of iced coffee, chopping on the straw.

“I started holding the cup like a claw around the top, and that carried over into my real life,” Parker told Reddit. “Sometimes I see people smirking at me when I’m walking down the street holding a cup of coffee like that, and now it’s kind of ingrained in me.” IGN asked her how many cups of coffee does she think Nancy drank per day, and Parker responded with, “I would say four per day.” 

7 Things You Might Not Know About Mario Lopez

Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley
Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley

While several of the actors featured in the 1990s young-adult series Saved by the Bell have fared well following the show’s end in 1994, Mario Lopez is in a class by himself. The versatile actor-emcee can be seen regularly on Extra, as host of innumerable beauty pageants, and as the author of several best-selling books on fitness. For more on Lopez, check out some of the more compelling facts we’ve rounded up on the multi-talented performer.

1. A WITCH DOCTOR SAVED HIS LIFE.

Born on October 10, 1973, in San Diego, California to parents Mario and Elvia Lopez, young Mario was initially the picture of health. But things quickly took a turn for the worse. In his 2014 autobiography, Just Between Us, Lopez wrote that he began having digestive problems immediately after birth, shrinking to just four pounds. Though doctors administered IV hydration, they told his parents nothing more could be done. Desperate, his father reached out to a witch doctor near Rosarito, Mexico who had cured his spinal ailments years earlier. The healer mixed a drink made of Pedialyte, Carnation evaporated milk, goat’s milk, and other unknown substances. It worked: Lopez kept it down and began growing, so much so that his mother declared him “the fattest baby you had ever seen in your life.”

2. HE STARTED ACTING AT 10.

A highly active kid who got involved in both tap and jazz dancing and amateur wrestling, Lopez was spotted by a talent scout during a dance competition at age 10 and was later cast in a sitcom, a.k.a. Pablo, in 1984. That led to a role in the variety show Kids Incorporated and in the 1988 Sean Penn feature film Colors. In 1989, at the age of 16, he won the role of Albert Clifford “A.C.” Slater in Saved by the Bell. By 1992, Lopez was making public appearances at malls, where female fans would regularly toss their underthings in his direction.

3. HE COULD PROBABLY BEAT YOU UP.

Lopez wrestled as an amateur throughout high school. According to the Chula Vista High School Foundation, Lopez was a state placewinner at 189 pounds in 1990. (On Saved by the Bell, Slater was also a wrestler.) He later complemented his grappling ability with boxing, often sparring professionals like Jimmy Lange and Oscar De La Hoya in bouts for charity. In 2018, Lopez posted on Instagram that he received his blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Gracie Barra Glendale instructor Robert Hill.

4. HE TURNED DOWN PLAYGIRL.

Lopez’s active lifestyle has made for a trim physique, but he’s apparently unwilling to take off more than his shirt. In 2008, Lopez said he was approached to pose for Playgirl but declined. The magazine reportedly offered him $200,000.

5. HE WAS MARRIED FOR TWO WEEKS.

Lopez had a well-publicized marriage to actress Ali Landry, but not for all the right reasons. The two were married in April 2004 and split just two weeks later, with Landry alleging Lopez had not been faithful. Lopez later disclosed he had made a miscalculation during his bachelor party in Mexico, cheating on Landry just days before the ceremony.

6. HE APPEARED ON BROADWAY.

Lopez joined the cast of Broadway’s A Chorus Line in 2008, portraying Zach, the director who coaches the cast of aspiring dancers. (It was his first stage appearance since he participated in a grade school play, where he played a tree.) His run, which lasted five months, was perceived to be part of a rash of casting choices on Broadway revolving around hunky performers to attract audiences. The role was thought to be the start of a resurgence for Lopez, who had previously appeared on Dancing with the Stars and has been a co-host of the pop culture newsmagazine show Extra since 2007.

7. HE BELIEVES HIS DOG SUFFERED FROM POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.

In 2010, Lopez and then-girlfriend (now wife) Courtney Mazza had their first child, Gia. According to Lopez, his French bulldog, Julio César Chavez Lopez, exhibited signs of depression following the new addition to the household. Lopez also said he used his extensive knowledge of dogs to better inform his voiceover work as a Labrador retriever in 2009’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas and 2010’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation.

The Legend of Cry Baby Lane: The Lost Nickelodeon Movie That Was Too Scary for TV

Nickelodeon, Viacom
Nickelodeon, Viacom

Several years ago, rumors about a lost Nickelodeon movie branded too disturbing for children’s television began popping up around the internet. They all referenced the same plot: A father of conjoined twins was so ashamed of his sons that he hid them away throughout their childhood. (This being a made-for-TV horror movie, naturally one of the twins was evil.)

After one twin got sick the other soon followed, with both boys eventually succumbing to the illness. To keep the town from discovering his secret, the father separated their bodies with a rusty saw and buried the good one at the local cemetery and the evil one at the end of a desolate dirt road called Cry Baby Lane, which also happened to be the title of the rumored film. According to the local undertaker, anyone who ventured down Cry Baby Lane after dark could hear the evil brother crying from beyond the grave.

Cry Baby Lane then jumps to present day (well, present day in 2000), where a group of teens sneaks into the local graveyard in an effort to contact the spirit of the good twin. After holding a seance, they learn that the boys' father had made a mistake and mixed up the bodies of his children—burying the good son at the end of Cry Baby Lane and the evil one in the cemetery. Meaning those ghostly wails were actually the good twin crying out for help. But the teens realized the error too late: The evil twin had already been summoned and quickly began possessing the local townspeople.

MOVIE OR MYTH?

Parents were appalled that such dark content ever made it onto the family-friendly network, or so the story goes, and after airing the film once the Saturday before Halloween in 2000, Nickelodeon promptly scrubbed it from existence. But with no video evidence of it online for years, some people questioned whether Cry Baby Lane had ever really existed in the first place.

“Okay, so this story sounds completely fake, Nick would NEVER air this on TV,” one Kongregate forum poster said in September 2011. “And why would this be made knowing it’s for kids? This story just sounds too fake …”

While the folklore surrounding the film may not be 100 percent factual, Nickelodeon quickly confirmed that the “lost” Halloween movie was very real, and that it did indeed contained all the rumored twisted elements that have made it into a legend.

Before Cry Baby Lane was a blip in Nick’s primetime schedule, it was nearly a $100 million theatrical release. Peter Lauer, who had previously directed episodes of the Nick shows The Secret World of Alex Mack and The Adventures of Pete & Pete, co-wrote the screenplay with KaBlam! co-creator Robert Mittenthal. Cry Baby Lane, which would eventually spawn urban legends of its own, was inspired by a local ghost story Lauer heard growing up in Ohio. “There was a haunted farmhouse, and if you went up there at midnight, you could hear a baby crying and it’d make your high school girlfriend scared,” he told The Daily.

BIG SCARES ON A SMALL BUDGET

Despite Nickelodeon’s well-meaning intentions, parent company Paramount wasn’t keen on the idea of turning the screenplay into a feature film. The script was forgotten for about a year, until Nick got in touch with Lauer about producing Cry Baby Lane—only this time as a $800,000 made-for-TV movie. The director gladly signed on.

Even with the now-meager budget, Cry Baby Lane maintained many of the same elements of a much larger picture. In a bid to generate more publicity around the project, Nickelodeon cast Oscar nominee Frank Langella as the local undertaker (a role Lauer had originally wanted Tom Waits to play). All the biggest set pieces from the screenplay were kept intact, and as a result, the crew had no money left to do any extra filming.

Only two scenes from the movie ended up getting cut—one that alluded to skinny dipping and another that depicted an old man’s head fused onto the body of a baby in a cemetery. The story of a father performing amateur surgery on the corpses of his sons, however, made it into the final film.

The truth of what happened after Cry Baby Lane premiered on October 28, 2000 has been muddied over the years. In most retellings, Nickelodeon received an "unprecedented number" of complaints about the film and responded by sealing it away in its vault and acting like the whole thing never happened. But if that version of events is true, Nick has never acknowledged it.

Even Lauer wasn’t aware of any backlash from parents concerned about the potentially scarring effects of the film until The Daily made him aware of the rumors years later. “All I know is that they aired it once,” he told the paper. “I just assumed they didn’t show it again because they didn’t like it! I did it, I thought it failed, and I moved on.”

But the idea that the movie was pulled from airwaves for being too scary for kids isn’t so far-fetched. Though Cry Baby Lane never shows the conjoined twins being sawed apart on screen, it does pair the already-unsettling story with creepy images of writhing worms, broken glass, and animal skulls. This opening sequence, combined with the spooky, empty-eyed victims of possession that appear later, and multiple scenes where a child gets swallowed by a grave, may have made the film slightly more intense than the average episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?

IMPERFECT TIMING

Cry Baby Lane premiered at a strange time in internet history: Too early for pirated copies to immediately spring up online yet late enough for it to grow into a web-fueled folktale. The fervor surrounding the film peaked in 2011, when a viral Reddit thread about Cry Baby Lane caught the attention of one user claiming to have the so-called “lost” film recorded on VHS. He later uploaded the tape for the world to view and suddenly the lost movie was lost no longer.

News of the unearthed movie made waves across the web, and instead of staying quiet and waiting for the story to die down, Nickelodeon decided to get in on the hype. That Halloween, Nick aired Cry Baby Lane for the first time in over a decade. Regardless of whether the movie had previously been banned or merely forgotten, the network used the mystery surrounding its origins to their PR advantage.

“We tried to freak people out with it,” a Nick employee who worked at The 90s Are All That (now The Splat), the programming block that resurrected Cry Baby Lane (and who wished to remain anonymous) said of the promotional campaign for the event. “They were creepy and a little glitchy. We were like, ‘This never aired because it was too scary and we’re going to air it now.’”

Cry Baby Lane now makes regular appearances on Nickelodeon’s '90s block around Halloween, which likely means Nick hasn’t received enough complaints to warrant locking it back in the vault. And during less spooky times of the year, nostalgic horror fans can find the full movie on YouTube.

The mystery surrounding Cry Baby Lane’s existence may have been solved, but the urban legend of the movie that was “too scary for kids’ TV” persists—even at the network that produced it.

“People who were definitely working at Nickelodeon in 2000, but didn’t necessarily work on [Cry Baby Lane] were like, ‘Yeah I heard about it, I remember it being a thing,'" the Nick employee says. “It’s sort of like its own legend within the company.”

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