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Disjointed's Stoner-Friendly Cutaways Are the Future of Multi-Camera Sitcoms

Netflix is taking the old and making it feel new

Tim Surette

Netflix's new series Disjointed is almost exactly what you'd expect from a multi-camera Chuck Lorre sitcom about employees who work at a pot dispensary. There are plenty of lame weed jokes, even more bad marijuana one liners, and a whole crop of dumb stoner gags. And, being a Lorre show, there's still room for penis humor.

Kathy Bates stars as the owner of a dispensary in California learning how to take advantage of the state's recently passed law that allows for recreational marijuana use. She's joined by her security guard Carter (Tone Bell), son Travis (Aaron Moten) and budtenders Jenny (Elizabeth Ho), Olivia (Elizabeth Alderfer) and Pete (Dougie Baldwin). You can guess half the jokes before the punchline drops, and the other half are usually jokes of someone forgetting something. Because, you know, they're high.

But what makes Disjointed unique is its frequent use of totally out there cutaway gags, which break the mold of the multi-camera format and fill out the episode lengths to nearly 30 minutes, as opposed to the traditional 22 minutes for broadcast television. These would never be seen on network TV, not just because of their content, but because of rigid rules associated with the multi-camera format... rules that are being broken on Netflix.

These cutaways exist just to fill time and keep the attention of bleary-eyed viewers, it would seem. Take, for instance, a spoof of a Coors Light ad that features cowboys ripping bongs on top of horses (and, of course, falling off the horse, because they're so high). Or another fake ad from the law firm Young & High LLP, which seeks to reward stoners with monetary compensation when the pizza they ordered is late. Or Jenny spontaneously singing a Chinese ballad in a full china doll outfit. Or, most interestingly, a psychedelic animated sequence to spoken word depicting Carter's PTSD from his time in the armed forces.


There are about four of these per episode (at least in the two episodes we screened) and they're easily the best part of the show, not necessarily for being funny but for being WTF-y. Also interspersed in each episode are nonsensical transitions between scenes, kind of like those in That '70s Show featuring Kelso floating in slow motion, but in Disjointed, they're someone raking in poker chips or a woman rolling a wheel down a path, for some reason. They make no sense at all.

But even if the cutaways are there just to be like totally trippy, man, they do set the show apart from the worst of what it could be. They break up the monotony of what is otherwise an unspectacular show, and while not always funny, they're at least bizarre. It's an experiment that's mostly there for the sake of being an experiment, and shows off how multi-camera comedies -- built for commercial breaks and network TV -- are transforming under the looser rules of streaming services.

One Day at a Time similarly takes advantage of being a multi-camera comedy on Netflix, using the extra time to let stories breathe for maximum emotional impact, resulting in incredibly effective storytelling beyond setup-setup-punchline. The same can be said on a slightly smaller scale for the surprisingly deep The Ranch. But here in Disjointed, the format is tweaked even further for the material and the audience; it's just that this audience is expected to be people stoned out of their gourd.

Multi-camera comedies are often considered antiques in the television world, but it turns out the same high-tech that's transforming how we watch TV is also making them feel brand new in different ways.

Disjointed premieres Friday, Aug. 25 on Netflix.