5 reasons you should be watching High Maintenance
Ivan Radford | On 23, Feb 2017
High Maintenance, the wonderful web series about a pot dealer in Brooklyn, is finally heading to TV screens tonight, as Sky Atlantic premieres six brand new episodes.
The show, which was Vimeo’s first original programme to be released through Vimeo On Demand, was picked up by HBO in 2015, becoming a fully-fledged television show.
Now, HBO’s series is arriving on British soil. Here are five reasons you should be watching.
1. It’s not what you think
A comedy about weed? It might sound like a dumb stoner show, but cast aside your low expectations: High Maintenance blows away any concerns in only a few minutes. Created by husband and wife team Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, it follows an unnamed pot dealer as he goes on his rounds through New York, with each episode focusing on a different client.
The individual stories are brought to life with a charming, low-key realism. It’s less Dude, Where’s My Car? and more Frances Ha, and all the better for it.
2. The impressive cast
Ben Sinclair stars as the anonymous dealer. You may not have heard of him, but with appearances in Sisters, 30 Rock and more, his comedy chops are never in question, while co-creator Katja Bitchfeld’s experience as casting associate for 30 Rock shines through: in any other programme, our dealer would steal the show, but High Maintenance just gives us strong supporting characters, each one never outstaying their welcome. People who have appeared in the show previously include Dan Stevens, Yael Stone, Hannibal Buress and Gaby Hoffman. They always make their appearances feel genuine. It helps that in the early days of the series, the couple would often use real life apartments for their sets, some belonging to their friends.
3. The returning characters
What’s remarkable is the way that the show returns to its best characters many episodes later, dropping back in on their lives as they take another hit of marijuana. The result is like catching up with old friends, whether it’s meeting Ellen (Birgit Huppuch) after her cancer diagnosis or Dan Stevens returning as Colin in this new run. At the end of each episode, the dealer still cycles away and we remain strangers in a city full of strange, fascinating stories, already craving another hit.
4. It’s unique
With an impressively glossy production quality that never feels showy and one of the most diverse casts in modern TV, High Maintenance is that rare thing in the current landscape: something that feels different to anything else. There are beards, laidback laughs and people lighting up. There are also tears, romance, and profound drama. And, in one earlier episode, a guy obsessed about the idea of an apocalypse wiping out New York. It really has everything. The result is a delightful gem in a crowded landscape, which lets you inhale the gentle haze rather than gulp it down and move onto the next. This isn’t binge-viewing, but snack-viewing and there is substance to each satisfying, tightly edited morsel.
5. It’s a web series gone big
When it comes to TV, web series are some of the most interesting things around – not just on Amazon or Netflix, but on YouTube and Vimeo, as independent filmmakers take the chance to make what they want without strings attached. One of the best-selling releases for Vimeo On Demand, High Maintenance is one of the many independent web series that turn their budget limitations into a strength, and HBO’s pickup of the show for a full run is a rare example of the web series world getting validation from the prestigious people at the top of the industry ladder. (Another is Showtime’s Web Therapy, starring Lisa Kudrow, which hopped from web to premium cable – and is now available in the UK on Amazon Prime Video.) The result is an inspiring example of how far people can come from small beginnings, and a welcome chance to more people to discover High Maintenance for themselves.
HBO’s High Maintenance is available as a box set on pay-per-view VOD.