DISJOINTED – A Netflix sitcom buzzing with laughs


From left to right: Aaron Moten, Dougie Baldwin, and Kathy Bates. Photo: Netflix.

I almost feel sorry for prolific sitcom producer Chuck Lorre (“Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory”). Nobody likes his shows, except for the general public.

Lorre’s latest outing, on censor-free Netflix, is titled “Disjointed.” It stars Kathy Bates as Ruth, an old-school radical hippie who runs a marijuana dispensary in Southern California. Contrasting Ruth’s free spirit is her half-African-American, MBA son Travis (Aaron Moten), who wants to use his smarts to turn Mom’s store into a mom-and-pop pot chain across the country.

Also inhabiting the store are Pete (Dougie Baldwin), who talks to his pot plants a la Zonker in the “Doonesbury” comic strip: Olivia (Elizabeth Alderfer), a mellow employee and potential love interest for Travis (at least in Ruth’s eyes); and Carter (Tone Bell), the store’s security guard, whose low-key demeanor hides his PTSD past (which is played out in strange animated segments that, in one of the show’s few debits, come off as kind of tone-deaf).

This show has been raw meat for the critics, most of whom can’t wait to fry this series. CNN Entertainment says the show’s comedy is “as stale as an unwashed bong.” The New York Times notes that the series’ style is a cross between PG-13 network TV and R-rated F-bombs, and concludes, “The result is a mess of a comedy that doesn’t feel as if it belongs anywhere.”

Speaking as Mr. General Public, the premiere episode had me in crying-from-laughing mode from the get-go.

We always knew that Kathy Bates had a gift for sly comedy (Remember Fried Green Tomatoes‘ car-bashing revenge scene?). Here, she gets to indulge it fully, as when Ruth tells her son, “I had a chance to look over your proposal [for a chain store], and in retrospect, I wish I had taken it.” And the supporting cast plays off Bates perfectly.

Naturally, there is the expected pipeline of humor to be found in being stoned (because hey, it’s a pot store!). But I thought it was handled well and not played over the top, as it would have been in a Cheech & Chong movie.

And for all of its sitcom familiarity, the show has some nice surprises up its sleeve. For example, even though the series is on ad-free Netflix, it has commercials. Only they’re not really commercials. I’ll let you figure it out (and enjoy it) for yourself.

As with Woody Allen’s recent Amazon series “Crisis in Six Scenes,” critics seem very resentful when a cable-TV series doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. These days, I’ll take a half-hour of superb character comedy wherever I can find it — in this case, on Netflix (where the show’s first 10 episodes are now available for viewing).