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'Weeds' lights up for one final season

What to expect from the show’s final season

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After the upcoming eighth season, Showtime will retire the groundbreaking comedy Weeds, whose strong female antihero and risk-taking story lines helped shatter TV programming barriers. ”It still feels like nothing else on television,” says Showtime entertainment president David Nevins of the series, which returns July 1. ”The season is about coming full circle…. We wanted to go out strong and on a high note. I think it’s a natural end point.” Adds series creator Jenji Kohan, who learned the show’s fate shortly after she started writing the new season, ”It’s really, really hard to let go of something that was everything I wanted it to be.”

The final season will kick off by resolving last September’s cliff-hanger, in which pot-dealing mom Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) was targeted by an unknown assassin. (Fear not, fans: The ”Who got shot?” question will be answered in the premiere, while the revenge-seeking shooter will be revealed shortly thereafter.) The show will also take a time jump after the premiere, with Nancy returning to a little box in the suburbs and reflecting on her past deeds. ”We all have moments where we take stock, and we’re taking stock this season,” Kohan says. Just don’t ask how Nancy’s story might end, because even Kohan’s not yet sure. ”It’s hard because the mantra for the show is that people don’t change,” says the writer, whose next project is the Netflix women’s-prison comedy Orange Is the New Black. ”I’m not sure whether to blow that up or go out with our theme intact. Frankly, I’m not going to be satisfied with any ending.” But Parker, who’s filming the sequel to 2010’s Red this fall, sounds like she’s ready to move on. ”It probably should stop; it can’t go on forever,” says the actress, who won a Golden Globe for Weeds in 2006 and says she intends to seek out a new TV gig after the show wraps. ”There’s only so much longer I can wear cutoffs and platform shoes anyway.”

It’s easy to forget how different the cable-TV landscape was before Weeds. Along with serial-killer drama Dexter, the comedy helped establish Showtime as a strong competitor to longtime premium-cable leader HBO in the original-series game. Weeds has long been one of the network’s top-rated series (last season it averaged 1.3 million viewers). Its success arguably has made TV safer for riskier shows; would AMC have gambled on drug-culture drama Breaking Bad if Weeds hadn’t blazed that trail first? Certainly other flawed-female series like Damages and Showtime’s own Nurse Jackie owe a debt to the pot comedy, which is also credited with helping pioneer the half-hour R-rated-comedy format. ”I’d love to be remembered as having tried something different and having set a new template for television,” Kohan says, ”because I think we did.”