Weed Culture

Rediscovering the Time Traveling Bong Miniseries

A woman with flowers in her hair smoking a Grav Bell base water pipe

In 2016, a quirky little miniseries – marketed by Comedy Central as a “three-night event” – hit the scene. A wild ride from start to finish, it featured everything from historical orgies to witch trials to, of course, the titular Time Traveling Bong.

But just as quickly and bizarrely as it hit the scene, the miniseries faded back into obscurity, save for the community that remembers it for the wild trip it was.

Photo: Unsplash

Long Ago, in a Land Far, Far Away…

Time Traveling Bong sees cousins Jeff and Sharee inherit a water pipe. Right after its previous wielders were run over by a car right after time-traveling into view, that is. When they translate the Chinese characters on the bong and realize what it can do, they do what any of us would. They test it out, land up in prehistoric times, and face off with a dinosaur.

A modern-day ode to the classic ‘90s slacker and stoner films, this miniseries seems like a fever dream now for anyone that managed to catch it when it was on. And despite not being everyone’s cup of tea, it’s most definitely worth revisiting to see just how well it aged.

After all, if there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that ‘90s films are making a long-overdue comeback. And appreciation for this era of cinema is at an all-time high. It stands to reason that a series that honors the spirit of this era would hold up just as well.

Time Traveling Bong Episode 1: The Beginning

The time-hopping begins right off the bat. After the death of the previous owners, and Jeff’s attempt landing them in a real-life Jurassic Park ride, Sharee travels the duo to Salem. While there, Sharee endures the unimaginable trauma of being a woman accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death by burning.

Worse, the bong is shattered by the locals leaving the two stranded. Sharee’s torturous imprisonment and imminent death as well as the prospect of being stuck, lost in time and space, naturally leaves the duo just a touch perturbed. After all, not even a bad trip should last that long.

Needless to say, we’re off to a great start.

The first chapter sets the audience up for the zany antiques we’re sure to witness going forward. The script packs a punch, with a few zingers. Paul W. Downs and Lucia Aniello starred and co-wrote the series and offer fantastic performances as a couple of younguns on an atypical, life-threatening, history-altering adventure.

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Time Traveling Bong Episode 2: The Middle

Episode two also sees an interesting shift in our leading twosome. The broken bong leaves them traveling aimlessly, no longer able to control their destination. The bong has, essentially, directed their travel. They’ve mostly had life’s eccentricities thrust upon them, leaving them at the mercy of time. But their stint in the ‘60s sees them making active choices with how they handle their newfound gift. Specifically, what they’d like to do with the life – and time – they’re given.

Their first order of business is escaping the grasp of their next captors following the witch hunters of yore: a group of cavepeople. Sharee experiences sexual ecstasy and liberation and is reluctant to leave. Jeff, on the other hand, is the one subjected to trauma this time around. And it comes in the form of sexual assault at the hands of aggressive cavewomen.

After freeing themselves and hopping aboard the time express, the duo starts making active choices with their newfound powers. They begin by emancipating a group of enslaved people they encounter along the way and bringing them forward into the ‘60s. Once there, the group is unceremoniously enlisted into the Vietnam War, a heavily protested event in the era.

Following this, the duo decides to pretend to be married, kidnap Michael Jackson, and give him a real childhood. Eventually, though, they return the King of Pop to his rightful, trauma-laced throne and take another hit of the bong.

The Epic Highs and Lows of Time Travel

Turns out the era of love and peace wasn’t all it was cut out to be. And that, according to Glazer, is an integral part of the series’ message. Time travel in cinema has almost always featured white men who, historically, have wielded most of the sociopolitical power. As such, they’d have a relatively easy ride. In Sharee, we get a different perspective – a white woman who experiences some of history’s horrors. And eventually, in Jeff, we see that history isn’t a cakewalk for a white man either.

Ultimately, no matter what era we puff ourselves to, it’s probably going to be a lot worse than now. This is saying a lot, seeing as we’re sitting amid a global pandemic on one hand and a world war on the other. You’d think this would connect us all in shared collective trauma. Instead, it has simply placed a spotlight on just how fractured we truly are. Much like a certain time-traveling bong that wanders aimlessly through time.

Time Traveling Bong Episode 3: The End…?

The final leg of Jeff and Sharee’s trip begins with Ancient Greece. And, by extension, with opulence and debauchery.

There are definitely shades of Eurotrip in Time Traveling Bong, notably the raunchy humor and explicit sexual antiques. But in addition to these, Time Traveling Bong also features something else quite like Eurotrip: incest. Well, almost.

You see, being chased by a T-rex, burning at the stake, assault, kidnapping, and war become par for the course when one engages in time travel. Waking up beside your cousin without any recollection of the previous night’s events, however, is where timelords draw the line before they make the trip back home for good.

And this is precisely what Jeff and Sharee do, electing to bury the bong – and the memories, or rather, lack thereof – in the backyard.

Puff, Puff, Past

Outside of raunchy teen rom-coms, Time Traveling Bong also shares something with Jumanji: a mysterious supernatural item that transports users and somehow keeps coming back despite their best efforts to keep it down. In that regard, this series is part slacker stoner comedy part homage to the zany comedies of the ‘90s. Many of which are being given the reboot-revival treatment in this decade.

And that sets Time Traveling Bong apart from the rest since it offers a unique premise and a fresh take on old tropes, anchored by the performances of its leads and writers. Out of that, we get an interesting, fresh take on time travel and what that could, realistically, look like. And what it looks like is a raucously thrilling affair that somehow reminds us that history isn’t pretty, despite our inexplicable need to keep reliving the same tropes over and over. It’s almost like we’re all just a bunch of shattered beings doomed to ride the waves of time without purpose or focus. Either that or we’re all just really stoned and haven’t quite woken up yet.

Time Traveling Bong seemingly ends with the bong safely buried in the backyard. But as the dog begins to dig it up and the curtains come down, we’re left to wonder: who gets to take the next trippy ride down historical memory lane? Hopefully not the pup. It’d probably be a lot harder for Michael Jackson to explain that the reason he missed a gig was that the dog ate his glove.