One To “Grow” On-Disjointed (TV Review)

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In a world where Marijuana legalization is a prominent hot topic, it makes sense that the entertainment industry has swiftly followed suit and brought cannabis culture into the limelight. High off the trail-blazing success of shows like “Weeds” (pun definitely intended), Netflix brings us its latest attempt at capitalizing on the marijuana craze with the show “Disjointed” starring revered actress Kathy Bates. “Disjointed” is set in a Los Angeles Marijuana dispensary ran by long time pot activist Ruth Whitefeather-Feldman (Bates). The dispensary has its fair share of other characters in tow aiding Ruth in her endeavors, led by her business driven son Travis (Aaron Moten). Travis is a college educated, entrepreneur and has returned to help his mother expand the business and earn her respect in the process. Travis’s efforts are usually in vain as his mother mostly treats him like a child and remains resistant to anything he wishes to pursue. While Travis is clearly one of the leaders of the group, he is far from being the most interesting character of the bunch.

Travis is a college educated, entrepreneur and has returned to help his mother expand the business and earn her respect in the process. Travis’s efforts are usually in vain as his mother mostly treats him like a child and remains resistant to anything he wishes to pursue. While Travis is clearly one of the leaders of the group, he is far from being the most interesting character of the bunch.

There is plant expert Pete (Dougie Baldwin); a mellow, sensitive kid who can’t seem to figure out why he sometimes speaks with an Australian accent. “Budtenders” Olivia (Elizabeth Alderfer) who is the apple of Travis’ eye and Jenny (Elizabeth Ho) a medical school dropout caught between the expectations of her family and her own personal aspirations. The main characters are rounded out by the dispensary’s security guard; the stoic and reserved Carter (Tone Bell) who is a former soldier dealing with the aftershock and trauma of everything he has seen while at war.

 

While the show first comes off as an eye rolling plethora of stereotypes set to a terrible laugh track, it quickly evolves a bond between the characters and viewers, provided that the viewers are able to stay engaged long enough to overlook the show’s evident quirks. Though the show begins shaky and walks the usual path of bad stoner comedies, it begins to show a different class of Marijuana users and how years of public scrutiny and misinformation have rendered a large portion of society permanently opposed. Over the duration of the show’s inaugural ten episodes, we see how the lives of each character has been positively changed due to Marijuana use and how the negative effects and drawbacks are mostly driven by social stigma and outdated propaganda.

The most harrowing and heartfelt moments of the show begin to take shape only a couple of episodes in as we follow security guard Carter through bouts of post traumatic stress. We learn so much about Carter’s character through individual scenes purposely placed to show what is going on in his mind and imagination. While Carter’s visions at first haunt and send him into a daze, they quickly change to colorful and mellow when he eventually agrees to medicate with Marijuana. Carter’s story is one shared by many men and women who join the armed forces and are left to deal with mental illness following their service. Currently, it is estimated that PTSD is responsible for upwards of twenty suicides per day with Marijuana treatments proving helpful in combating that figure. Tone Bell’s performance as Carter is nothing short of perfect. He is somehow both passive and engaging in his role, showing  tenderness for the other characters while also not wanting to let them get too attached to his world.

The show also sheds serious light on how the “war on drugs” has affected the other characters. Dougie Baldwin’s portrayal of Pete wanes back and forth between comedic and heartbreaking as you learn that from a young age he experienced traumas responsible for his unusual quirks. He shows the depth of his kind, gentle demeanor as he forges a bond with the Dispensary’s number one detractor “Tae Kwon Douglas” (Michael Trucco); the proprietor of a martial arts dojo that neighbors Ruth’s facility. We see the struggles of Jenny in a clear light as many of us have made life decisions that disappointed our parents and of Olivia whose past has been affected by drugs and the dealings of her loved ones. Of these two, Elizabeth Ho (Jenny) shows natural poise in her role and shows immense character growth as the show continues to ping pong the main characters between serious situations and a large gray area of marijuana stereotypes and jokes that seem to hurt the viewer’s overall outlook of the characters.

The biggest problem for the show is that it feels very much like you are watching an average Chuck Lorre show on ABC or CBS caked with a layer of edgy adult humor that makes it feel like an attempt at mixing water and oil together. It is almost as if they are at times catering to the lowest common denominator with cheap humor and pot candor crammed in to satisfy multiple demographics. The laugh track and slapstick jokes are eye rolling and seem to be tailored to a primetime audience looking for a simple, friendly sitcom while the other side of the spectrum has the characters devalued by unnecessary pothead humor and pointless inclusions that take away the real life aspects and struggles that make us fall in love with them and their individual stories.

“Disjointed” is attempting to do too much when it can simply benefit from its young and talented cast. Of all of the stereotypical pillars in the show, the only strong foundation to build upon are two characters named “Dank” and “Dabby”;  a pair of ambitionless stoners akin to the type of Marijuana smokers the world tends to turn their noses up at. The characters host a popular youtube show that is based

The characters host a popular YouTube show that is based around Marijuana use and provides humor as they mimic real life YouTube portrayals of aimless stoners who lobby for legalization, yet abuse the privilege. Chris Redd (Dank) and Betsy Sodaro (Dabby) are fantastic in these roles and provide more than enough basic pot humor to wet the beaks of the viewer without drowning the audience in the cliché context the show has spread throughout.

Overall, the show has a terrific premise and cast that seem to only suffer from the arrangement and execution of the show’s writers and producers. Often times it feels like parts of the show are not genuine and were seemingly penned and scripted by someone without the appropriate knowledge of an ever-changing Marijuana culture and its development through the years.

While the cannabis world evolves and makes strides in helping others understand the benefits behind Marijuana, “Disjointed” sometimes feels like it aims to set that progress back with dated pot humor that is about fifteen years too late. With ten of the first twenty episodes being met with negative criticism, it is my hope that when the next ten are released it will trend in favor of the cast. While I haven’t completely fallen in love with the show as a whole, I am heavily invested in many of the characters and their story arcs and hope the focal point becomes the elements of the show that work naturally, rather than continuing to allow the show to “peacock” and engage the viewer with bad jokes and sorry attempts at flare.

Prepare to have a love-hate relationship with this show, as the cast charms you into another visit to “Ruth’s Alternative Caring” while the joke book level pot humor, dated laugh track and the show’s minor hiccups often times have you staring towards the doors looking for a way out.