The age of the adult animated sitcom is alive and well.
Built on the success of early pioneers like “The Simpsons,” shows like “Bob’s Burgers” or the science-fiction tinged “Rick and Morty” have inspired networks to invest more heavily in original cartoon content intended for mature audiences.
Among them is HBO, whose forthcoming addition to the field is “Close Enough,” which is set to debut via the company’s HBO Max property on July 9. To promote the show, HBO has partnered with California cannabis confectioneer Kanha to create THC gummies reflective of the series’ four lead characters. The proprietary blends will be available for purchase to Californians at both select dispensaries as well as via delivery through Eaze.
If HBO isn’t the first major network to embark on a promotion of this kind, it’s certainly the most notable. It wasn’t long ago that the Super Bowl was making a stink over a weed commercial, so even if the scale is far smaller this time, it’s still a pretty big deal. In addition to the meaning attached to the gesture itself, the moment is further underscored by the fact that “Close Enough” is ostensibly not a show about cannabis.
Given HBO does, in fact, have a show focused quite directly on that topic in the form of “High Maintenance,” it’s all the more interesting that the networks’ executives and tastemakers are choosing to run a THC-enriched promotion for a series with a (presumed) far broader appeal. In analyzing the move, there are several potential conclusions one can draw.
Chiefly, HBO seems to be betting on the cultural association between cartoons and cannabis. There’s unarguably some shrewd logic behind this move. Relying only on anecdotal evidence, they could be hoping that eating a gummy prior to watching “Close Enough” might help the humor come through. It also aligns the show with a desired demographic (people who like to get high) without directly embracing the topic at hand.
Examining the matter from an industry viewpoint, it has to be welcome news to marketers tearing their hair out over how to promote products. That’s because such staff have basically no options at the moment. Facebook is off-limits (and also awful), the same with Google, and Yelp is now penalizing licensed weed operators too. If networks like HBO see cannabis as a great way to introduce viewers to a new series — especially in a way that no longer relegates weed brands to only weed-specific content — the possibilities are basically endless.
For the “Close Enough” gummies, Kanha devised unique formulas that spoke to the show’s four main characters. Imagine being able to do that for any manner of series. Even if the concept is more illusion than reality, blending unique terpenes and cannabinoids together is certainly a refreshingly novel effort at engaging viewers. In addition, there’s also the ways in which legal cannabis could be incorporated into a series.
Insidious, ingenious, or both, product placement is a very real thing. On one hand, there’s “Nathan for You” star Nathan Fielder, who now sells the Summit Ice holocaust awareness jacket featured in an episode of his show. There are also the more blatant examples strewn across the “Real Housewives” franchise, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” and more. In either case, the ways in which the cannabis industry could easily assimilate itself into the shows we love are numerous.
Of course, not all fans of weed are interested in seeing such an outcome.
To be certain, the commodification of cannabis comes at the cost of its status as a sacred, healing herb. With the pharmaceutical industry, technology sector, and now Hollywood rapidly realizing the riches to be had by embracing pot, it leaves less and less room for small farmers and BIPOC business owners to take their fair share of the spotlight.
Thus, it is not nearly sufficient to simply see a network like HBO decide that giving out weed candy is cool now. They must also be held accountable for which brands they work with. Likewise, those brands better know what kinds of shows these networks are promoting with their products. It’s all part of a need for accountability that goes hand-in-hand with changing one’s cannabis tune.
Ironically, in this case, “Close Enough” won’t cut it. It’s time to go all the way.