Monday night's Season 7 premiere of "Weeds" brings up the question - to quote Jack Black in "High Fidelity" - "Is it better to burn out or fade away?"

Monday night's Season 7 premiere of "Weeds" brings up the question - to quote Jack Black in "High Fidelity" - "Is it better to burn out or fade away?"

See, "Weeds" was once a groundbreaking comedy that blended wonderful satire about suburbia - and the lengths to which people will simultaneously go to escape and maintain such a lifestyle - with darker themes about self-destruction and its consequences.

For three or four seasons, "Weeds" was not only one of the finest comedies, but one of the finest shows on television.

What followed was Nancy's ill-fated relationship with a Mexican drug lord, Esteban, during which Shane (Alexander Gould) lost what was left of his innocence with one swing of a croquet mallet.

Then the Botwins went on the lam last season. And while it ended with a strong finale in which Nancy finally got her comeuppance and sacrificed herself for once, almost everything that preceded it was utterly preposterous.

By then, "Weeds" had committed storytelling crimes akin to Stevie Wonder's musical ones in the '80s.

Still, I was intrigued to see where this season would go, with Nancy facing prison time and her boys off in Copenhagen.

The premiere makes me suspect the series might fall back in a rut. The season begins with Nancy jumping right back into a criminal lifestyle after spending three years in jail.

The series needs conflict to drive the plot, but Nancy's immediate move into the weapons business, aided by her lesbian lover and former cellmate, seems both trite and unrealistic.

Why partake in an even riskier illegal trade than she did before?

While the performances by Mary-Louise Parker and Gould are strong - and Justin Kirk adds a nice dose of humor as Uncle Andy - "Weeds" has spoiled its dramatic tone.

The best moments of recent seasons were when we saw the toll Nancy's actions have taken on the other characters. If the show's focus shifts into a reflective look at how loving someone whose narcissism and destructive behavior will only bring you down, I could see "Weeds" returning to its creative greatness.

Unfortunately, I have about as much faith in that as I do in Nancy making the right choices.