I have to imagine cannabis presents a tricky dilemma for the entertainment industry. As the modern cannabis consumer is rapidly changing, how to accurately portray that shift on-screen? Because the long-term cultural image of a cannabis user has been the stoner—usually a schlubby white male who “likes getting baked, man.” Think of Cheech and Chong or Seth Rogen comedies or The Big Lebowski. Sometimes the stoner character isn’t white, but still definitively male, like Half-Baked or How High or Friday.
But that lazy, hijinks-riddled stoner isn’t so prevalent anymore. The stoner has grown up, to a degree, and certainly evolved into something more diverse, as seen through recent TV shows like High Maintenance and Weeds. Storytellers shifted their focus from smokers to dealers, those navigating the underground to make an honest buck. Stoners were entrepreneurs, in other words, capitalizing on their favorite pastime.
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Weed became a means to circumvent the system holding them back. Even a show like Trailer Park Boys, where each season the boys concoct plans to sell enough weed to escape their traditional trailer park lives, follows this conceit. This of course reached its apex with Breaking Bad, a show about selling crystal meth sure, but followed the same principle: To beat the system, sometimes you must work outside that system.
That was the direction cannabis-related entertainment mostly tracked, though other examples abound of cannabis’ shifting media perception. Broad City and Bored to Death and Workaholics showcased weed’s ability to connect individuals and groups. Marijuana wasn’t front and center, but a part of their lives. This, I imagine, symbolizes the relationship most users have to cannabis nowadays. The cannabis brand, like its users, matured.
All of which leaves Netflix’s Disjointed at an odd place. The show’s first trailer debuted this week and it’s unclear who this show might be for. Co-created by David Javerbaum (previously a writer at The Daily Show and the Colbert Report) and Chuck Lorre, it wants to strike the intersection between these two ideas of stoners and cannabis consumers. Early indications demonstrate a show out of touch and tonally confused.
For those unaware: The premise is strikingly 2017, as “cannabis legend” Ruth Whitefeather Feldman opens a Los Angeles marijuana dispensary and tries to go legit with her recently graduated son and fellow budtenders. It’s a diverse show, too: Kathy Bates stars as Ruth and also features Tone Bell, Elizabeth Ho, and Aaron Moten in lead roles. For a multi-cam traditional sitcom, Disjointed is commendably diverse.
That diversity, however, is about as evolutionary the show might be, as Disjointed‘s trailer is full of cliché one-liners and outdated hippie humor. When one character puffs some cannabis, he announces the strain’s name as, “Skywalker OG.” Then, in a boringly average Yoda impression, he says, “Stoned, I am getting.” Elsewhere, the show includes supporting characters with names like Dank and Dabby. Let me repeat: Dank and Dabby. Reading those names, you too might secretly pray they die in the first episode. They do not. A total of 12 episodes will incorporate Dank and Dabby.
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Considering Lorre is on board, this shouldn’t be surprising. After all, he is the showrunner behind the hyper-successful Big Bang Theory and Two and A Half Men, which explains the cheap humor and goofy names. Lorre is an opportunist, more than anything, pilfering subcultures to present to a larger mainstream audience. Unfortunately a lot of necessary and interesting context get lost in that process, and Disjointed appears headed down that same road.
Perhaps I’m too quickly dampening expectations. But in its previews, it appears this show isn’t for stoners or the modern cannabis community. As the trailer showcase, it will likely appeal to the lowest common denominator, regurgitating old stereotypes and low-hanging fruit about cannabis for a quick laugh. I suspect those who love the show most won’t be cannabis consumers. Disjointed almost seems like an incubated alien, descending from a previous time and out of conversation with modern weed-related entertainment. The show lands Aug. 25 and could surprise. It could also just go up in smoke.