For most of TV history, cannabis users have been portrayed as bad influences or, most typically, comic relief.
You know the type: randy teenagers in the basement, talking towels, suspiciously hungry men who talk to dogs and solve mysteries. Oh, and that one time Greg was actually stoned on The Brady Bunch.
Maybe it's the increased acceptance of mature content on television, or maybe it's the success of legal marijuana in certain American states, but the past 15 years have seen a shift in the portrayal of marijuana consumers.
Instead of walking punchlines, they're normal people. From the comedic to the dramatic, here are six shows that epitomize that change. I tried to avoid anything too obvious (hi Weeds, love you Broad City), or anything that's only funny while you're high.
1. The Simpsons
In the 2002 episode "Weekend at Burnsie's," animated everyman Homer Simpson gets a prescription for medical marijuana after being attacked by crows (don't ask).
It isn't a particularly nuanced portrayal of cannabis - jokes about the munchies and Phish abound. But The Simpsons is one of the most iconic TV shows of all time. The fact that they covered medical marijuana at all was testament to its growing prevalence in American culture. It's interesting to note that the show's producers braced for controversy after the episode aired, but viewers barely batted an eye. Perhaps because the show dropped a few hints at Homer's smoky past in earlier episodes:
2. Bored to Death
This underrated HBO comedy follows a struggling writer turned inept private investigator (Jason Schwartzman) who tackles cases with the help of his oft-stoned buddies, a magazine publisher (Ted Danson) and a cartoonist (Zach Galifianakis). This unlikely blend of Harold & Kumar, Annie Hall and The Maltese Falcon had a knack for elevating loopy weed conversation to the level of high art. As hilariously bumbling as the characters can be, they're also smart, and the dialogue accordingly mixed the goofy with the profound.
3. Mad Men
The critically-acclaimed hit opened in 1960, so it's no surprise that the men and women of Sterling Cooper enjoyed a toke here and there. More than any individual scene, the important thing was how matter-of-fact Mad Men was in its depiction of weed. Whether it's Don Draper smoking on the beach in Hawaii, or the Peggy Olson lighting up for inspiration, Mad Men's cannabis users were professional, intelligent, and impeccably-dressed. And sexy. Did I mention sexy?
Of course, not every cannabis experience is so hot. Louis C.K.'s almost-eponymous Louie contains what may be TV's only depiction of a weed hangover. It's certainly the best. With his daughters away, Louie unexpectedly gets way too high with his neighbour. The next day he wakes up badly hungover, and pitifully trudges to a surreal neighbourhood coffee shop.
5. High Maintenance
A low-budget web series written and directed by husband-and-wife team Katja Blitchfeld and Ben Sinclair, High Maintenance was the first big success for Vimeo. Episodes are short and self-contained; each one focuses on a new character, who will at some point buy weed from an affable dealer known only as The Guy.
High Maintenance isn't really about cannabis at all - it's about people. Each episode is a study of someone unique: a new parent, a traumatized comedian, a frustrated writer, a man caring for his sick mother, two friends deciding how to deal with a mouse in their apartment. They all use cannabis for a variety of reasons, but they aren't defined by it. Most importantly, though: it's really, really funny. Check out an episode below. Headphones up, if you're at work: it contains strong language.
Other episodes are here. The next season will be shown on HBO.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.