Showtime's "Weeds" (10 tonight) returns for season four with many changes for its characters, but it pivots into these new situations with greater ease than in the long, drawn out transition from seasons two to three.
When we last visited suburban pot dealing mom Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), she torched her home as the town of Agrestic burned. As the new season begins, she's on the run with her family, settling in the coastal town of Ren Mar, Calif., with the father-in-law (Albert Brooks) who resents her for not being Jewish. He refers to Nancy as "Not Francie" for the name of the woman he wishes his now-deceased son had married.
Nancy's drug dealing days aren't over. Now she's smuggling drugs over the border and she branches out into smuggling illegal aliens as well.
"I'm sure you're quite possibly a very nice Mexican man who loves his mother," she tells an illegal alien who's hidden in a space beneath her backseat that he can't get out of without her assistance. "But you might also want to make a hat out of my kidney, so we'll let you out soon. Soonish."
Back in Agrestic, nemesis Celia (Elizabeth Perkins) takes the fall for Nancy's sins and gets a hilarious/horrible jail makeover. Alas, Nancy's son Shane (Alexander Gould), has given up his urge to move to Pittsburgh and he makes no mention of it in this season's early episodes.
Even as the show deals with serious issues -- immigration, euthanasia -- "Weeds" feels lighter and funnier in the new season. The stakes, in the first three episodes, don't seem as dire, but that's OK. The high-wire act of the past two seasons was starting to wear thin. Creator Jenji Kohan has smartly changed up the story, breathing new life into the series in the process.