While the multi-cam sitcom has seemingly run its course, Netflix has continued to find new ways to tell stories through the genre. “The Ranch” premiered in 2016 and began to integrate in longer takes and drama to tell its stories. “One Day at a Time” brought a Norman Lear classic back to life, and spun it in an emotionally rewarding turn for 2017. Now, “Disjointed” joins the crew as Netflix’s newest multi-cam series. “Disjointed” follows Ruth Whitefeather Feldman (Kathy Bates), a woman who once fought the government for her right to smoke marijuana. Now that it’s legal, she’s unsure how to navigate the business world of medical marijuana. Unfortunately, the mediocre premise leaves a lot to be desired. Surprisingly, the execution is even worse.
The series comes from executive producer Chuck Lorre, the mastermind behind “Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men” brings his brand of comedy to a world he simply doesn’t understand. Off the gate, that’s the entire problem with the show, and it doesn’t play here. The show doesn’t really contain laughs. It doesn’t understand the industry it’s attempting to examine. Perhaps worst of all, it assumes too much of its audience is smoking to care. By simply playing off an assortment of small gags, there’s no real build to the comedy. Instead, it feels like pieces of several jokes were scattered around the set and it’s the cast’s job to piece it together.
The cast isn’t given much to work with, and the laugh track cackles at lowest common denominator jokes. There are “once you go black jokes,” Jewish jokes, and people freaking out after smoking. That’s basically the setup of the first three episodes. The series runs into some of the same problems that “Last Man on Earth” ran into as it was on its way down. Simply putting a middle-aged star and placing them opposite a group of young characters trying to use technology is a hackneyed bit. Bates does her best to sell it, but there’s not a lot for her to work on. It’s a shame she’s missing out on what could be a great season of “American Horror Story” in favor of this.
Despite all of this, there are some interesting stylistic things the series attempts that have worked better on other shows. Animation is inserted into moments of the show where a character is struggling to keep it together. While it’s an interesting idea, it was executed at a higher level by “Community” in 2010 (see “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”). The same issue arises with fake commercials in place of real ones. The “parody” commercials continue to play on how high the audience might be. Again, this was done by one of the best shows in TV history (“Six Feet Under”). It’s the lack of originality that is toughest to overcome in the series.
Perhaps if the show aired on a weekly basis, the series would fare a tad better. However, the series is on a binge network, so if you only write the same jokes over and over, the audience will catch on faster. There is an audience for this series. The question is why would you tune into this one when Netflix has so many incredible shows that check many of the same boxes. I do feel bad for the cast, who are trying their hardest to make gold out of thin air. Unfortunately, this is a weak strain for anyone who enjoys the multi-cam genre.