Television: Kathy Bates gets ‘Disjointed’ dispensing pot on Netflix.
Humans have been laughing at jokes about inebriation at least since Romans wrote comedy. Once it was drunks who were funny — Otis on “The Andy Griffith Show,” Foster Brooks, Dean Martin. But drunks just seem like alcoholics now.
Marijuana, meanwhile, has moved in. Pot humor long ago entered the mainstream — and with “Disjointed,” it now has a whole sitcom of its own.
The series, which premiered Aug. 25 on Netflix, was created by David Javerbaum (the puppet panel show “No, You Shut Up!”) and Chuck Lorre (of “Two and a Half Men” and the co-creator of CBS’ “Mom,” a comedy about substance abuse and recovery).
To some degree, this show wants to be the stoner “Cheers.” James Burrows, who co-created that series, directed the “Disjointed” pilot.
There are “budtenders” here; a central workplace flirtation; and a coterie of comical regulars who want to go where they almost can remember their names. As on “Cheers,” the door to the street is on the left, the one to the office is on the right.
Kathy Bates plays Ruth Whitefeather Feldman, who has partnered with her son, Travis (Aaron Moten), in a SoCal pot dispensary. Ruth is what you would call an old hippie; Travis has returned from college with an MBA, which his mother refers to as “a trip to the dark side.” (His father, “a Black Panther who became a corporate for a big pharmaceutical company,” is not in the picture.)
Travis wants to build the business, while Ruth just wants to “healp” people (her special word combining “help” and “heal”). “Like cronut or labradoodle,” she explains, “I’m trying to make it a thing.”
Also in the workplace are growmaster Pete (Dougie Baldwin), who grew up in a commune, sometimes unconsciously affects an Australian accent and gets uncomfortably close to his plants. There’s also Jenny (Elizabeth Ho), the “tokin’ Asian”; Olivia (Elizabeth Alderfer), who finds herself drawn to Travis, who finds himself drawn to her; and security guard Carter (Tone Bell), an Iraq vet with PTSD, who turns the series serious from time to time.
Hanging around, like Norm and Cliff and Frasier, are Maria (Nicole Sullivan), a middle-age housewife looking for relief, and Dank (Chris Redd) and Dabby (Betsy Sodaro), who host a pot-themed webcast, and make various loud noises. Antagonistic neighbor Tae Kwon Doug (Michael Trucco) barges in from the martial arts studio next door every so often to mangle language and complain.
Apart from its subject matter and the rougher language allowed by a streaming network, “Disjointed” is very much an old-fashioned, filmed live and/or laugh-tracked situation comedy. Its rhythms will be familiar to anyone who has seen even two other such shows.
Some attempts have been made to push beyond the form, including the sudden interpolation of a musical number and satirical pot-themed “commercial breaks” from an alternative universe where marijuana has long been legal. What might be visual puns — a shot of Stonehenge, for instance, to signify “stoned,” or a church pipe organ to say “pipes“ — mark scene transitions. Animated sequences (beautifully done) come along to express what’s going on in Carter’s troubled head.
I suppose the hoped-for audience is meant to be as broad as the audience for drugs. Fifty years after the Summer of Love, weed no longer divides the generations — all the more so because of that “Netflix and chill” thing today’s young people do.
On balance the humor trends more old than young. There are jokes about the Spin Doctors and Phish (because you would want to be stoned to listen to them), and about kids these days. Ruth says, “You millennials, you’re always asking for validation — everyone gets a Quidditch trophy.”
Still, as might be imagined from the names attached, “Disjointed” is a thoroughly professional, overall pleasant, largely painless piece of work. The cast is good company, and the jokes land often enough.
Although “Disjointed,” which lists a cannabis consultant in its credits, is more particularly about pot than “Cheers” was about alcohol, it should be accessible even to those who have no particular interest in, or knowledge of, the subject matter. (I am that strange person who has never taken drugs, so you can trust me on this.)