Netflix’s ‘Disjointed’ parodies Harborside CEO Stephen DeAngelo

Disjointed starring Kathy Bates is sending up real-life activist Stephen DeAngelo
Netflix series ‘Disjointed’, starring Kathy Bates, parodied real-life activist Stephen DeAngelo this month.

“Disjointed,” the cannabis culture TV sitcom starring “Misery”s Kathy Bates as a fictional activist and founder of a Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary, attracted cannabis buffs and curiosity-seekers alike when it debuted in 2017, a year after California voters legalized recreational use of the substance.

Now it’s a real-life activist and his fans who are out of joint.

The second season of the critically panned Netflix series, which debuted Jan. 12, features a character based on the Bay Area’s Stephen DeAngelo, a globally renowned cannabis activist and investor and co-founder of Harborside in Oakland, the world’s largest medical marijuana dispensary. The character is named “Angelo DeStevens” and is played by Ken Marino (alum of the legendary comedy troupe “The State”, with credits in “Marry Me,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) who appears in three of the season’s ten episodes.

In contrast to the upstanding, almost Messianic reputation DeAngelo has earned for evangelizing cannabis as medicine and triumphing in a forfeiture battle against the federal government, the character DeStevens is written as a sexist, greedy ganjapreneur who splits up a partnership and creates crassly named marijuana products for the mass market.

DeAngelo took to Twitter Jan. 15 to say he was favorably impressed by the first episode in which his character appears.

Two days later, DeAngelo changed his tune, tweeting he’d viewed subsequent episodes that left him disappointed. He indicated on Twitter he had not been contacted by the show about the character’s development.

Loyal fans of the real DeAngelo in the Bay Area and beyond howled in disapproval, saying he was “misrepresented” and calling the show “absolute trash.” A Mill Valley, Calif. woman wrote the show had missed an opportunity to educate a mainstream audience about a real-life cannabis community hero, and spread mis-impressions instead. “Disjointed” is the product of producer Chuck Lorre maker of the low-brow “Two and Half-Men” and faux-brow “Big Bang Theory”.

As public support in the U.S. has increased for medicinal and recreational cannabis, Hollywood has responded to those cultural shifts with shows centering around marijuana. The early hit “Weeds” led the way in sacrificing any sort of realism to the demands of television characters and plotting. But an evolution is occurring: look at “High Maintenance,” a web series-turned-HBO’s dramedy about a Brooklyn marijuana delivery man; and, on the reality front,  Viceland’s “Bong Appetit” cannabis cooking show.

“Disjointed’s” aim is not especially high. Like Lorre’s past work, it’s both critically panned, but viewer-enjoyed. It features broad, obvious, cliche jokes, trippy cartoon sequences intended to represent the euphoria experienced by the show’s characters and occasional song-and-dance numbers.

But with its treatment of DeAngelo, has “Disjointed” alienated even more the very audience it hoped to attract? Hard to say. Not all viewers were offended by the twist. And, let’s face it — comedy shows are the right place for satire and parody. DeAngelo’s long-time uniform of suit, porkpie hat and twin braids have made him iconic, and thus, ripe for parody.

Where do you fall on the debate? Is “Disjointed’s parody fair game? Foul? Or is this a tempest in a tea kettle? We’ll take your votes in a poll on Facebook Monday.

SF Chronicle & reporter keeps an eye on high style, from cannabis to luxe living & fashion. Read all about it!