'Disjointed' Is Like Any Workplace Sitcom — With More Pot, Sex And Language Set in a medical marijuana dispensary, the big networks all turned the show down. But Netflix picked it up and co-creator Chuck Lorre says, ultimately, it's about characters who care for one another.

'Disjointed' Is Like Any Workplace Sitcom — With More Pot, Sex And Language

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Chuck Lorre is television's sitcom king. But every single broadcast network turned down his latest sitcom. NPR's Neda Ulaby tells us why.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Chuck Lorre's new show starts Friday on Netflix with a huge star, Kathy Bates. It's called "Disjointed."


KATHY BATES: (As Ruth) I'm Ruth Whitefeather Feldman, cannabis lawyer, cannabis activist and, just before I opened the door, cannabis user.


ULABY: Bates plays the proprietress of a medical marijuana dispensary. Recently I visited the show's Los Angeles set, a hippy-looking shop filled with psychedelic posters in glass cases displaying real product and a prop guy handing out vape pens to the actors.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: And we'll be vaping, vaping.

ULABY: All this was way too edgy for Chuck Lorre's home network even though his shows at CBS have earned more than a billion dollars according to Deadline Hollywood.

CHUCK LORRE: Nobody - we didn't even get a meeting out of it. We sent the script in and got back no.

ULABY: Bear in mind you're hearing the voice of someone who's created a multitude of other hits, including "Dharma and Greg," "Grace Under Fire," "Mike And Molly" and "Mom." Lorre says his latest show is just a workplace comedy - wacky customers, lovable employees, much in fact like "Cheers."

LORRE: The fact that they're smoking pot or if they were sitting at a bar in Boston, drinking with Sam and Norm and Cliff, there's still a surrogate family happening there of people care about each other.


AARON MOTEN: (As Travis) Mom, this is a blueprint for the future.

ULABY: The tension in "Disjointed" comes partly from the dynamic between Kathy Bates' Earth mother and her much-more-corporate son. He's trying to convince her to build her pot dispensary into a national chain.


MOTEN: (As Travis) The gold rush is on, and pretty soon, somebody's going to become the Walmart of cannabis. Why not us?


BATES: (As Ruth) Because Walmart is evil.

MOTEN: (As Travis) You shop there.


BATES: (As Ruth) Only when I'm buying in bulk.


ULABY: There are so many issues to explore in "Disjointed," including just the challenges of running a small woman-owned business. To ensure its accuracy, the show hired someone who does it for real.

DINA BROWNER: I am the cannabis consultant for the show.

ULABY: Dina Browner runs an actual dispensary in West Hollywood. She calls herself Dr. Dina.

BROWNER: I'm not a real doctor, but I am board certified by Snoop Dogg.

ULABY: Perhaps not the first time she's used that line. Browner says she helps pick out props for the show and guides the actors, some of whom are green when it comes to smoking weed.

BROWNER: They tend to hold the joints like cigarettes, which is my biggest - yeah, I hate that.

ULABY: But "Disjointed" star Kathy Bates says she needed no such coaching. The subject matter is partly what drew her to the show.

BATES: I have chronic pain, and I have had my doctor give me a permit to have medical marijuana. And it's made such a difference for me.

ULABY: The co-creator of "Disjointed" Chuck Lorre does not use cannabis himself.

LORRE: I've certainly had a great deal of experience with the various and sundry chemicals both fermented and otherwise.

ULABY: It's no secret that Lorre's been in recovery for many years. He does not discuss it directly, but his shows often do. His show "Mom," for example, is about a pair of recovering addicts - a mother and daughter. I asked Lorre how he felt about making a comedy about people using drugs.

LORRE: Why not do it, you know? I don't want to become the spokesperson for sobriety or intoxication. But I would like to be the spokesperson for things that I think are funny. You know, I discussed with friends who I trust, you know, for their insight and perspective. Is it appropriate for me to do something like this? And their response was always, why not? It's funny.

ULABY: But pot humor is not always funny unless you happen to be high. Take a moment in the show when two stoners make a YouTube video.


CHRIS REDD: (As Dank) Hi, I'm Dank.

BETSY SODARO: (As Dabby) And I'm Dabby. And you're watching Dank and Dabby, the channel by stoners, for stoners.

REDD: (As Dank) And by stoners.


ULABY: The entire idea for the show was David Javerbaum's. He co-created "Disjointed."

DAVID JAVERBAUM: Pot humor can be slow. It can be very slow. It can be very arduous. That's not going to work with the rhythm of a multi-cam. It's got to be fast.

ULABY: Javerbaum is a former head writer for Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." He says with "Disjointed," he actually wants viewers to feel high when they watch it. And he says it's OK with him if most of the audience actually is stoned.

JAVERBAUM: I mean people are watching Netflix stoned with or without our show, you know, by the millions, I would imagine. If the only people who watch us are stoned people who watch Netflix, that's an enormous audience. And I - that would be enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Here we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: All right. Let's roll, please.

ULABY: Back on the "Disjointed" set, a director says, we're rolling. On this show, that could mean any number of things. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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