Finally, a chance to be THAT critic. So according to Rotten Tomatoes, my personal research, and this article, DISJOINTED—Netflix’s latest about an old-school weed rights activist (Kathy Bates) opening a medical marijuana dispensary—lives up to Chuck Lorre’s reputation of painfully accessible entertainment that butchers a newly popular subculture much to the chagrin of those that actually comprise the subculture. The way the mass media tells it, this workplace sitcom comes across as THE BIG BANG THEORY with stoners instead of nerds, filled exclusively with obvious jokes that are subsequently drowned in the hideous canned laughter of folks long dead. And I’ll admit that the moment that first laugh track played, I felt nothing but the poisonous rage that can only be felt when a show literally instructs a viewer to laugh. But soldier past that, dear reader, because with the right mindset, DISJOINTED becomes a largely enjoyable three hours of quality characters, satisfying animation sequences, and a shocking amount of heart.
Hmm, everyone who hates awful weed puns sure does seem to like making their own awful weed puns…
Image Source: Screenshot
If you’re struggling to find the right mindset, both I and show creator David Javerbaum would recommend getting high before viewing. Mr. Javerbaum believes that the slow pacing of “pot humor” may require eponymous intoxication to fully enjoy, but I found that watching while mildly faded created greater empathy for the less likable characters and more importantly made the laugh track easier to ignore. Regardless, this is undeniably stoner entertainment about stoner people for stoner people who are stoned. But unlike the vast majority of stoner content, the show isn’t just about weed. DISJOINTED finds space to explore sitcom tropes in a new-ish environment. This leads to some big risks that pay off more often than not.
Kathy Bates carries a huge amount of this program through her portrayal of Ruth, who serves as matriarch of the ersatz pot shop family. Ruth has been fighting the good fight since her activist days in the ‘60s, but now that the war on pot’s winding down, she’s finding it hard to mesh with the new cannabis consumer landscape. She slips seamlessly between a mama bear enjoying the spoils of the better world she’s built for her cubs and a wary businesswoman who’s ready to take down the remaining threats. There are also a handful of unfortunate scenes in which Ruth becomes a nagging Jewish mother, demanding that her son/business partner Travis (Aaron Moten) get together with her employee Olivia (Elizabeth Alderfer). It’s those type of kitschy, over the top wacky scenes that detract most from DISJOINTED and seem to be the focus of the outrage towards the show.
There’s a little Dank and Dabby in all of our hearts, I like to think
Image Source: Screenshot
On the other hand, DISJOINTED delivers its most powerful moments through Carter, an Iraq war vet who works as the clinic’s security guard. Carter is the only character who initially doesn’t smoke weed; he’s convinced to try it after a PTSD-induced panic attack—depicted astoundingly through animation—occurs at his desk. Carter’s relationship with cannabis and his battle with PTSD represents the best DISJOINTED has to offer, and the showrunners know it. The focus on Carter is so heavy that I suspect he’s actually meant to be the protagonist, similar to how Abed is secretly the protagonist of COMMUNITY. Every scene with Carter is an absolute grand slam, and the utter lack of acknowledgement is a damn shame. Most of the negative reviews at least give Kathy Bates her due respect, but Tone Bell gives this series the extra spice that really makes it pop and it’s high time someone told him that. You nailed it, Tone. Absolutely nailed it.
What we have here is a bona fide sleeper hit. DISJOINTED is certainly not without its hangups, and I know that for many the laugh track will be an instant deal breaker. But there’s a lot of fun to be had with this series, and I’m genuinely excited for the second season. The finale leaves us on a pretty severe cliffhanger, and the prospect of having Ruth and the gang change locations could open the door for greater development of the other characters. Pete and Jenny in particular could end up with really captivating arcs. Bottom line, fuck the hate, let yourself enjoy this romp on a lazy Sunday with half your attention on Instagram.