Chuck Lorre and David Javerbaum's Disjointed, now available on Netflix, is the most mainstream pot-driven comedy series ever. Since its not on network TV like Lorre's many previous successes (The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, Mike & Molly, Mom), it's pretty raunchy. But beyond the big laughs is a realistic story of a California dispensary, Ruth's Alternative Caring, that lives in the perilous gray area between state and federal laws.
Kathy Bates plays Ruth Whitefeather Feldman like her life depends on it. Ruth's an old hippie whose values were shaped during the 1960s counterculture. All these years later she owns a pot store in Los Angeles, and runs it with her son, Travis (Aaron Moten), and a predictably kooky cast of employees:
• Peter (Dougie Baldwin): The staff grower who talks to the plants in an Aussie accent. Of course, they talk back.
• Olivia (Elizabeth Alderer): Sparks fly between her and Travis. Her grandmother's chocolates end up under her name as "Olivia's Shit Balls."
• Jenny (Elizabeth Ho): A med-school dropout, she struggles with telling her strict Asian mother.
• Carter (Tone Bell): Initially a non-smoker, he comes around and uses it to help with PSTD sustained from two tours in Iraq.
• Maria (Nicole Sullivan): A regular patient, she become part of the team.
The other significant characters are Dank (Chris Redd) and Dabby (Betsy Sodaro), a truly outrageous duo whose YouTube videos are sponsored by the store, and the comically anti-drug Tae Kwon Doug (Michael Trucco).
The 10 episodes mostly focus on character development. Unlike at actual dispensaries, staffers regularly smoke joints, pipes and bongs, and hit vape pens. Mixed in with the scenes are strain reviews ("Rutherford B. Hayes," for instance), fake ads (for Lays, among others) and different types of animated interludes. It's choppy, but fun.
Serious subjects, like Jack Heren's funeral (referring to legendary hemp activist Jack Herer, who died seven years ago) and tornado victims receiving Pot Farmers Insurance, are played for laughs.
But others, like Carter's PSTD issues and the store being raided, offer more depth than the scattershot pot jokes ("I'm higher than a giraffe's balls"). The raid episode ("The Worst") is where the writers get to express their outrage about the War on Drugs.
Kathy Bates, at 69, is terrific as Ruth, her long gray hair and colorful outfits branding the era she favors. Ruth still wants to stick it to the man and decries her son's desire to expand and become "the Walmart of cannabis." For her, one shop is plenty.
Asked about marijuana by the New York Times, Bates explained:
"I've had a prescription for some time for chronic pain. I've really become a believer. I find it just as, if not more, effective than other pain relief. Originally, when I was going through breast cancer, my oncologist prescribed some, because my recovery was painful. The marijuana was a tremendous help.
"And now they have vape pens, which are a lot less caustic in terms of smoke. And since you can control the amount of your intake, you can smoke and be functional during the day – although I don't smoke when I work. That, to me, is unprofessional.
"I do (support marijuana legalization) even more so now that I've become more educated about what its properties are. And you see how it's helping people like the partner of our cannabis consultant, who has cerebal palsy, or the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, a group of football players I met who were suffering from different head injuries and it helped them tremendously."
This comes through loud and clear on Disjointed.
At least 10 more episodes are scheduled.
Product plugs: High Times, Leafly, Futurola, Hubby's Edibles
Theme song: "Jack, I'm Mellow" by Trixie Smith
Cannabis consultant: Dr. Dina Browner