It’s not hard to convey the dismay that runs through my system when canned laughter is unleashed. It’s the sound of overbearing desperation. “Let us show you where all the really, really funny jokes are, rather than trusting your own sense of humor.” That’s what I hear every time without exception. It’s made it almost impossible to survive reruns of Married … with Children.
Most modern sitcoms have the good grace to forego the practice full stop, but one perennial exception to that is the arsenal of pervert-dad shows developed and envisioned by Chuck Lorre. Even the shift from basic cable to streaming with Netflix, beginning with last year’s The Ranch, hasn’t diminished the Two and a Half Men creator’s reliance on canned laughter. It made The Ranch an unbearable exercise before Lorre even got a chance to shallowly feign interest in the fading job market for blue-collar work. It’s my sad duty to report that it also renders his latest Netflix comedy, Disjointed, a methodical and unending exercise in patience testing.
And like The Ranch, matters get much worse once you begin to pay attention to what’s being said underneath the umbrella of pre-recorded guffaws. This begins with the shattering realization that Kathy Bates is the lead in a Chuck Lorre production. She plays Ruth Whitefeather Feldman, the proprietor behind a Los Angeles marijuana dispensary where her ambitious son (Aaron Moten) is also employed. Like the worst sitcoms, each episode brings a new twist to the basic backdrop of the operations of the dispensary, the realities and vital details of which are of no interest to Mr. Lorre. This goes double for its tepid, unthinking detailing of the PTSD suffered by the shop’s security guard (Tone Bell).
There are plenty of jokes but none deliver a jolt or a surprise, a sense of personal behavior or intimate insight that gives a line a little zing. What Lorre delivers here is the same mild laugh-slop he’s been serving up for well over a decade at this point but this is also par for the course for Netflix’s recent spat of social-commentary programming. Atypical is more misguided than bad whereas 13 Reasons Why actively ignores the finality of suicide for dramatic fuel. In flattening out the details of Ruth and her crew’s work and avoiding the complex political landscape that legal weed is currently embroiled in, Disjointed doesn’t quite offend as much as its unyielding and unfunny flippancy renders each episode null and void as an experience. Indeed, when the makers of the show convey such a total lack of confidence in their material as to direct the audience when to be entertained, it becomes next to impossible to spare a fuck for such a waste of time and talent.
Disjointed premieres Friday, August 25th on Netflix.