Don't miss Jake Martin's inspired take on the serendipitious (or is it planned?) trio of complicated lead characters in in Showtime's hit dramas "Weeds," "Nurse Jackie" and "The United States of Tara," who, as Martin says, are filled with good intentions but make bad choices. The network is providing a snapshot of the way that contemporary television sizes up contemporary women. Here's Martin in an online Culture review:
While the Lifetime network may have the patent on the catchphrase “television for women,” the most provocative female leads on television these days are to be found on, of all places, premium cable’s perennial number two, Showtime. “Nurse Jackie,”“Weeds” and “United States of Tara” each offer rich, fully textured explorations of female characters never before seen on television (and infrequently on film).
Showtime was long in the shadow of HBO, first as a purveyor of theatrical released films and then in the wake of the explosion that was “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.” But the network seems to have found its identity as the home of more off-beat, character-driven television. “Weeds,” “Nurse Jackie” and “United States of Tara,” along with the Laura Linney vehicle “The Big C,” are representative not only of the emphasis the network has placed on courting a female audience, but the prioritization it has given to smaller, quirkier projects, which evoke the American independent-film movement of the 1990s.
Like their cinematic forerunners, “Weeds,” “Tara” and “Jackie” are full of good intentions and frequent bad choices. All three shows have moments of excellence, with “Jackie” being the most consistently strong; but all suffer from occasional moments of melodrama and self-referential cutesiness, an occupational hazard when working in the oft-maligned genre of the serio-comedy, which is often dismissively referred to as the “dramedy.”
Making a “dramedy” fire on all cylinders is a delicate undertaking. Finding the perfect measure between dramatic tension and comedic catharsis is a difficult task that often results in hyper-sentimentality or inappropriate humor.