Pot Series Bloom but Face Tough Audiences

As more states adopt medical marijuana and recreational pot laws, and the country’s new attorney general Jeff Sessions battles against these laws, the content-makers see fodder for series. Despite the political fray, TV programmers — mostly cablers and streamers — move forward with pot-themed programming for 2017 and beyond.

Later this year, Netflix will premiere “Disjointed,” a Chuck Lorre-produced multi-camera sitcom starring Kathy Bates as proprietor of a pot dispensary.

In March, Amazon debuted the pilot for “Budding Prospects,” with the streamer expected to make a decision soon about whether the show moves forward to series in 2018. Based on the 1990 T.C. Boyle novel, “Budding Prospects” begins in 1983 San Francisco where three city guys are roped into a scheme to grow marijuana in Mendocino. “Budding Prospects” executive producer Vincent Landay says even in the time the show has been in the works there have been changes in marijuana laws and perception.

“When we first started working on this it was the idea that marijuana had such a broader acceptance now than it did [in 1983],” Landay says. “I thought it would be a major contrast to how things are different [today], but they might start repeating themselves in terms of the war on drugs for all we know.”

New seasons of Viceland’s non-fiction series “Weediquette,” a pot-focused news magazine, and “Bong Appetit,” a cooking-with-cannabis dinner party food show, debut April 19.

Hosted by Abdullah Saeed, “Bong Appetit” was recently nominated for a James Beard Award in a TV category.

“It’s the Oscars of food going, ‘This isn’t a joke; it’s serious,’” says Viceland president of programming Nick Weidenfeld. “It’s being understood by people who take food seriously.”

Each “Bong Appetit” episode has a different theme, from a kamayan feast of cannabis-infused Filipino food to camping meals that include pot-infused s’mores and a watermelon bong.  “Personally I grew up watching [Chinese-Hong Kong-American chef Martin] Yan [on PBS], who opened America to a new set of ingredients and a new style of cooking,” Saeed says. “I’m hoping in our own small way we have that type of impact.”

In fact, Viceland debuts Weed Week — think Shark Week for pot — April 17, filled with weed-themed original content, documentaries, comedies and other content “dedicated solely to exploring legalization and all things marijuana,” according to its press release.

Although HBO renewed “High Maintenance” for a second season, MTV canceled its 2016 pot comedy, “Mary + Jane,” and several pot-themed shows that were in development have fallen by the wayside. NBC’s “Buds,” developed by Adam Scott for the 2015-16 TV season, is no longer in the works at the Peacock.

“Humboldt,” which reportedly had John Malkovich attached to star, is not moving forward at Sony Pictures Television.

Whether pot-themed series will cross over from streaming and cable outlets to broadcast networks remains an open question.

Viceland’s Weidenfeld says he thinks pot shows will remain off broadcast but he notes marijuana has been mainstreamed to the point that it will be depicted in a broadcast format.

“When Chuck Lorre, the guy who invented the modern broadcast sitcom, is doing something on a weed dispensary, it will be broad and all of that normalizes it,” Weidenfeld says.

Amazon head of half-hour and drama series development Joe Lewis thinks pot-themed programming may eventually make it to a broadcast network. “If you look at the history of drugs in pop culture and marijuana in pop culture, directionally, it only goes one way: More humanized views, more well-rounded views, less demonized views.”

But the addition of pot to a series isn’t enough.

“Just having marijuana in a show certainly doesn’t guarantee a show will be good,” he notes, saying the same guidelines for making smart TV — putting together the right cast and creative team, plowing new story and character terrain — still apply. “Marijuana itself shouldn’t be a crutch.”

More TV

  • 'Russian Doll' Star Charlie Barnett Joins

    'Russian Doll' Star Charlie Barnett Joins 'Arrow' Final Season

    “Russian Doll” standout Charlie Barnett is joining the “Arrowverse.” Barnett, who is having a busy year having also appeared in Netflix’s “Tales of the City,” comes on board in the series regular role of John Diggle, Jr., son of David Ramsey’s character. News of his casting was announced at the show’s farewell Comic-Con panel where things [...]


    'The Orville' to Move From Fox to Hulu for Season 3

    Seth MacFarlane’s “The Orville” is on the move. MacFarlane announced Saturday at the show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel that Season 3 of the sci-fi series will air exclusively on Hulu rather than on Fox as it has for its first two seasons. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, MacFarlane’s current workload and [...]

  • Westworld Season 3 Trailer

    Aaron Paul, Showrunners Unveil 'Westworld' Season 3 Trailer (Watch)

    Season 3 of “Westworld” is going to new worlds altogether. Unveiled during the show’s Comic-Con panel, the trailer teases Thandie Newton’s character Maeve entering a new world of hosts set during World War II. Meanwhile, in the human world, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her fellow hosts who escaped “Westworld” in season 2 are being [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    Dish Faces Multiple Outages as Carriage Contracts Come Due

    Satellite-broadcaster Dish is known in the media industry as a hard bargainer when carriage contracts come up for renewal. HBO hasn’t been available on the service since November. Now, other TV networks face a similar prospect. Unless Dish and certain content suppliers reach new terms by Monday evening, subscribers who use several cable networks currently [...]

  • Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard of

    'Star Trek: Picard' to Feature Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Jeri Ryan

    “Star Trek: Picard” is bringing back some familiar faces. During the show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel on Saturday, it was revealed that Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Jeri Ryan would reprising their roles from “Next Generation” and “Voyager” in Ryan’s case. Jonathan Del Arco will also appear, likely reprising his role as the [...]

  • The Simpsons Homer Live

    'The Simpsons' Will Finally Release Season 19 on DVD, Helping Out Purist Collectors

    “The Simpsons” DVD collectors who also happen to be obsessive-compulsive can rest a little easier: You’ll finally be able to fill in that missing Season 19. Executive producer Al Jean revealed on Saturday that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will finally release the 19th season of “The Simpsons” on DVD this December 3, two years [...]

  • Pictured: No'l Wells as Ensign Tendi;

    'Star Trek: Lower Decks' Sets Main Cast

    The upcoming animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks” has announced its main voice cast. Tawny Newsome, Noël Wells, and Eugene Cordero will all star in the series. As Variety exclusively reported, Jack Quaid has also been cast as Ensign Brad Boimler. The Starfleet characters that comprise the ship’s bridge crew include Captain Carol Freeman, voiced by [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content