If You Miss Orange Is the New Black, Watch Weeds

Photo: Showtime

Orange Is the New Black is wonderful. If you haven’t watched it, you should watch it. If you’ve only watched it once, watch it again! There are jokes you missed. But if you feel you’ve wrung all the joy you can out of its 26 episodes, and you’re feeling bereft and lonely, one other show can scratch some of those same itches: Weeds. That shouldn’t be too shocking — both shows are from creator Jenji Kohan, after all — but the similarities wind up being stronger than you might think.

For those who don’t remember, Weeds debuted on Showtime in 2005; Mary Louise Parker stars as the recently widowed Nancy Botwin, mother of two boys and resident of the oppressively tony California suburb of Agrestic. After her husband died, Nancy decided to start selling pot as a way to make money. This, of course, turns out to be more fraught than she realized! While Weeds is more strictly a dark comedy set in not-quite-the-real-world, the similarities between the shows abound. For example:

Notable theme songs: Weeds launched with the iconic “Little Boxes” as its theme song, and then in later seasons swapped that out for various covers, but by season four, it was sadly dropped completely. OITNB has a Regina Spektor theme song that I hate but others enjoy. Spektor also did one of the covers for Weeds’ opening song in season two.

Fish-out-of-water, special-snowflake, wealthy white women frequently being called out by people of color: Nancy spends a lot of time being told “[she] ain’t shit,” first by Heylia, Vaneeta, and Conrad, and then later by Guillermo; they call her “Snowflake” and “Blanca.” (For the record, everyone’s right, and Nancy ain’t shit.) Piper has a similar experience attempting to navigate the racial politics of Litchfield, though even among other white inmates, Piper doesn’t really fit in. Both Nancy and Piper generally see themselves as not really like the people they spend time with, though Piper is far more self-aware and self-possessed than Nancy is. Still, both see themselves more as visitors than permanent residents in the drug trade and in prison.

Prison: Oh, yeah, Nancy goes to prison in season seven. We don’t spend a ton of time there, but her incarceration does include lesbian romance and Russian drug-smugglers, just like OITNB.

Pablo Schreiber, Matt Peters, and Michael Harney: There’s cast overlap!

Loopy brothers: On Weeds, Nancy’s brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk) is one of the main characters; he’s a stoner fuck-up kind of guy who’s very loving and loyal, but also utterly unreliable and prone to doing things like signing up for rabbinical school so he doesn’t have to go through with his dumb idea of joining the military. On Orange, Piper’s brother Cal is a little less nutty, but he’s still the kind of guy who lives in the woods and gets married at a funeral.

Impeccable soundtracks: Both shows make superb use of song choices throughout the episodes and, in particular, the end-credits music.

Sex: Sex scenes abound, but it’s almost never a “making love” (shudder) scene; it’s often a scene about sex as commerce, or sex as safety, sometimes just sex as straight-up revenge.

Well-read characters: Orange has a real book thing going, and Weeds did too, with lots of contemporary books popping up in the semi-background. (Andy in particular was an avid reader.)

Mention of someone’s penis being surprisingly large, like “a beer can”: Dean and Doug, blissed out on painkillers, wind up comparing penises on Weeds after Dean brags that his dick is like “a can of Guinness stout.” On Orange, Caputo and Fig’s sad, gross hookup includes him bragging that his nickname used to be “beer can.”

Really loathsome BFFs: Many people are not into Larry on OITNB. But far, far more annoying and egregious is Polly, who is simply the worst. (On purpose! The show wants her to be the worst! And boy, is she.) On Weeds, Nancy’s neighbor Celia is basically Satan. She and Nancy are more frenemies than actual friends, but for people who don’t like each other, they spend an awful lot of time together.

Pop-culture banter: Everyone makes jokes about reality TV. Lots of ‘em.

If you watched Weeds when it first aired but haven’t seen it since, go back and re-enjoy the first few seasons. The show eventually lost track of itself, but those early years are still a real treat.