When Hollywood titan Chuck Lorre puts his imprimatur on a project, it bodes well for that project. When he does it for a cannabis-themed sitcom, it’s a sign of much bigger things.
Chuck Lorre is the producer behind hugely successful, long-running series such as Grace Under Fire, Dharma & Greg, Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory and others. He’s working with David Javerbaum,formerly head writer on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to produce a sitcom set in a Colorado dispensary.
In addition to current marijuana-infused shows like Amy Poehler’s Broad City and the now-backed-by HBO web series, High Maintenance, no fewer than four major projects are in development, including Lorre’s.
Marijuana-themed television projects are everywhere, fueled by an unprecedented shift in public opinion: 6 in 10 Americans now believe marijuana should be legal for social use, with as many as 8 in 10 supporting medical access.
As normalization occurs and stigma erodes, millions of Americans are going to want ‘their shows’ to reflect their new reality. Old and new Hollywood are obliging, with some of the biggest names in entertainment are jostling for position. But as Hollywood rushes to cash in, how will these shows portray the cannabis industry, or the vast array of medical & social cannabis users? Will these shows reinforce stereotypes, or use their mass-media powers for good?
For example, Buds is the series being developed for NBC by Adam Scott of Parks and Rec, and wife Naomi Scott. The show is set in a Colorado dispensary and, if it is anything like Scott’s previous shows, promises a great character-driven comedy. As a network program, will Buds’ protagonists be the ‘lovable stoner losers’ of comedy past, or the equally lovable boot-strappin’ stoner-fessional of the future?
One show that might is Hollyweed, a new series being developed by Kevin Smith, the comedic stoner mind behind cult classics like Clerks, Mallrats, and Dogma. Set in a Los Angeles dispensary and starring an ensemble cast, Hollyweed stands out for who its financial backers are. According to a report in Variety:
The half-hour episode was shot on spec with financing from FremantleMedia and five firms with ties to the booming cannabis industry: Weedmaps.com, a social media community for medicinal marijuana users; G-Pen (Grenco Science), a manufacturer of portable vaporizers; DNA Genetics, a pot seed company; ACME Elixirs, an organic cannabis oil company; and RAW, maker of RAW Natural Rolling Papers.
“My hope is that these shows will portray marijuana consumers and entrepreneurs for what they are — Americans of every stripe and background shaping a new industry,” said writer, comedian and activist Ngaio Bealum.”
Bealum may have his wish granted by another project worth noting: Highland, created by and starring comedian and activist Margaret Cho. Whereas the other projects are half-hour sitcoms, Cho’s series is an hour-long dramedy. While Highland is set in a California dispensary, the story is about Cho’s character getting out of rehab and rejoining her family in the canna-business.
And Cho’s not going with the broadcast or even cable channel approach; her partner is Amazon, which has done a number of critically acclaimed original series, from satire show Alpha House to dramedy Transparent. That kind of creative flexibility might give Cho the best platform as an outspoken activist for Asian-Americans, the LGBT community, and the abolition of cannabis prohibition.
“I know, like and respect Margaret and think she’ll do good by [the cannabis legalization movement],” added Bealum.
Marijuana and comedy are old friends. Nothing can ever change that. But with legalization on the move and prohibition’s days numbered, media giants old and new are wasting no time staking claims in the Green Rush. And with this much development afoot, the cannabis landscape is bound for some big plot twists, if not ensuing hilarity.